Aligning Digital Assessment Questions to Common Core Learning Standards

featured image of students in classroom using laptop to take common core assessments

As the primary guidelines for what students need to be able to demonstrate and understand, the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) play a critical role in planning and implementing lessons. A key component of this is, of course, designing common core assessments that align with the standards, including digital assessments

Creating digital common core assessment questions can be challenging for educators, however, the complexity and nuance that CCSS demands are difficult to capture using traditional pencil and paper tests. Although it may be difficult, there are strategies and technology-based tools that educators can use to save time and remove common barriers to assessment development. 

What are the Common Core Learning Standards?

The Common Core Learning Standards are a set of standards developed specifically for English Language Arts (ELA) and mathematics with an outline detailing what students should be able to do at the end of each grade level. These standards were created, in large part, to help students in the United States continue to grow after years of minimal growth and to ensure that students from state to state had the same expectations for growth. 

“The Common Core is informed by the highest, most effective standards from states across the United States and countries around the world. The standards define the knowledge and skills students should gain throughout their K-12 education in order to graduate high school prepared to succeed in entry-level careers, introductory academic college courses, and workforce training programs.” – Common Core State Standards Initiative

Some of the characteristics of the Common Core Learning Standards are that the standards are: 

  • Based in research
  • Aligned with career and college readiness
  • Clear and unambiguous 
  • Focused on rigor and higher-order thinking skills
  • Informed by other top achieving countries

In short, the CCSS helps to give students from all areas of the country a chance at a high-quality, rigorous, education. Additionally, it also serves as a way for schools to compare themselves with other schools nationwide because schools in many states utilize the CCSS. 

How Do the Standards Impact Demand for Technology-Enhanced Assessment? 

The Common Core Learning Standards have also created a high demand for technology-enhanced learning and assessment. Within the standards themselves there are digital literacy requirements attached to each content. Students need to be able to use technology to demonstrate learning including using digital media to express ideas, analyzing digital media to form meaning, and evaluating digital sources. 

In terms of assessment, it is difficult, if not impossible, to develop authentic common core assessments without utilizing technology. Unlike traditional assessments, CCSS assessments encourage creative thinking and allow for multiple ways of showing knowledge rather than simply answering a question right on a multiple-choice test. Without technology-enhanced assessments, it would be extremely difficult for students to think outside of the box and show their understanding. 

Assessment items may include having students watch multiple videos, listen to audio, or develop a cohesive digital presentation. Having technology available makes all of these things possible and allows students to work at their own pace. 

What is PARCC? 

The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, is a standardized assessment designed to allow states to track and compare student progress toward the Common Core State Standards. PARCC testing includes ELA and mathematics standards and is given in a completely online format. 

For assessing the CCSS there are only two consortia responsible for developing testing materials, they are PARCC and the SBAC assessment. Although there are many technology-enhanced assessment platforms available, due to a track record of success and innovation, the platform that PARCC chose was TAO testing.

Common Core Item Types

On the PARCC assessments, the exact content and question will vary from year-to-year, however, each year the assessment is structured the same way and has the same types of questions. Those questions fall into a few different categories in both English Language Arts and mathematics

English Language Arts item types:

  • Evidence-based selected response (EBSR) – students will read a passage and be asked traditional multiple choice questions and support their answer by selecting a section of the text as evidence. 
  • Technology-enhanced constructed response (TECR) – utilizing technology, students demonstrate comprehension and are also asked, again, to support their answer using the text. 
  • Prose constructed response (PCR) – students are given a short, unfamiliar text, and asked to write an essay about it. The text is designed to be new to the student so that only the student’s understanding is demonstrated rather than having help from peers. 

Mathematics item types: 

  • Type I – Questions assessing concepts, skills, and procedures. These questions are similar to traditional multiple-choice, true-false, or matching tests and are machine scorable. 
  • Type II – Questions assessing the expression of mathematical reasoning. In addition to answering correctly, students must justify their answers using words or diagrams. 
  • Type III – Questions assessing modeling and applications of mathematical concepts in a real-world context or scenario. Students are expected to take problems out of the math classroom and apply them in the real world. 

How the TAO Platform Supports the Alignment of Assessments to Common Core Standards

Digital and technology-enhanced assessments are important tools when evaluating what students know or understand. It is difficult to test complex concepts on a large scale without using technology. 

Platforms like TAO enable school districts and state governments to develop common core-aligned assessments and measure student growth more effectively when compared with traditional paper assessments. The entire TAO platform and interactions within were built with CCSS in mind, supporting a wide range of PCIs and TEIs for maximum flexibility. Within the TAO platform, educators can link assessment items directly to the Common Core Standards by utilizing TAO’s powerful metadata engine, which improves and simplifies measurement. 

For more information on how to integrate the TAO platform into your school or classroom please reach out directly to TAO here

contact us to learn more about using TAO to develop common core assessments for your school.