Soulless

My students took the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test last spring.  Items from that test were recently released and shared within my school.  Although my students will take the MCAS 2.0 this year (an updated version of the old Massachusetts state test) we are being told that the new test will be very much like last spring's PARCC test.  Naturally, I was curious to see the released items.

With all the talk of preparing students for the "real world" and building critical thinking skills etc. etc., I'm surprised to continue to see questions like the one below on these big tests.  Here is an actual released PARCC item:

PARCC1.png

OK, I get that we want students to simplify and manipulate expressions, but wouldn't putting something like this on a state test encourage teachers to "drill and kill"?  Here's another released item:

Very similar, isn't it?  Another one:

Absolutely soulless.  Where is the critical thinking, the context or application?  Isn't that what these new tests were to both encourage and assess?  How can you look at these questions and not understand why many students lose interest in math?  Can't we do better?

I'll admit that other released questions were a little better (here they all are for those interested).  About 25% of the questions I looked at were like those shown above.  That may not sound like a high percentage to some, but it does to me because I think that percentage should be zero!

Am I wrong? Am I missing something?
Ms. Vila