Preparing for PARCC/NJSLA Part VII – ELA Assessments

Preparing for PARCC/NJSLA Part VII – ELA Assessments

Jaclyn Siano

Creating PARCC/NJSLA-Like English Assessments Part 1: EBSRs

This post is part of our blog series on PARCC/NJSLA. In this series, we offer tips and strategies you can use to ensure that your students perform at their very best on the PARCC/NJSLA tests.

One way to assist students to perform at their personal best is to simulate the test-taking experience, both in terms of the test content and the testing conditions. This two-part blog post covers how to create a PARCC/NJSLA-like English assessment. In Part 1, we’ll address how to select a text, how to identify what is special or unique about the text, and how to write Evidence-Based Selected Response (EBSR) items. In Part 2, we’ll explain the Technology-Enhanced Constructed Response (TECR) items and provide templates for creating these items.

What is an EBSR?

An Evidence Based Selected Response (EBSR) is a two-part question (Part A and Part B). “The term refers to a type of ELA/literacy standard test item that asks students to show the evidence in a text that led them to a previous answer.” ( An EBSR assesses vocabulary knowledge, elements of literature, main ideas, key details, structure, or integration of ideas. In order to create an assessment, we have to identify what PARCC/NJSLA calls “texts worth reading.” Let’s look at how PARCC/NJSLA determines if a text is worthy of study.

Five PARCC/NJSLA Criteria for Selecting Texts Worth Reading:

  • Texts Are Complex: PARCC/NJSLA assessments follow the staircase of text complexity in the CCSS to ensure assessments track student progress each year towards college and career readiness.
  • Texts Are Diverse: PARCC/NJSLA texts stem from across the disciplines (e.g. ELA, history, science and technical subjects), are written by authors with diverse backgrounds, reflect the CCSS prescribed balances of literature and informational text, and appeal to a wide range of student audiences.
  • Texts Are Authentic: PARCC/NJSLA texts are authentic works of exceptional craft and/or rich repositories of ideas and information rather than commissioned-for-the-test passages lacking sufficient evidence, organization, and style.
  • Texts Are Paired Effectively: PARCC/NJSLA text pairings, where required by the CCSS, have meaningful and significant points of comparison that invite questions beyond superficial observations.
  • Texts Meet Demands of Bias and Sensitivity Guidelines: PARCC/NJSLA texts are carefully vetted to ensure that while they pique student interest and appeal to a wide audience they avoid highly controversial topics that may be troublesome to students.” (

Now, let’s complete the following four steps to create your first EBSR item.

             Step #1 – Consider Your Text

  • Once you have selected your text, you have to think about what is special or unique about the text. Take a look at your text. With the understanding that text complexity is important and students should continually be exposed to increasingly complex text, determine which sections or passages may be difficult for students.  Read what PARCC has to say about text-dependent questions: “Good text dependent questions will often linger over specific phrases and sentences to ensure careful comprehension of the text—they help students see something worthwhile that they would not have seen on a more cursory reading. An effective set of text dependent questions delves systematically into a text to guide students in extracting the key meanings or ideas found there. They typically begin by exploring specific words, details, and arguments and then move on to examine the impact of those specifics on the text as a whole. Along the way they target academic vocabulary and specific sentence structures as critical focus points for gaining comprehension.” (

            Step #2 – Identify What You Want to Assess

  • Now that you know what is special about your text, what do you want to assess? PARCC/NJSLA created Reading Evidence Tables for Kindergarten through grade 11. Take a look at your grade level’s document. Using your grade level’s table, identify passages in the text that can be used to assess the evidences to be measured by your test item.

             Step #3 – Construct Part A of Your EBSR

  • Think about PARCC’s Item Guidelines to construct Part A of your EBSR.
  • Constructing Distractors – Part A: “The primary purpose of a distractor is to provide evidence that a student is not able to meet the standard(s) assessed due to student misconceptions. Distractors must be plausible responses to item stems. Items should not use negative distractors. The written style of all distractors in an item should be similar to that of the correct response(s). Answer responses (distractors) are not ordered alphabetically by first word or by short to long, etc. the answers in the order they appear in the passage.” (PARCC – Item Guidelines for ELA/Literacy PARCC Summative Assessment- Best Practices for Distractors for EBSR items)

           Step #4 – Construct Part B of Your EBSR

  • Follow these PARCC guidelines for creating Part B: “In Part B, when writing the distractors for evidences, all of the answer choices must be the same type of citation of evidence (e.g. all quotes or all paraphrases).  Particular care must be taken for Part B items, where students are asked to select evidence from the text such that distractor wording to achieve parallelism in style does not overly  impose distractor wording. All answer choices for Part B must be accurate/relevant/from the passage.” (PARCC – Item Guidelines for ELA/Literacy PARCC Summative Assessment- Best Practices for Distractors for EBSR items)

There you have it! You constructed the first EBSR for your PARCC/NJSLA-like assessment. One of our educational experts would be happy to review your work with EBSRs. Email your EBSR to along with the text, your reason for choosing that text, and the standards that you wish to assess with the item. She’ll reply with feedback and suggestions for improvement.

Let’s quickly review! To create a PARCC/NJSLA-like English assessment with Evidence-Based Selected Responses, you have to:

  1. Select a text worthy of close study via a comprehensive analysis of the text.
  2. Identify specifically what you want to assess with a comparison of the reading evidence docs AND what is special and unique in the text.
  3. Create EBSRs that have quality distractors.

And that’s it! Follow those simple steps and you’ll be well on your way to mastering PARCC/NJSLA’s EBSR question types.

Inspired Instruction offer hundreds of PARCC/NJSLA lesson plans, online PARCC/NJSLA-like assessments with technology-enhanced items, PARCC/NJSLA workshops, and PARCC /NJSLA demonstration lessons. Please contact Michele Regan for more information: or call 908-223-7202.

Inspired Instruction and Standards Solution Holding, LLC are not owned by or affiliated in any fashion with PARCC, Inc.

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