Starting in spring 2015, Illinois school districts will be required to give students new assessments created by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC). Districts that fail to comply with this requirement risk losing Title I funding and potentially state funding as well, said John Price, assistant superintendent of schools.

Eleven states are administering PARCC, which is designed to align with the Common Core State Standards that were adopted by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) in 2010.

District 65 students will take the PARCC assessment in both English language arts and math. The assessment will consist of two parts. First, students will be given a Performance-Based Assessment which requires students to demonstrate their knowledge and skills through extended tasks. It will be given when approximately 75% of the instruction is completed. Second, students will be given an end-of-year assessment which is a shorter, machine-scored test. It will be given when approximately 90% of the instruction has been completed.

John Price, assistant superintendent of schools, said in a memo presented to the School Board, “Total testing time required for third-grade students is 9.75 hours total over the course of the two testing cycles (a total of 8 test ‘units’). For 4-5th grade this increases by 15 minutes, and for 6-8th grade this increases by 65 minutes for a total of just under 11 hours of testing time over 9 testing ‘units.’ Though schools have not yet begun to work on scheduling, this would likely mean approximately one hour of testing time on each of 8-9 days for each student, spread out over a 9-week testing window.

He said that amounts to about 4% of the school days during the nine-week testing window.

While the time is more than that required to take the Illinois Standard Achievement Test, Mr. Price said, “I do believe that the PARCC can and will be beneficial for us as we try to learn more about where our students are growing, where our students need to grow and where our curriculum is being more or less successful.”

Mr. Price said, department heads from the central office have been collaborating for more than a month to coordinate preparations for the first round of PARCC assessments. “Our goal is to ensure that the implementation of PARCC, from a student perspective, is as smooth and as low-stress as possible … [and] that there are no barriers in their way to do their absolute best on that assessment.”

Board Members’ Concerns

Katie Bailey noted that School District 202 appeared to have a “more intensive testing period” than District 65, and that she would be willing to join with District 202 in a statement about PARCC. She said, though, that it appeared that PARCC would not be delayed. As an alternative she suggested the Board take a look at the amount of testing being done in the District and determine what is actually needed.

Candance Chow said she trusted that PARCC would effectively assess how the District has implemented the Common Core State Standards, which she viewed as critical. She said she thought that delaying PARCC would not benefit the District, but added that she supported looking at how to manage the number of tests being given in the District.

Tracy Quattrocki, Board president and a member of ISBE’s State Testing Review Committee, said it appears that PARCC may also be used as a formative assessment, so it may duplicate some of the District’s other tests. She too supported looking at whether it was possible to reduce the number of tests, saying, “I think the concern of over-testing and testing fatigue is very real.”

Ms. Bailey suggested that the Joint District 65/202 Committee should talk about testing and accountability at each joint meeting. She said she did not want to have a testing system that was not aligned with District 202. “I think we should work closely with ETHS to make sure we’re working together and not at odds with each other,” she said.

At the last joint meeting, District 202 Superintendent Eric Witherspoon suggested that District 202 take a look at Aspire (which provides a suite of ACT tests for grades 3-12). One advantage of using Aspire is the ACT test is accepted by most colleges as an entrance exam. There is some concern that PARCC, which will be administered by only 11 states, will not be recognized by colleges as an entrance exam.

Paul Goren, superintendent, said he was not sure that Aspire was as robust as PARCC for grades 3-8. He said District 65 needed to think about that.

The bottom line is that despite the debate about PARCC, the State is requiring that it be given this spring. “Given the requirement from the State, our focus has been on the successful implementation this year,” said Mr. Price.