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Back to paper and pencil for District 153 PARCC test takers

Student testing time for the state mandated PARCC test has been reduced from four weeks to just one week because Homewood District 153 is now able to give the test with paper and pencil.
Kathy Schaeflein, director of curriculum and instruction, said the district applied for a waiver so that the test no longer has to be administered by computer. 
The test will be given in early April. Students will be given a section of the test each day over five days. The test includes three sections of English/Language Arts and two sections of math. Test periods will be 75 to 90 minutes. Entire grade levels will take the test in their regular classrooms, rather than moving to computer labs or specially set classrooms, she said.
“I anticipate it will be a much better testing environment,” she said.
PARCC — Partnership for the Assessment of College and Career Readiness — was first administered in 2015. The computer-administered test is designed as a Common Core curriculum assessment for students in third grade through high school. It replaced the pencil-and-paper Illinois Standard Assessment Test.
PARCC has shown that in District 153 “our kids are for the most part at the same place as the rest of the state,” Schaeflein said.
District 153 petitioned for the paper and pencil method because giving the test on computer is disruptive to the teaching schedule, enrollments are up in the district so more computers would be needed and fewer computers are available for testing because a number of them at Churchill School were moved from a computer lab into a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) lab this school year.
Schaeflein said administering the test “was extremely difficult. The testing window is from March to the end of April and spring break’s in the middle of that.”
The computer test also put stress on the technology team that had to make certain the computers worked properly and that the district has enough bandwidth to put numerous classes on the testing website at one time.
The testing also disrupted the schedule for a month.

“We had to make a schedule in each building to rotate classes through computer classes or (use computers) on carts. It changes the whole schedule of the schools. The school interventions, everything was off and none of those computers could be used for classrooms while testing went on for a month,” Schaeflein explained.

After three years of PARCC testing, the district is using the data “to drive our instruction to some extent. We do not teach to the test. We don’t believe that a test one day is the end-all-be-all, but it is a part of the picture and we do use that piece,” she said.

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