Monday, July 27, 2015

Changes anticipated for Illinois PARCC

The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) assessment will undergo changes before returning to Illinois schools during the 2015-2016 academic year.

Notable in the next cycle will be a single 30-day test window, instead of two separate testing periods. PARCC will consolidate its Performance-Based Assessment (PBA) and End-of-Year Assessment (EOY) into one timeframe. In addition, the next PARCC will require less testing time. Depending on grade level, students will take six or seven PARCC units, compared to eight or nine last year. This will reduce testing time for most students by 90 minutes.

According to Illinois State Board of Education superintendent Tony Smith, “These changes to the structure will not take away from the PARCC test’s vital purpose to ensure that each student in every school is learning the skills and knowledge needed in order to advance to the next grade level and ultimately, college and/or careers.”

Smith added that the changes were based on feedback from teachers, students, and parents.

Still in question is how assessments will be paid for in the upcoming school year, according to IASB Deputy Executive Director Ben Schwarm. Governor Bruce Rauner signed a bill in June that covered the majority of ISBE appropriations, but he vetoed the rest of the state budget.

“One of the bills vetoed contained the funding for ISBE for assessments.” Schwarm said. “I am sure that the ISBE intends to do testing in the coming school year but right now there is no money to do it.”

PARCC made headlines in late winter and early spring as students, parents, and educators objected to the length and difficulty of the new test, loss of instructional time, technical glitches in implementation, and objections to the standardized testing climate in general. ISBE reported that schools not implementing PARCC were risking Illinois’ federal funds for education.

Ohio left the PARCC consortium on July 1. Along with Illinois, PARCC states include Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, and Rhode Island, plus the District of Columbia. According to PARCC, in the initial implementation, “Nearly five million students in 11 states and the District of Columbia completed more than 17 million online test sessions.”

All PARCC participants are awaiting results. Because 2014-2015 was the first implementation, PARCC officials and state educators must review scores to determine performance levels. Reports to districts and parents are expected in the fall.

In other news stemming from PARCC, the Illinois General Assembly considered the issue of opting out of standardized testing. HB 306 (Guzzardi, D-Chicago) would allow students to opt out of taking a standardized test if the student’s parent or guardian requests, in writing, that the student be excused. The bill states that no action can be taken against a student, school, district, or member of school staff, due to a student opting out. It also requires supervised instructional or enrichment opportunities during the time the state examination is administered, for students who opt out. The bill was approved by the House of Representatives and sent to the Senate for further consideration.