I went to a meeting last night where NJ DOE Chief Academic Officer Dr. Tracey Severns presented and found out that the State recently (1-7-14) posted “updated” NJ ASK test specs for this year. The ELA test specs HAVE NOT CHANGED since 11-26-12 (PS: I don’t know about the Math; you can see for yourself in the document; here is the link). Dr. Severns stated that these NJ ASK specs are “aligned with the Common Core Standards,” which in my view is somewhat true (they are partially aligned), but we all know that the NJ ASK questions are not as rigorous as sample items currently available on the PARCC Website (e.g., which ask students to pull information from multiple texts). The test specs document admits: “The NJ ASK assessments are called ‘transitional’ because we will not be able to measure the full range of the CCSS until the next generation assessments are developed and administered.” In other words, the NJ ASK covers only a piece of the puzzle. It is by no means comprehensive (and to be fair to Dr. Severns, who seems eager to be helpful, she wasn’t trying to say that it is).
I asked about the PARCC test specs, and Dr. Severns said that they are available on the PARCC Website; however, the problem is that the link there results in “Page Not Found.” If any of you have found a link that works for PARCC test specs, please let me know, because it would be nice to see where this is all really going.
Dr. Severns also said that she “heard that PARCC would release a complete set of sample tests this summer,” but who knows if that will actually happen. If it does, it would enable us more easily to prepare our own practice assessments, obviously.
My advice is that we should prepare for NJ ASK as we have in the past and start spending more attention on unpacking and being more vigilant about teaching the Common Core State Standards, esp. the Reading Informational Text Standards. If our students can meet the rigor of the CCSS, then they should be able to adjust (with some practice) to the new “genre” of PARCC assessments as they roll out. In particular, even though the NJ ASK is not going to require students to read multiple documents on the same topic and pull information from them, this is something we do need students to work on because this set of skills is required by CCSS. For more information on approaching the CCSS, check out the TLC “Standards” page. And if your colleagues do not currently follow the TLC Blog, please encourage them to do so as it includes my latest thinking on how to approach the CCSS.
Please let me know if you have any thoughts/questions. Also, if you have any advice/suggestions that you would like to share, please do. WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER!