(Correction: Fixing the number of states believed to be using PARCC exam this school year.)

Q) How much time will it take for students to complete some of the new Common Core standardized math and English Language Arts tests?

A) A lot.

One of the two multi-state consortia that have been — with some $360 million in federal funds — developing new Common Core standardized tests for use this school year just announced how many hours of testing time schools that are giving the PARCC exam should schedule. PARCC stands for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, and more than 1 million students field-tested the new exams last spring.

With prime testing time upon us, PARCC’s newly released guidance to schools (see below) calls for: 9¾  hours testing time for third grade, 10 hours for grades 4-5 , 10¾ hours for grades 6-8 and 11 to 11¼ hours for grades 9-12. When students took the exams during the spring, most took no more than 7½ hours to finish, but it is unclear whether kids raced through the tests knowing that there were no consequences attached to the results. The new recommended times were proposed to give nearly all students a chance to finish within the allotted time.  The guidance says the PARCC tests will be given to students twice a year with different sets of questions, once three-quarters of the way through the academic year and then near the end.

In March 2013, PARCC released guidelines saying it had been estimated that testing time would be eight to 10 hours.  The other multi-state consortium designing Common Core tests, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, has said it estimates students will need between seven and 8½ hours to complete its exams, which is being used by 17 states. The exactly number of states using PARCC is unclear; PARCC’s website lists 12 states plus the District of Columbia and Pennsylvania as a “participating state.” But an analysis by Education Week in June said that a few PARCC states may not use the test.

While these two sets of Common Core tests were originally meant to be used by nearly all states to make score comparisons across states valid, there has been significant push-back for various reasons against the Core in different states, and the analysis now shows that 42 percent of  K-12 students are expected to take either PARCC or Smarter Balanced tests.

So how does PARCC testing now look in one school given the new testing estimates?

Here’s what one teacher, Andrew Milton, an eighth-grade English teacher at Pioneer Middle School in DuPont, Washington, wrote on his Speaking of Education blog,  in a post titled “Logistical Train Wreck”:

One of the Common Core testing consortia just revised (upward) its expectations for how long testing will take.  The new expectation for middle school is 10 1/2 hours per student.

That’s over 8000 hours of testing for the 750 students in my middle school.  We have about 125 computers (if we kick out the students who take computer classes in two labs — about 60 computers).

If we do testing for the first four hours of the day (which is a lot), that’s 500 hours of testing in a day.  It would take 16 days of testing to complete all of our tests, if everything works rightly each day.

This will be a logistical nightmare–figuring out which 125 students are going on which days, disrupting teachers whose testing students are out of class, finding space for kids who take longer than expected, finding places for the students displaced from their computer lab classes, and more that I’m sure I haven’t thought of.

Moreover, we normally test for three hours a day, so only 375 hours a day, so 21 days.  Theoretically, we could do 2 groups each day — 750 hours of worth of testing each day. But that actually more than doubles the logistical problems — moving one set of 125 into the testing for the second half of the day, getting the first 125 out, etc., and most of all it would really mess up lunch.




PARCC Assessment Administration Guidance