Administrators in Homewood District 153 are delighted with the longer testing window and shorter testing time for the 2016 PARCC tests.
In 2015, the first year of the test, all students were tested in the same few weeks. This year the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) moved from specified weeks for testing and told schools testing can take place between March 7 and June 10.
Parents also complained about the lengthy testing periods in 2015. Students took performance-based assessments and several weeks later took end-of-the-year assessments.
This year, there students are tested in math and English language arts. Depending on the grade level, they will take either three or four tests in math timed at 60 minutes per test, and three tests in English language arts timed at 75 to 90 minutes. The end-of-the-year testing has been dropped.
PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) is the state-mandated test of Common Core standards administered to third through eighth graders. Illinois replaced the paper-and-pencil Illinois State Achievement Test (ISAT) with the computer-administered PARCC.
In preparation for the first PARCC exams, District 153 teachers spent several classroom periods in 2015 preparing students on how to answer the computer-based questions.
Trying to get sufficient computer equipment in place for all students and have it working without overloading the District 153 system was a major undertaking last year.
With this year’s months-long testing period, staggered testing schedules are allowing the district to share computers, explained Kathy Schaeflein, director of Curriculum and Instruction.
Millennium School fifth and sixth graders were the first to start the exam period on March 7 and will wrap up the testing by April 7. Then James Hart School seventh and eighth graders will use the computers starting April 11 with a target testing completion date of May 6.
When students return from spring break April 4, the exam period will begin at Churchill School for third and fourth graders with testing completed by April 29. Schaeflein said each Churchill classroom has a laptop that will be pulled for use by students taking PARCC.
Churchill teachers designed a “one school, one book” program around “The One and Only Ivan” by Katherine Applegate. Because the PARCC sessions are timed, students who complete the test cannot leave the room, but teachers will encourage students to spend the time reading the Applegate book.
Schaeflein said District 153 hopes to see improvement from its 2015 scores, which she calls a “baseline.”
She cautioned that PARCC is still just one test in a student’s portfolio. The district continues to use its own STAR testing program because it gives immediate feedback on classroom progress.
The state didn’t provide PARCC test results from spring testing until Dec. 15. ISBE Superintendent Tony Smith promises quicker returns this year.