High Schools Get OK from State to Ditch PARCC Exam — Review

Proviso East High

Tuesday, July 19, 2016 || Originally Published: Forest Park Review || By Bob Skolnik

Administrators in Proviso High School District 209 are applauding the recent decision by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) to get rid of the PARCC exam for high school students. Instead the state will require all public high school juniors to take the Scholastic Aptitude Test (commonly known as the SAT).

“We do think the SAT will provide excellent information on our students on whether they are college ready,” said Diane Deckert, director of assessment and planning for D209, in an article posted on the district’s website. “The PARCC was a good tool, but it was very demanding to administer. I appreciate the state recognizing that we will get a good assessment from the SAT, but not overtesting.”

When the Forest Park Review asked for comment on the decision of the state to drop the PARCC exam, the district’s spokesman supplied the link to the article on the website.

New D209 Superintendent Jesse Rodriguez also supported the change.

“We support assessments for learning that are aligned to the honorable work our teachers and instructional staff perform every day,” Rodriguez was quoted as saying in the article. “I believe this change supports the classroom as an important place in our school.”

The PARCC exam had been mandated by the state for the last two years. It was designed to provide an assessment tied to the new Common Core state learning standards. But the PARCC exam was controversial from the start. It was required to be given in high schools as well as in elementary and middle schools. Third- through eighth-graders will still have to take the PARCC exam in the coming school year.

PARCC stands for Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers and is a national consortium that was created to design tests aligned with Common Core.

High school administrators particularly disliked the PARCC exam, saying that because the exam was not a college entrance exam like the SAT or the ACT and had no bearing on students’ grades, many students did not take it seriously and some did not give their best efforts. Administrators didn’t want their schools judged on the results of a test that students didn’t care about, so they pressured the state to drop the PARCC exams in high schools. Since the SAT is a college entrance exam, administrators expect students to take it seriously and to give their best effort.

“We applaud State Superintendent Tony Smith and the state board for listening to input from stakeholders around the state and coming up with a common-sense solution,” said Brent Clark, executive director of the Illinois Association of School Administrators in a press release issued by the ISBE.

The Chicago Tribune reported recently that the decision by the state to get rid of the PARCC exam in high schools came shortly after the federal Department of Education threatened to withhold federal funds because of the way the state of Illinois administered the PARCC exam. The Tribune reported that the Dept. of Education placed Illinois in a “high risk status.” The federal government was apparently concerned that the state didn’t administer the PARCC exam in a uniform way in high schools.

In Illinois, high schools were given a choice as to which grade levels to test. And because the test was tied to classes, not all students in a particular grade level were tested. Many high schools chose to give the PARCC exam to freshmen or sophomores because juniors were more absorbed with college admissions tests and advanced placement exams. In some schools mostly freshmen would be tested, in others mostly sophomores, and in others mostly juniors.

This school year, the state will administer the SAT for the first time. The SAT will be free, and required, for all public high school juniors. Earlier this year, the state reached a three-year agreement with the College Board to offer the SAT. Prior to this year, the state had given the ACT exam for 15 years as part of the Prairie State Achievement Test. In the just-completed 2015-16 school year the state did not pay for either the SAT or ACT, angering many high school administrators. The SAT test has been revamped to make it more like the ACT.

According to state Supt. Smith, the SAT will do the job the PARCC exam was intended to do as well as serve as a free college admissions test for students.

“District and school administrators overwhelmingly agree with ISBE that every high school junior should have access to a college entrance exam, a policy that promotes equity and access and provides each and every student with greater opportunities in higher education, Smith said in a press release. “The SAT is aligned with the Illinois Learning Standards and will continue to empower educators to measure college and career readiness.” VFP

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