On Feb. 14, the Illinois State Board of Education authorized the release of a Request for Sealed Proposals (RFSP) for a new assessment system for third through eighth graders in math and reading/language arts, said Superintendent Tony Smith in his weekly message dated Feb. 14.

The Board’s action indicates that ISBE plans to shift from the PARCC test to a new test developed by a new testing vendor. The new test must transition to a “computer-adaptive model,” which means that test questions get more or less advanced depending on the student’s performance as he or she takes the test.

The Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test is an example of a computer-adaptive test.

 The change in State assessments will not occur this Spring, but is planned to take place in the Spring of 2019.

In a letter dated Feb. 9, sent by Dr. Smith to the superintendents of school districts in the State, Dr. Smith said the objectives in switching to a new test include: 

•      Returning results more quickly, providing educators with meaningful time to adjust instruction;

•      Building assessments from the ground up in more languages to increase accessibility and allow all students to demonstrate their true level of mastery;

•      Measuring growth in high school, so educators can better see what’s working; 

•      Utilizing test items developed by Illinois educators to more closely align with instruction in Illinois classrooms; 

•      Reporting results on a common scale across all assessments, so educators can be in deeper dialogue with each other and with families and students;

•      Reaching full online assessment to support equity of access to rigorous instruction and return results faster; and

•      Transitioning to a computer-adaptive format, meaning the test items get more or less advanced depending on the student’s performance as they progress through, so we know not just whether a student meets the standards for their grade level but the upper and lower bounds of their mastery.”

In a memo to the Board, Dr. Smith said, “Illinois intends to continue its commitment to the highest-quality assessment, while continuing to innovate to meet the needs of educators through the development, services, and supports in this RFSP. The assessment will improve and evolve, but the level of rigor; the majority of the test items; and the underlying skills, concepts, and standards being assessed will remain constant. Additionally, the standards set by the PARCC exam for accessibility and sensitivity to bias must be maintained and expanded.”

The motion that was approved by the Board gives the State Superintendent authority to “release an RFSP and award to the successful offeror [the assessment vendor] for the purpose of entering into a contract for the construction, administration, scoring, and reporting of a reading/language arts and mathematics assessment in grades 3 through 8 that maintains comparability to prior accountability assessments while improving delivery time, transitioning to a computer adaptive model, and expanding native language assessment options.”

Under the motion, “The contract would be a maximum six-year term (three-year initial contract, with three optional one year renewal periods) beginning in July 2018 and ending June 2024. Funding would be up to $36 million for each year contingent upon a sufficient appropriation, with a maximum total not to exceed $216 million.”

Larry Gavin

Larry Gavin was a co-founder of the Evanston RoundTable in 1998 and assisted in its conversion to a non-profit in 2021. He has received many journalism awards for his articles on education, housing and...