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District 153 scores reflect switch from paper to computer testing

When the Illinois Report Card data was announced for the Illinois Assessment of Readiness (IAR) exam, there was a noticeable drop in scores for District 153 sixth graders and special education students who took the test on computer compared to their scores the previous year on a paper exam, said Superintendent Dale Mitchell.

Computers are the future, but District 153 staff finds giving tests on paper can make a difference.
 
When the Illinois Report Card data was announced for the Illinois Assessment of Readiness (IAR) exam, there was a noticeable drop in scores for District 153 sixth graders and special education students who took the test on computer compared to their scores the previous year on a paper exam, said Superintendent Dale Mitchell.

The other thing to consider is the students took two different tests. In spring 2019, students took the IAR exam. It replaces the PARCC (Partnership for the Assessment of College and Career Readiness) exam, used from 2015 to 2018. 

For the IAR, students were given fewer questions, and the test was shorter, but Mitchell said the state now recognizes there is “a suppressive effect when you go from paper to online.” The drop is most noticeable in the English/Language Arts (ELA) section. Some students only wrote two essays, rather than three. Others found it difficult to go back on a computer to read sections again.

In 2019 using the new test model, students were 37 percent proficient in ELA, and 25 percent in Math. In 2018’s PARCC exam, students were 49 percent proficient in ELA and 25 percent in math.

Mitchell said District 153 is being “held harmless” by the Illinois State Board of Education because ISBE staff has determined there is a difference between the paper and online test results.

 
The Illinois Report Card again gives District 153 a commendable ranking. The English/Language Arts and Math tests were given to third through eighth graders.
 
Overall, the District 153 scores are close to state averages. In English/Language Arts the district and state average were 6 percent exceeded expectations; 31 percent of district students and 32 percent statewide met expectations; and 31 percent district students and 28 percent statewide approached expectations. In District 153, the remaining 22 percent partially met and 11 percent did not meet expectations.
 
 
In Math, the district recorded 2 percent and the state 5 percent exceeded; 22 percent of district students and 27 percent of state students met expectations; and 29 percent district approached expectations compared with 27 percent statewide. The remaining 30 percent of district students partially met standards, while 16 percent did not.
 
Mitchell said District 153 scores will continue to review scores. In spring 2020, all students will take the exam on computer but the district will need several years of data to get a clear assessment.
 
The district continues with its own STAR (Standardized Testing and Reporting) test, a multi-choice test administered on computer three times a year to all students. Because it is a district test, results are available in short order. 
 
“STAR studies show our kids are meeting the projected growth,” Mitchell said.  STAR results also are part of the teacher evaluation process. “We see typical growth in kids in STAR, growth in the classroom and common assessments, so the state test is just one piece of the puzzle, not our major one.”
 
The IAR does give the district valuable data on enrollment, ethnicity, teacher/pupil sizes, funding and other good data for the community, Mitchell said, “but it goes back to how your child is doing, and the best way to know that is by staying it touch with the teacher.”
 
District 153 Board President Shelly Marks recognizes the importance of testing, but she wishes as much attention was focused on the values and student attributes in the Homewood school community. 
 
“Precious little attention is paid to all the other really important things our community values about our students, staff and schools. Kindness. Helpfulness. Work ethic. Persistence. Creativity. Artistic and/or athletic ability. Appreciation of differences. Good citizenship. A sense of humor! These are things that will never be measured on a standardized test, but we know they are just as important to student success. We work on these things every day in District 153,” Marks said in a note to parents. 

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