7 Technology Enhanced Item Types You’ll See On Common Core Tests This Spring

When The Common Core State Standards initiative was first announced there was a collective eye roll amongst veteran teachers. There have been so many shifts in pedagogical theory and practice over the years that nobody really thought these national learning goals would come to fruition. And then they did.

When two national testing organizations—The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC)—were formed and states joined one or the other, teachers began to think, “Okay, this is happening.” When both PARCC and SBAC announced that their tests would only be taken online and would include new item types, specifically, new technology enhanced item types, district and school administrators wondered how they’d ever get the hardware to support the tests. And teachers wondered how they’d ever get their students prepared.

In 2013, both PARCC and SBAC released testing blueprints and explanations of new item types. This “drag and drop” technology didn’t seem like it would be so difficult for students to figure out. Click, drag, drop—simple enough, right? Later, both groups released sample items and practice tests and then teachers finally got a glimpse of how different these Common Core tests really were. Teachers began to worry that without repeated exposure to the new item types, students would perform poorly on testing—not because they hadn’t mastered the material, but because they hadn’t mastered the technology.

But, teachers, you are now in luck. Using the sample items and released PARCC and SBAC tests as models, software developers have begun to incorporate the new technology types into games and apps, perfect for classroom use and test prep. We’ve put together a list of a few new technology enhanced item types you’re likely to see on either the PARCC or SBAC testing this spring, along with some suggestions for ways to get your students prepared to master the Common Core tests.

7 Technology Enhanced Item Types on Common Core Testing

1. Drag and Drop: This item type does exactly what the name implies. Students need to drag an item from one part of the screen to another.

  • Ways Drag and Drop was used in sample items: In ELA, the Drag and Drop functionality included tiles with statements from an accompanying text. Those tiles were then dragged to a designated area on screen to identify multiple details in a text, sequence events in a story or process steps in information texts, complete graphic organizers, identify supporting evidence, arrange a summary, and identify central ideas. In Math, the tiles contained numbers or equations and were dragged to categorize types of questions, arrange answers in numerical order, and match expressions with word forms

2. Multiple Select: This item type is most similar to a traditional standardized test format. It is a multiple choice question, but instead of just one correct answer, there are many, and students must choose all of them to get the question correct.

  • Ways Multiple Select was used in sample items: In ELA, Multiple Select functionality included choosing multiple themes or central ideas in a text, multiple synonyms or antonyms for a vocabulary word, and multiple supporting details. In Math, Multiple Select items included selecting multiple equivalent fractions, equivalent equations, and equivalent amounts of measurement.

3.Text Selection/Highlighting: This item type requires students to click on words, phrases, or entire sentences as a way to answer questions about specific parts of a text.

  • Ways Text Selection/Highlighting was used in sample items: In ELA, students were prompted to select claims that supported a central idea, or to choose sentences that provided context for a vocabulary word by clicking on the text provided. The selected text would either highlight or turn a different color. This item type was not used for math questions on sample tests or practice items.

4. Equation Builder: This item is like a mini word processor that includes specialized mathematical symbols, ranging from simple division signs to more complex trigonometric symbols, such as sin and cosine.

  • Ways Equation Builder was used in sample items: The Equation Editor was not used in released ELA items. This item type was used in Math to build and solve questions related to word problems and to justify answers to problems by showing both equations and typing written responses. Students were also asked to evaluate the mathematical processes and responses calculated by others and show their work to prove their answers.

5. Drop Down Menus: This item type includes a menu that expands when clicked on. From the expanded menu, students can see possible answer choices. They click on the word or number that completes the answer, based on context.

  • Ways Drop Down Menus were used in sample items: The Drop Down Menus were not used in released ELA items. This item type was used in math to build and solve equations, choose the correct label for answers, and build charts of equivalent values.

6.Constructed Response: This item is an embedded word processor. It has simple word processing functionality, like the ability to change text size and style and to cut, copy and paste.

  • Ways Constructed Responses were used in sample items: In ELA, the Constructed Response functionality was used as a way for students to answer questions that needed to include textual evidence. This item was also used for students to revise and rewrite given passages, add conclusions to stories, and write arguments opposing a given text. Math questions using this item asked students to explain numerical results, explain given solutions, and write down steps for problem solving. When this item was used in Math, no equations or numerical input was required.

7. Multiple Part Question: This item is not a new item type; rather it is a new way of organizing items. The Multiple Part Question asks related, tiered questions using a combination of other enhanced item types.

  • Ways Multiple Part Questions were used in sample items: In ELA, the Multiple Part Question included a passage for students to read and two to four different types of questions to answer. Each question part was related to the one before it; for example a question in Part A might asked students to identify the theme of the text and then Part B was a Multiple Select question asking students to choose each statement from the text that supported their answer in Part A. In math, a student had to solve an equation using Drop Down menus in Part A and then justify their answer to Part A in a Constructed Response in Part B.

Ways To Help Prepare Your Students For These New Item Types

One way to help your students prepare for Common Core testing with these technology enhanced item types is to ensure they can perform certain technology tasks, such as clicking, tapping, and scrolling. NextGen Assessments compiled a complete list of these technology tasks.

Next, you’ll need to seek out educational apps and websites that use similar functionality found in the Common Core tests to familiarize students with the new item types. Here are a few we recommend:

  • The Mathematics Common Core Toolbox: On this site you can choose your grade span and complete anywhere from 5 to 8 practice items modeled on the PARCC test. Items include most of the new technology enhanced functionality.
  • Edcite: This is a free site for teachers, which allows you to create your own technology-enhanced items. You also get access to items created by other teachers. Highlighting, graphing, and drag and drop are just a few of the functionalities available on the site.
  • FastFig: This app is an equation editor with advanced functionality. This is a great way for students, from elementary to high school, to practice building equations and writing out justifications.
  • Annenberg Learner: This site contains interactive lessons in all subject areas for students in grades K-College. Most of the Common Core technology enhanced item type functionalities can be found on this site.
  • TV411- Tune in to Learning: This reading site tests comprehension of both videos and texts. Multiple types of questions follow each stimulus, including Drag and Drop and Multiple Select items.
  • ReadWriteThink: These student interactives cover topics from inquiry to summarization and include many of the technology enhanced item types on the PARCC and SBAC tests.

In Short

Common Core testing season is right around the corner, so you want to spend some time making sure your students have the technological skills that will be required of them. PARCC and SBAC released items and practice tests to demonstrate the new item types students will see in the spring. We’ve summarized these items and given you some excellent online resources to help your students practice with the new testing interface. Now you can help your students show that they can master anything Common Core testing throws their way!