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The results of the first PARCC exam taken by Homewood and Flossmoor students show good results, but administrators say they will continue to use their current testing methods for more accurate assessments of classroom success.

Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) released numbers today showing that 33 percent of students in third through eighth grade met or exceeded state education standards measured by PARCC.

Percentages of students who met or exceeded the standards in Homewood District 153 are 41.5 in English/Language Arts and 25.4 in math; percentages for Flossmoor District 161 students were 38 in English/Language Arts and 28.4 in math.

PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) replaced the ISAT exam in spring 2015. The PARCC was designed to test students in English/language arts and math after Illinois adopted Common Core standards. All the tests were taken on computer rather than the traditional paper and pencil tests.

PARCC graded answers in five categories: 1) did not yet meet expectations; 2) partially met expectations; 3) approached expectations; 4) met expectations and 5) exceeded expectations. However, scores released by ISBE were based solely on how many students tested into the final two categories.

District 153 Director of Curriculum Kathy Schaeflein said the district will continue to do its own STAR (Standardized Testing and Reporting) testing because it provides better and immediate results. STAR allows the district to pinpoint students’ needs and gives teachers accurate assessments to what goes on in the classroom.

“When I look at the STAR scores I can break it down by skill. I can say these kids are having trouble picking out main idea vs. detail. I can get that deep,” Schaeflein said. “Are they struggling with inferences? With fractions and decimals? I don’t know that I can go that deep and detailed with PARCC which is meant to measure students’ problem solving and thinking skills, and (the results are) from April.”

Flossmoor District Superintendent Craig Doster said the district will continue to mostly use an alternative assessment system — Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) — as its primary means of charting student progress.

MAP, which also has national norms, is used by scores of school districts around the Chicago area. Students are tested with MAP three times a year so that teachers and school officials can tell if they are making progress.

“That’s what is driving our instruction,” Doster said. “And our MAP results show that our students are making steady progress.”

Schaeflein and Doster are not surprised by the PARCC numbers. Doster said Kentucky became the country’s first state to administer the PARCC test two years ago, and the results came in at that 30 percent success rate level.

Schaeflein and Doster say the PARCC should be considered just one part of what Homewood and Flossmoor schools do in the classroom. They both stressed that the PARCC scores will not be ignored, but that parents should remember this is the first time the test was given and the data is considered baseline.

District 161 will incorporate PARCC results into its data stream, and they will be used to help construct curriculum for the five campuses and school improvement plans. District 153 will examine its teaching and curriculum in relation to PARCC.

Parents in District 153 and 161 will be receiving their child’s individual PARCC scores next week.

Schaeflein said parents got STAR numbers in parent-teacher conferences a few weeks ago that are likely to contradict their student’s PARCC numbers.

“We continue to work on where the kids are now with the data that’s timely,” she added.

“Our teachers and administrators are working very hard,” Doster said. “We are following good plans for the classroom and continuing to give our students a solid educational experience.”

On Thursday, Doster met with about 10 of his counterparts from school systems around the suburban Chicago area. The superintendents discussed the PARCC results and, Doster said, a common theme of the meeting was that the state needs to better explain what the scores mean to school personnel, students and their parents.

“We need to learn more about this test,” he said.

To view scores for each grade and each school building, visit illinoisreportcard.com.

Tom Houlihan co-authored this story.

More information:
ISBE PARCC resources
Illinois Report Card

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