State education board seeks proposals to revamp PARCC test
The state board of education Wednesday announced requests for proposals for the redesign of the controversial Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers test administered to third- through eighth-graders in English language arts and math.
Illinois began mandatory PARCC testing in March 2015 of students in third through 11th grades. The test measures the mastery of important educational milestones based on Illinois Learning Standards. It was given to third- through eighth-graders last school year, while high school juniors instead took the revised SAT.
State officials said they are seeking comparable assessments that would meet federal requirements and provide results in a timely manner to allow educators time to adjust instruction, which was the primary complaint many educators had against PARCC.
The revamped test should be available in more native languages to allow students to demonstrate their true level of mastery, and test items should more closely align with classroom instruction, the state stipulated.
Officials expect the new assessment to be administered online and transition to a computer-adaptive format where test items get more or less advanced depending on the student's performance, "so we know not just whether a student meets the standards for their grade level but the upper and lower bounds of their mastery," State Superintendent Tony Smith wrote in a letter to district superintendents.
Smith said changes are not limited to PARCC. All of Illinois' accountability assessments, including those measuring growth in high schools, are evolving to meet the requirements of the Every Student Succeeds Act or ESSA.
The new federal accountability system will be implemented in August, giving more weight to student growth and graduation rates. It replaces the federal No Child Left Behind Act, which served as a benchmark 14 years. It drew criticism for its emphasis on test scores, labeling of some districts as "failing" and its punitive nature for schools not making the grade.
"Illinois will continue to use and build on the core features of PARCC that make it the highest quality accountability assessment available in the United States, in particular, the complex writing tasks that require strategic reasoning and extended investigation to solve problems," Smith wrote. "Even as our assessments evolve, the standards and expectations they measure remain constant."