State's PARCC test will be shorter next year
After much consternation from educators, parents and students, state education officials have decided to shorten the state's standardized test next year.
The new Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) assessment debuted this spring. Statewide third- through 10th-graders took the exam -- divided into two parts measuring different types of knowledge and skills -- in mathematics and English language arts/literacy in March and April/May
The PARCC Governing Board recently voted to consolidate the two testing windows into one and reduce the total test time for most students by 90 minutes beginning in the 2015-16 school year. The vote came in response to feedback from school districts after this first year of testing and a review of the test design.
Next year's test will have a simpler format to improve the testing process for students and educators. It also will reduce the amount of time schools and districts need to administer the test -- educators complained about the challenge of scheduling two testing windows.
"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," State Superintendent of Education Tony Smith said. "We made the changes in response to the insights and comments we've heard from teachers, students, and parents. We are committed to listening to feedback, now and in the future, and will continue working on the content and process based upon that feedback."
The PARCC tests are intended to measure how well students are learning what's required by the national Common Core state standards curriculum. Illinois is among 11 states and the District of Columbia that implemented it for the first time this spring. The exam aligns with the new Illinois Learning Standards and focuses on critical thinking, concept mastery and writing skills.
The test aims to provide reliable and valid information about student achievement that students, families, teachers, and schools can use to improve teaching and learning for individual students and for students as a group.
Despite the shift to having only one testing window, the test will contain the same extended tasks and writing exercises important for measuring students' critical thinking and concept mastery. The new testing window will be up to 30 days, beginning at roughly the 75 percent mark of the school year.
Going forward, the PARCC exam will consist of six or seven test units, depending on grade level, compared to the eight or nine sessions students took this year. For most students, the math testing time will be reduced by 60 minutes, while the English language arts portion will be cut by 30 minutes. Each year, a limited number of students will participate in an additional embedded ELA field-test unit.
Results from this year's PARCC exam will be available in late fall. They will take longer to produce because teachers and higher education content experts from each PARCC state will review student scores to determine performance levels based on appropriate score ranges, officials said.