State tests

Beginning in the 2014 – 2015 school year, students in Mississippi will begin taking the Common Core assessment created by PARCC. You can find extensive information about PARCC on their website, but there are a few key things you should know:

  • The rigor of the assessment will be much higher than the assessments we are used to in Mississippi. Some items will require students to create different kinds of products: explanations, diagrams, mathematical models, etc. See the prototype items on the PARCC website for examples of this. 
  • The assessment will include both a “machine-scored,” computer-based assessment that tests fundamental content skills, and a performance based task that is scored by hand, and focuses on students’ ability to think mathematically across different parts of mathematical content. This portion will be given to students 75% of the way through the year.

Given the scope of these changes, it is essential that we begin preparing students for PARCC asesssments this year, rather than waiting until next year. The most effective way to do this may be to have a two-tiered assessment system:

  1. Continue to provide paper assessments aligned to the Mississippi state tests, but ensuring that those tests ask students to do more than answer simple multiple choice questions.
  2. Assess students via performance tasks at least once per quarter.

Traditional unit assessments

As you create your assessments, make sure you know what standards (Common Core or Mississippi) that you intend to cover, and feel confident that the questions are at the appropriate level of rigor. This will be easiest to do if you are clear about the key mathematical ideas that you want students to understand.

  • We recommend that lower rigor items (vocabulary, fill in the blanks, etc.) not be included in your unit assessment. You should ask these questions as formative assessments at other opportunities, such as weekly quizzes or daily exit tickets. By the time of your unit assessment, students should be expected to demonstrate comprehension of the standards at a higher level of rigor.
  • Given the shift to Common Core, you should be asking your students to create a variety of products on a written assessment, including answers to simple multiple choice or application questions, but also arguments, explanations, diagrams, mathematical models, etc.

For sample questions from your course’s end-of-course assessment, please see the Recommended Big Goals page.


Performance tasks

For more information about using performance tasks, please see the Performance Task page.


Diagnostic assessments

There is no single diagnostic assessment that is widely available and that we consider truly effective for math. Unfortunately, complete information about what your students know and don’t know tends to be very nuanced; given this, we recommend that you give quick, unit-level diagnostics throughout the year to gauge students’ preparedness for the content you are about teach.

We do recommend using a basic one-page skills diagnostic to see how students do with key computational skills. You can find that here.

We also have a more complete remedial skills diagnostic can be downloaded here. If you are interested in helping us innovate ways to implement this in classrooms, please email Boyce. You will want to enable macros when prompted. You can see a word document describing the sequence of skills and their alignment to grade levels here.