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Homewood School District 153 will be one of the first districts in Illinois to administer state testing by computer this spring.

It is a major endeavor to get every student in grades 3 through 8 enough computer time for the testing without disrupting the learning environment, said Kathy Schaeflein, director of Curriculum and Instruction for District 153.

The paper exam allowed all students to test on the same day. That was easy to schedule. The new computer testing is posing a challenge for Schaeflein who is working with administrators on timetables for Churchill, Millennium and Hart Schools.

“We have two computer labs in each building—the media center and the technology center. We will also set up additional laptop computers in the libraries and group settings in different classrooms,” she explained.

The difficulty is trying to accommodate eight or nine sections at each grade level. Every student will take three tests on English language arts and two tests on math through the Partnership Assessment on Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) exam. Each test can take anywhere from 75 to 90 minutes.

The move away from paper and pencil testing comes as the Illinois State Board of Education has schools transition to the Common Core Curriculum. District 153 has been including Core Curriculum essentials into its curriculum for about five years.

One complaint school administrators and teachers had about the Illinois Standard Assessment Test (ISAT) paper exam was the lag between testing and results. Schaeflein said results from the May testing came too late for teachers to incorporate any changes into the curriculum for the following year. PARCC exams are specially designed to give more timely assessments.

To get immediate assessments prior to the implementation of PARCC, Homewood Schools have used STAR testing which generally take 20 to 25 minutes. The results give teachers information that’s relevant to their classroom instruction.

“You can see this child is having trouble with fractions, I need to go over fractions with him. The (STAR testing) information is useable and we can see progress because we do it three times a year,” she explained. “It’s a snapshot that lets teachers see where kids need help, so we do interventions and do more checks. That’s our useable data that drives our instruction.”

Homewood schools had a dry run as a PARCC field test site in the 2013-2014 school year. Schaeflein said two sections of the 8th grade class did paper exams. The English language arts test for 5th graders was done on computer, and the 4th graders did math on computer.

The students liked the computer testing, but they did show some test fatigue at the end of the third day. Teachers were concerned about the length of time it took to administer the tests.

Testing should have a viable result, Schaeflein believes.

“We’re a data driven society. Accountability is the buzz word we hear throughout the state and the nation. How are we doing? How are we measuring what we do?

“You have to know how they’re doing and know what’s working and that’s what testing does. We have to be able to use that good useable data to make instruction better. We don’t want to test just to test,” she added.

Related story:
PARCC testing now required in Illinois (The Chronicle, Jan. 4, 2015)

More information:
Homewood School District 153

Contact Marilyn Thomas at [email protected]

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