Next year, D.C. public school students will take a new standardized test that’s supposed to test their critical thinking skills. But a number of questions on a publicly available practice test are confusing, unrealistically difficult or just plain wrong.

A recent post on Greater Greater Education criticized the design of the Common Core-aligned test that the District will begin using next year, which is being designed by a consortium of states called PARCC. But judging from sample questions, there are problems with the test that are even more basic than its design.

Like the author of the recent post, I took the PARCC English Language Arts practice test for 10th-graders. I’ve been a writing tutor for a number of 10th- and 11th-graders in a high-poverty DCPS school, so I have some idea of students’ literacy skills at that grade level.

The test consists of 23 questions, most of which have two parts that are based on a given text. I ran into problems with the very first question. The relevant passage, taken from a short story, read as follows:

I was going to tell you that I thought I heard some cranes early this morning, before the sun came up. I tried to find them, but I wasn’t sure where their calls were coming from. They’re so loud and resonant, so it’s sometimes hard to tell.

Part A of the question asked for the meaning of the word “resonant” as used in this passage. The choices were:
A. intense
B. distant
C. familiar
D. annoying

I was stumped. None of these words matched the definition of resonant as I know it, which is more like “echoing.” But, being a dutiful test-taker, I knew I had to choose A, B, C or D.

[Continue reading Natalie Wexler’s post at Greater Greater Education.]

Natalie Wexler is the editor of Greater Greater Education and a member of the board of the D.C. Scholars Public Charter School. The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.