Over the next few days, we are going to respond to the PARCC instructional frameworks. We are sharing our thoughts through a numbered list, although the numbers don’t indicate priority. You can give input on the PARCC frameworks here:http://www.parcconline.org/model-content-frameworks-elaliteracy
1. Page 3 describes the purposes of the frameworks. One purpose is “Informing the development of item specifications and blueprints for the PARCC assessments in grades 3-8 and high school.” No bones about it, the final version of this PARCC framework will serve as a development tool that shapes the assessments students 3-12 will take in 20 states.
2. On Page 3 see the heading “Connections to the PARCC Assessments.” We interpret this section’s prominence at the beginning of the document as an intentional effort to make explicit the role of this document. Starting the frameworks with a description of the assessment is a powerful statement. The instructional frameworks are designed solely to teach what the tests will be designed to teach. We have mixed feelings about this. It makes sense to begin with the end in mind. We also appreciate explicitness vs. having to figure out subtexts. On the other hand, based on our experiences with curriculum development and teaching, we imagine the process will be more of a circle or a back-and-forth than a categorical progression through steps, i.e. 1. write instructional frameworks, 2. write assessments, 3. test children.
3. Page 3 goes on to describe the nature of the PARCC assessments and what students will be asked to do. The first bulleted item on that page addresses reading complex text. It states, “This requires students to read grade-level complex texts, including texts from the domains of ELA, science, history/social studies, technical subjects and the arts. Because vocabulary is a critical component of reading comprehension, it will be assessed in the context of reading passages. Both close, analytic reading and comparing and synthesizing ideas across texts are expected.” This statement leads us to the million dollar question: If we are scaffolding students through read aloud and shared reading as they work with complex texts (as we should be!), what happens during the test? What is the difference in “exposure” to complex text, “opportunities” to engage with complex text, and taking a test on “grade-level complex text”?
4. On pages 4-11, the authors describe the organization of each section of the document. Each section is organized in the same pattern. We like that they have given us a pattern as a tool. We also like that they have explained the tool to us. Explaining the structure saves us a lot of time and makes the document easier to navigate. As a side note, makes us wonder; is such explicitness setting us up for success or over-scaffolding?
We’ll share more of our thoughts and responses tomorrow but in the meantime, please share what you’ve noticed as you’ve looked at the first eleven pages of this document.