Cristal Delgado was “almost hypnotized” by the new state assessment on her computer screen. Taking the test online instead of putting pencil to paper helped the 11th-grader focus and felt natural for a digital native who likes to read on her phone.
The test had fewer questions than the ones she grew up with, but with more in-depth problems that made her think, she said.
Across the same computer lab at Sheridan High School, southwest of Denver, Luis Holguin was growing frustrated.
A complicated essay question that asked him to compare three texts — the first was like a poem, another read like it was written in the 1920s and the last was more modern — shook his confidence.
He longed for the previous state test, TCAP, which he said was easier to prepare for and based more on what he learned in class.
The two high school juniors were literally test subjects last week, among an estimated 540,000 Colorado students being introduced to a new yardstick — interactive online state tests that are supposed to burst old bubble tests, reward critical thinking and measure whether kids are on track for college or careers in the 21st century.
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Opinions are divided over the new math and English tests gauging where students in grades 3-11 stand on state academic standards adopted in 2010. The state’s first PARCC testing window opens Monday, but 75 districts accounting for more than eight in 10 test-taking Colorado students began early last week, officials say.
The assessments, which are supposed to be more demanding, were developed by PARCC, the Partnership of Readiness for College and Careers, a 12-state testing collective that includes Colorado.
The tests are being promoted as a major improvement, rewarding reasoning instead of memorization, offering a more engaging experience and raising the bar so students can succeed in life.
They also have been criticized as just another standardized test that takes too much time, strains schools with limited resources and means little to students.
Others say unproven tests shouldn’t factor in school and district accreditation ratings — or be a component of teacher evaluations.
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