We will work to implement the new assessments this semester. We will do our part to comply with the requirements handed down to us from both the federal and state governments. At the same time, we want to clearly communicate the challenges of an education system that relies more on local tax dollars, but allows for less local decision making. It is our hope that the legislation being discussed in Washington, D.C. and Springfield, IL will swing the pendulum back in the direction of trusting local communities to make decisions about what is best for their students.
SuperintendentDear Community Members, Parents, and Staff:
There is no doubt that this is an interesting era in public education. I am hopeful that the pendulum will swing back toward center and bring a more balanced approach to improving equity and accountability for school systems. Illinois is currently struggling to find that balance.
For instance, there has been much chatter recently regarding the new state mandated PARCC standardized assessment. These tests, which are replacing the ISAT, will be administered in our District for the first time in March and again in May. As we learn more about the assessment, we grow wary. We are concerned about the amount of instructional time it will displace, the impact this will have on students, and the usefulness of the results.
Our administrative team has diligently worked to stay up-to-date on the PARCC assessment and is committed to sharing key information with our parents and staff. Below is a summary of key PARCC facts that have prompted many of our concerns:
The PARCC testing experience will take approximately 13-14 hours for students in grades 3-8. By contrast, the ISAT took no more than seven hours to administer.
The test is computer-based and requires students to manage multiple screens, prompts, and tools while typing their responses in a timed situation. By contrast, STAR, a local assessment tool already in place, is taken online but requires a single response on a single screen. The difference in complexity is vast for students.
1) Because only one test unit will be administered per day, this means students will be taking the test over a two-week time period. This results in a number of interrupted instructional days for our children.
2) Although we will not be teaching new content for the test, students will need to familiarize themselves with the new online testing experience and complexities. We estimate that this introduction to the test will take approximately two to three hours.
3) The test will be completed in the computer labs. Most regularly scheduled classes will not take place in these learning spaces for approximately six weeks this spring.
Every student will react to the test in a unique way. We anticipate that the length of the test, the excessive rigor, and the extended change to routine will be uncomfortable for some or many of our students.
Speed of Implementation:
PARCC is being administered statewide after a one-year pilot, and closely on the heels of the Common Core State Standards implementation. Materials, including instructions for proctors, sample questions, and technical requirements, are still being revised. Since the preparation window is relatively short, test logistics have been the primary focus of the tech staff, the administrative team, and building principals since late fall.
We recognize the need for assessments and accountability. District 36 is committed to complying with State mandates, including the PARCC. However, we believe that this test continues the over-emphasis on standardized assessments as evaluation tools for students and schools. Our concerns are not unique. In 2010, 26 states committed to using PARCC. Today only 10 states, including Illinois, remain in the consortium.
It is important that we stay informed and understand the impact of reform on our students. We often share stories about District driven goals and initiatives. I believe it is equally important to shed light on State requirements that influence local decisions and ultimately our students' experiences.