PARCC anxiety? Hope, thy name is Test Prep!

Exciting news: PARCC has made a series of practice tests available online for people who are wondering whether they’re College and Career Ready!

In case you’re late to the game, PARCC tests are “high quality, computer-based K–12 assessments in Mathematics and English Language Arts/Literacy [that] give teachers, schools, students, and parents better information whether students are on track in their learning and for success after high school, and tools to help teachers customize learning to meet student needs.”

YES! Thank goodness. We need “better information”–and since “better” is a comparative term without a reference here, we’ll just assume that PARCC people are comparing the information about student progress that already exists (other/inferior standardized tests, teacher-created assessments, teacher observations, parent input) to the new, revolutionary assessments they’ve created that are sure to reinforce what Arne Duncan already knows: that American education sucks.  After all, we can’t really get everyone to participate in the “failing schools” hysteria unless we call attention to just how bad our teachers really are and just how stupid our kids are.  (Teachers and kids aside, even legislators and school board members are dumb. So obviously, the logical way to make everyone smarter is to make PARCC tests that are even harder than the standardized tests they’re replacing–so more people, literacy experts with PhDs in English included, become confused and perform poorly.)

But kids: if you’re in 3rd grade and you’re worried that you’re not quite Harvard-ready yet, don’t panic.  Instead, take this practice test–and when you do poorly because you aren’t an an expert in keyboarding, the test is poorly constructed, the questions are confusing you’re stupid, use the opportunity of your miserable scores to get your parents to pay for a tutor who will test-prep you to College and Career Readiness! (Calm down. You have plenty of time. And if your parents are hesitant to sign you up for PARCC prep, ask them to buy you the American Girl doll with the Pearson textbook in her backpack–just to reinforce the idea to them that Pearson really does know best.)

If you’re in 11th grade, though, Colleges and Careers are just around the corner–so if you can’t pass these PARCC practice tests, you’re pretty much screwed for the rest of your life.  Here are some pointers to help you as you click your way to a measurement of your worth as a human being:

  • Remember everything your teachers taught you about the virtues annotating and interacting with a text?  Good.  Now forget it all, because you won’t be able to annotate in the little 4″ x 5″ boxes that house the passages you’ll need to read. (PARCC says students will be able to highlight on the real test, but the practice tests don’t offer that “accessibility feature.”) Anyway, deal with it, because real books and paper tests and pens and pencils are obsolete. Do you think anyone in Shanghai reads from an actual book? Please.
  • Most questions have a Part A and a Part B, so when they say “there are 20 questions in this section,” they really mean “there are 40 questions in this section.” Also, most of the time your Part B will be wrong if your Part A is wrong.  (Sometimes, questions have up to 7 options, from which you need to choose two or three answers. But don’t give up!  You can get partial credit.  Sometimes.)
  • Anyone who’s watched the SNL Gap Girls knows that “Carpet Tunnel Syndrome” is a very painful ailment that you “catch from a computer”… so be careful, because you’ll be doing a lot of scrolling, clicking, and typing on the PARCC test. A LOT.  You’ll need to scroll within the passage you’re required to read–something that can only be accomplished if you click within the text box and manipulate the cursor accordingly–and you’ll also need to scroll through the test questions while the text remains stationary.  Sometimes you won’t be able to see the passage and the questions that ask you to reference the passage at the same time.  Also, you’ll be required to drag and drop statements from the top of a screen to the bottom, and many times you won’t be able to see the work you’ve compiled–or the options that remain–on the same screen.  Again, deal with it. Welcome to the 21st Century.

Grade 11 ELA Drag:Drop

  • You’ll have to watch a video as part of the PARCC test. (#Winning!)  Your school will need to purchase earbuds for everyone to use on the real test (districts can just add them to the tab they’ll run up trying to pay for all these unfunded mandates), but for the practice test, it’s BYOHeadphones. I personally recommend Beats by Dre, because they come in cool colors that might distract other test-takers into scoring even worse than you’ll score, and because “Sometimes You Just Need More Power” when you’re watching a video about the Declaration of Independence. Bonus: you can also help make even more money for some tech companies, like Apple, while you’re at it.
  • For your final practice test essay, you’ll have to use three sources, none of which you’ll be able to see at the same time (and none of which you can annotate–yet), and you’ll have to answer this question:

Both John and Abigail Adams believed strongly in freedom and independence.  However, their letters suggest that each of them understood these terms differently based on their experiences.

Write an essay that explains their contrasting views on the concepts of freedom and independence.  In your essay, make a claim about the idea of freedom and independence and how John and Abigail Adams add to that understanding and/or illustrate a misunderstanding of freedom and independence.  Support your response with textual evidence and inferences drawn from all three sources.

Adams essay


I know, I know–you might have some questions about this prompt…like why is “make a claim” so unclear?  Should “freedom and independence” be considered as separate “terms” (as they’re referred to in the second sentence of the prompt), or one entity–since the “idea” of freedom and independence is singular in the fourth sentence of the prompt?  Is the “understanding” or “misunderstanding” of freedom and independence one that John and Abigail share, as the fourth sentences of the prompt suggests–or, since the second sentence of the prompt says the two have different understandings of the terms (which, again, may be considered collectively or independently), might the Adamses need to be looked at individually because they “understood these terms differently based on their experiences”? Would John and Abigail both “add to” an understanding of the test-taker’s “claim” if they have “contrasting views on the concepts of freedom and independence”?  How many times should a test-taker have to reread a prompt in order to understand what it’s asking?  And how are test-takers supposed to use evidence from all three sources if their time is consumed by clicking back and forth between tabs that look the same and scrolling through numbered paragraphs that also looks the same since test-takers can’t annotate freely?

The answer to your concerns is, of course, “shut up”–because if you don’t understand the essay prompt, or anything else on the test, you’re clearly stupid like the rest of your American peers.  And you should enroll yourself in a charter or private school asap, because traditional public schools, your teachers, and all the “white suburban moms” who misled you into believing you were a genius have clearly failed you.

But again–don’t get discouraged.  Really.  Remember that people who answered a Craigslist posting to score essays for $12/hour and Kelly Temps are among the writing experts who will be scoring your written responses–so you can rest assured that your work will be assessed accurately and fairly.  And besides, Pearson barely ever makes test-construction or scoring errors!

And NO–PARCC tests should not be renamed Q-TIP (Questions that Trick & Intimidate People), WTF (We Test Fools), or ASS (American Students are Stupid).  Don’t be fresh.

Go forth and take tests, American children!  Colleges and Careers await you!



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2 responses to “PARCC anxiety? Hope, thy name is Test Prep!

  1. Pingback: About Chris Christie’s Executive Order #159… | teacherbiz

  2. Pingback: PARCC requires a new and unprecedented kind of test prep | teacherbiz

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