‘New’ test­ing still based on PARCC, but changes un­der­way, state says

Chicago Sun-Times - - FRONT PAGE - MITCHELL ARMENTROUT RE­PORTS,

Grade-school­ers across Illi­nois will be­gin tak­ing a “new” state stan­dard­ized test de­but­ing next month — but it’ll still feel a lot like the PARCC ex­ams that have been ma­ligned by fam­i­lies, teach­ers and ad­min­is­tra­tors alike for four years.

That’s be­cause the re­branded Illi­nois Assessment of Readi­ness for third-through-eighth-graders will still con­tain most of the same read­ing and math con­tent from PARCC dur­ing the first phase of a four-year test over­haul.

The Illi­nois State Board of Ed­u­ca­tion an­nounced the ad­justed for­mat last week, just a month be­fore the test­ing win­dow “ten­ta­tively” opens March 11.

The board last fall had ap­proved a con­tract with a firm to de­velop a new hy­brid test but ended up award­ing a one-year deal last month to the cur­rent con­trac­tor to ad­min­is­ter a sim­i­lar test this spring on the way to a fully re­vamped test by 2022.

“The bot­tom line for this year is that the only dif­fer­ence stu­dents will ex­pe­ri­ence in our test­ing pro­gram will be a shorter test with a new name,” act­ing ISBE Chief Ed­u­ca­tion Of­fi­cer Ralph Grimm said.

Since 2015, when the state be­gan ad­min­is­ter­ing PARCC — Part­ner­ship for Assessment of Readi­ness for Col­lege and Ca­reers — crit­ics have slammed the hours-long test for, among other things, eat­ing up valu­able class time.

This spring’s it­er­a­tion of the test, which is aligned to Com­mon Core stan­dards, will be about twothirds as long, of­fi­cials say. Most stu­dents will take an on­line test; un­der 10 per­cent of schools across the state us­ing pa­per ex­ams.

Op­po­nents re­joiced last year when the state an­nounced it would al­ter the exam, but this year’s repack­ag­ing drew the ire of the Chicago ed­u­ca­tion ad­vo­cacy group Raise Your Hand, which la­beled it the “Zom­bie PARCC.”

“To have the Illi­nois test ready for spring, ISBE has ba­si­cally adopted PARCC for one more year,” the group said in a state­ment.

Raise Your Hand and other groups, in­clud­ing the Chicago Teach­ers Union, have urged stu­dents to opt out of tak­ing the test — which is le­gal, but no easy feat for stu­dents ex­pected to stand up to ad­min­is­tra­tors un­der pres­sure to sub­mit re­sults that en­sure fed­eral fund­ing.

The crit­ics say PARCC has faulty ques­tions and is un­rea­son­ably dif­fi­cult — un­der 40 per­cent of stu­dents across the state met or ex­ceeded ex­pec­ta­tions last year — and that scor­ing takes too long. Re­sults in the state have ar­rived by late au­tumn of the fol­low­ing school year, ren­der­ing them largely use­less for par­ents or teach­ers.

About two dozen states ad­min­is­tered PARCC at its height in 2010, but that’s now dwin­dled to just a hand­ful with Illi­nois’ grad­ual de­par­ture.

State of­fi­cials say the re­vamped Illi­nois Assessment of Readi­ness will ad­dress all those con­cerns by 2022, start­ing with a fully on­line exam next year with re­sults re­turned in weeks rather than months.

It’ll be “com­puter adap­tive” by 2021, ad­just­ing ques­tions mid-test to iden­tify stu­dent-spe­cific needs, and will in­cor­po­rate ques­tions from Illi­nois ed­u­ca­tors. By 2022, the board says it will have de­vel­oped its own “true na­tive” test.

This year’s test­ing win­dow closes April 26.

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