Read an Excerpt
The Common Core State Standards Initiative
This book gives you what you most need to know about the PARCC assessments for English language arts/literacy. In doing so, it proceeds from these five basic principles:
1. We believe in the PARCC assessments.
2. We believe in the Common Core Standards, which inform how the PARCC tests are being developed.
3. We believe the PARCC test battery assesses the very skills today’s students most need to succeed in college and the workplace.
4. We believe in affording today’s students the best possible shot at success in college and their chosen career.
5. We believe the PARCC assessments need the no-nonsense, practical perspective of the schoolhouse—and that’s exactly what you’ll find in this study guide.
The foundation for the PARCC tests lies in the Common Core State Standards. Adopted by the vast majority of U.S. states, the Common Core achieves for the first time in American history a near-common curriculum for the nation as a whole.
In essence, the PARCC is designed to assess whether or not students are making progress toward achieving the benchmarks set forth in the Common Core. Thus, our book is closely aligned with the PARCC, and, by extension, the Common Core.
For instance, most of the readings you will find in our book are taken from the reading suggestions from the Common Core (please see Appendix B of the Common Core: http://www.corestandards.org/ELA-Literacy). By using these reading suggestions and the curricular guidelines set forth in the Common Core English language arts document, we are giving you an advantage in taking the PARCC exam. Why, you might ask? The answer is simple: The more familiar you are with the literary and nonfiction texts of the Common Core, the better prepared you will be to take the PARCC assessment.
While there are certainly a lot of standards, keep in mind that two standards will always be in play, regardless if the task involves reading or writing. They are:
• Reading Standard One (1): Use of Evidence
• Reading Standard Ten (10): Complex Texts
Therefore, we are supremely confident that the reading exercises and the activities within this book will help you on the PARCC exam.
Reading the Standards
Throughout this test prep guide, we have aligned each task to the Common Core standards. This is a natural alignment, as the test and Common Core standards are interlinked. PARCC stands for Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. We know—it’s a long title! Throughout this guidebook, though, we will refer to the test by its widely known acronym: PARCC.
The nature of the test makes it unlike any test you have ever taken. Three things make this so:
• The test is given on computer.
• The test is actually a series of tests given throughout the school year.
• What’s on the test will require you to think in new and stimulating ways—both because of the content itself and the way it’s presented.
So, how will the testing schedule look? We have broken down the PARCC’s various assessments so that you can easily see that this is a test that will not be taken on just one day of the school year, but actually will be taken several times throughout the school year.
You will be required to take the “Performance-Based Assessment” and the “End-of-Year Assessment.” The “Diagnostic Assessment” and the “Mid-Year Assessment” are optional depending upon the state in which you live. The Performance-Based Assessments (PBAs) consist of reading activities and three writing activities based upon the reading: (a) a narrative essay, (b) a literary analysis essay, and (c) a research-simulation task. This book will address the reading skills you will need as well as the writing skills for these three types of writing assessments.
Because this test will be taken on the computer, your results will be returned to you much faster than with pencil-and-paper exams you have taken. It is also very important to look at these practice questions in the context of keyboarding your responses. If you do not yet feel comfortable with keyboarding, it is time to practice these skills on your own!
Now that you are familiar with the structure of the PARCC, let’s look over each of its question types together.
Introduction to Interactive Reading
In every other test prep book you’ve ever read, or any English language arts classroom you’ve ever been in, you’ve most likely worked on strategies to engage with a printed text. While these strategies should not be forgotten, it is important to begin thinking of them in the context of brainstorming and working with a text on a computer.
Many of you surf the Web daily. At this point, you’re probably used to casually skimming, scanning, and reading texts online. If this isn’t part of your daily, or even weekly, routine, then you should start. Since the PARCC is administered entirely on computer, it is time to think about this test in a different way.
The reading skills you will learn in Chapter 2 will help you on the “Performance-Based Assessment” and the “End-of-Year Assessment.” In Chapter 2 you will begin looking at how to appropriately read and take notes from a screen. You will learn how to take what you’ve learned in your English language arts classes and modify these techniques for the purposes of preparing for this test.
Most students are familiar with reading comprehension sections that appear on any state test or even the SAT. Generally, you would read the passage or selection, and then answer a series of multiple-choice questions and/or open-ended questions. The PARCC, however, will assess reading in a more interactive manner. Often, you will answer questions as you read, as opposed to answering those questions after you’ve read.
You will need to electronically highlight text in relation to questions. You will also need to address how the reading selection raises specific points to support the writer’s viewpoint or argument. As you read, you’ll have to interactively investigate. While this sounds complicated, it is actually quite doable. The key is to be prepared, which is why you’re using this guidebook in the first place!
As you read through the question types during the interactive reading chapter, be sure to review our “Thought Process” (a feature utilized throughout this book) as we navigate through the questions. This should serve as a model for you as you complete the interactive reading questions on your own.
This is the only chapter in which we focus our attention on multiple-choice questions with regard to the PARCC. All performance-based assessment chapters (narrative, literary analysis, and research simulation) concentrate on the prose-constructed response, using overarching literacy skills to enable you to confidently approach and complete each.
Throughout your reading of this chapter, pay careful attention to the ways in which close reading is modeled. If you are not aware of the language of authors in relation to their purposes, the questions will be more difficult to answer accurately. Think about how writers craft their viewpoints and project a desired effect upon the reader. You’ll find that many of the question types in this particular chapter look closely at how you, as the reader/test-taker, can recognize how writers put together their viewpoints or arguments. This is what close and active reading successfully will clarify as you develop your understanding.