Thursday, September 4, 2014

What PARCC revisions mean for informational text

In case you missed it, PARCC announced some changes to the English Language Arts/Literacy End-of-Year test. For grades 6-11, the changes include one fewer passage and fewer questions overall. The changes, according to PARCC, will reduce “the amount of time spent on testing and lowe[r] testing costs.”

For those of us interested in informational text and the ways in which it will be incorporated into the curriculum, the key points are as follows: the end-of-year assessment for grades 6-11 will go from 1 long and 2 short informational passages to 1 long and now only 1 short informational passage.  The test will still contain a paired passage set consisting of two literary and/or informational texts.

As we do our best to prepare our students in this evolving testing landscape, let’s remember that informational text can be motivating and engaging for students, provided we find interesting texts and prepare our students to deal with the challenges of those texts. Also, informational text can be a great way to create an entrance for students into off-putting or seemingly remote literary texts. Pairing literary and informational texts is a great way for students to think about texts as part of a dialogue and for them to see themselves as part of a larger conversation. Engaging in such dialogue is, at least for now, a central part of the PARCC assessments, and a key literacy skill we want our students to develop whether it remains so or not.

By the way, check out our Teachers College Record review of "Common Core Standards in Diverse Classrooms" by Jeff Zwiers et al.

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