Testing the Test: A Study of PARCC Field Trials in Two School Districts

March 2015

In spring 2014, new computer-based tests developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) were piloted in selected classrooms across the country. These assessments are designed to measure students’ knowledge in English language arts and mathematics as defined by the Common Core State Standards.

While many districts administered PARCC field tests in individual classrooms last spring, Burlington and Revere Public Schools both opted to offer PARCC examinations on a larger scale: in Burlington, all students enrolled in grades 3-8 and 10 participated in PARCC field tests, while in Revere, two elementary schools and one middle school administered PARCC tests school-wide. The experiences of these two districts present several important lessons on implementation issues such as technology use and device adaptability, scheduling and staffing of test administration, and students’ experience taking computer-based tests.

In the policy brief Testing the Test: A Study of PARCC Field Trials in Two School Districts, the Rennie Center documents the lessons learned in Burlington and Revere. Rennie Center researchers conducted a research study that included one-on-one interviews, focus groups, and surveys with key stakeholders. Findings are summarized in six main areas: technology infrastructure, device use, scheduling, staffing, training educators, and student testing experiences. Key lessons include the following:

  • Determining technology infrastructure capacity and the inventory and location of PARCC-ready devices ahead of time is critical;
  • School-level management of test administration is challenging;
  • Computer-based test administration requires new administration roles for staff and additional support and training; and
  • Investments in technology were—and will continue to be—focused on instruction.

More information on the PARCC field exams in Burlington and Revere is also available in our technical resources guide, which offers a series of key questions and potential actions for local education leaders to consider when planning for PARCC implementation at scale.