Alma School District will be part of a field test in the spring of 2014 for new testing that can assess the Common Core Standards.

Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, is meant to replace Augmented Benchmark and End of Course exams.

Benchmarks are testing for literacy and math in grades 3-8; EOC exams test kids on Algebra I, Geometry and Biology; and in addition there is a Grade 11 Literacy exam. All fall under the the Arkansas Comprehensive Testing, Assessment and Accountability Program (ACTAAP), put into effect because of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.

PARCC was developed to measure Common Core State Standards, now fully implemented in schools across the nation, which still fall under the No Child Left Behind initiative, said Pamm Treece, director of student services at Alma.

"It’s just a move into a different direction to join the entire country in curriculum," Treece said. "We’ve known for several years that we were going in this direction."

Of the 46 states that have adopted Common Core, a consortium of 20 states - including Arkansas - are planning to test and adopt PARCC, Treece said. Other states are going with a standard of assessment testing called Smarter Balance, while still others are developing their own testing standards, she said.

As it is now, PARCC will test grades 3-11 with a Performance Based Assessment (PBA) on English, language arts and literacy, and one on mathematics. End of Year (EOY) exams will be given on English, language arts and literacy, mathematics, and Algebra.

More assessments are expected to be added to the test, Treece said. PBAs will be given after about 75 percent of instruction is completed, and the EOYs after 90 percent, she said.

Alma’s middle, intermediate and high school will test portions of the exam, though no student will take it in full, Treece said.

More than one million students from various schools will be field testing the program, with the purpose being to examine the quality of the assessments, determine administration procedures and give testing experience to the schools, Treece said.

Students may take a PBA, EOY or both, Treece said. Alma students will be taking the paper version of the test, though Treece said she preferred they take the online version.

"The entire future of these tests is online," Treece said.

Field testing will be done in between the Benchmark and EOC testing, which is still required by the state - even though students are being taught Common Core Standards, Treece said.

Because students will be tested this year based on standards that are no longer being taught, Treece expects test scores to be "dramatically" lower this year, she said. PARCC testing requires more application analyzing of the material, she said.

"The intent is to prepare students for life, not just get them through a test," Treece said. "When they graduate high school they will be able to solve real problems, not just paper and pencil stuff."

As part of English-literacy PBAs, students will read and write to demonstrate they can understand complex texts, write effectively when using and analyzing sources, and build and communicate knowledge. The tests will have three sessions.

EOYs in the category will be similar, but will include a variety of texts including history, science and technical subjects. They also will have to interpret meaning and draw conclusions.

Math PBAs require students to employ problem solving skills, express mathematical reasoning and construct arguments, and apply concepts to real-world problems.

Math EOYs are similar, but involve multi-step problems and conceptual questions, and students must carry out the procedures.

Students will be taking the PARCC tests in full in 2015. Treece expects the state to assign the school a block of time between March and May for testing, she said.