Illinois students are performing slightly better than last year on the state's standardized test now in its fourth year of implementation.
Preliminary aggregated results from the 2016-17 Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test administered last spring to third- through 10th-graders were released Thursday showing modest improvement in scores for English language arts and a slight dip in mathematics from the previous school year. About one-third of students are meeting or exceeding proficiency expectations on the test.
The test's assessments in English language arts/literacy and mathematics are based on the more rigorous Common Core State Standards and replace previous standardized tests. PARCC focuses on the mastery of key concepts, critical thinking and writing. It aims to give teachers, students and parents a better idea of whether students are on track in their learning and for success after high school. It also is meant to help teachers customize learning.
The 2017 overall composite score for English language arts for students in third through eighth grades is 37 percent, up from 36.5 percent last year, and for math is 31.2 percent, a slight dip from 31.6 in 2016.
English language arts composite scores are lower than the first year of PARCC implementation in 2015 across the grades. While math composite scores have improved from 2015, they are lower than 2016 in all grades except fourth.
Final state-, district-, and individual school-level results will appear on the 2017 Illinois School Report Card released at the end of October.
Illinois has three years of PARCC data and educators can begin to look for trends and patterns to help guide instructional and resource decisions, state officials said.
"The preliminary state-level data shows that we have built a solid foundation from which to attain equity and excellence for all students," State Superintendent of Education Tony Smith said in a news release. "Illinois educators have achieved a significant accomplishment in embracing the new Illinois Learning Standards, implementing the related instructional shifts, and adapting to the PARCC assessment the past three years."
State officials are still verifying test scores and other report card data with school districts. The preliminary aggregated data might differ from the finalized data.
The Illinois State Board of Education has developed a new accountability plan for schools under the Every Student Succeeds Act outlining a new vision of evaluating and supporting public schools. It will be implemented starting this school year.
ESSA was signed into law by President Obama in 2015. It replaces the federal No Child Left Behind Act that served as the benchmark for how schoolchildren were faring.
Illinois' ESSA plan was approved last month by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.
Under ESSA school quality will be measured through standardized tests, alternative assessments, academic growth, English language proficiency, science scores, success on college entrance tests, and graduation rates, as well as chronic absenteeism and school climate surveys.
Schools will be designated among four tiers starting with the 2018-19 school year: Exemplary, commendable, underperforming and lowest performing. Every school also will get a grade, specifically for growth, on an A through F scale beginning with the 2019-20 school year. Grades will be determined based on an annual comparison with similar schools in the state.
Smith said assessment results are one indicator to guide a system of balanced accountability for all students.
"Test scores should never be a sole indicator informing school interventions or personnel decisions," Smith said. "A single test will never capture the impact of a great teacher or the benefits of a great school on a child's development. Data from multiple sources drives our efforts ... to serve each child fully."