Content standards inform what teachers teach by defining what students must learn. With this in mind, the Illinois State Board of Education took a big step in 2010 when it joined more than 40 states in adopting the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), thereby crystallizing the state's proficiency expectations for its public school students—2010 was also the year in which Illinois adopted the new Illinois Learning Standards in English/language arts and math.
Full implementation of the CCSS in Illinois in 2013-2014 meant that new standardized assessments were warranted, and as a result, 2014 saw the transition from the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) to the state's new Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) assessments.
It's a new generation of assessments for a state and a nation that demands it, but what do we know about Illinois' latest round of tests? The five facts below are meant to shine some light on what the IL PARCC assessments are all about.
1. Meaningful ways for students to showcase their skills.
Replacement of the ISAT with PARCC assessments means that students will be required to demonstrate their proficiency. Test takers should expect to see highly challenging assessment items that involve real-world situations, thus providing teachers greater insight into how well the students have learned the material.
2. Special provisions for students who need it.
Having tough standards in Illinois schools doesn't mean that accommodations will be lacking for students with disabilities and English language learners. Test takers with cognitive disabilities will find support via the Dynamic Learning Maps (DLM) system as well as a range of accessibility features integrated into PARCC testing, while the needs of English language learners will be addressed through their own set of accommodations, as needed.
3. Ripple effects in schools.
While it is true that PARCC assessments are only meant to be a measurement tool and not a curriculum, profound effects in Illinois public schools abound.
For example, higher learning expectations engendered by the PARCC exams have caused more Illinois schools to have all-day kindergarten. The advent of the new tests also coincided with a larger portion of teacher evaluations being based on student assessment scores.
4. Computer-based assessments and computer-based item types.
Teachers and students in the state of Illinois saw not only new tests but new testing modes in 2014-2015. With the advent of PARCC assessment, testing in Illinois shifted from traditional testing to online testing, thus bringing modern standardized assessment modalities to the state. While some have raised issues of technology glitches, digital assessment will continue to replace pencil-and-paper testing in Illinois schools.
An important part of the new computer-based assessments are new computer-based, or technology enhanced, item types. These new items avoid multiple choice by using fill-in-the-blank, drag-and-drop, drawing graphs on the computer screen with a mouse, and other approaches.
Check out LearnBop’s brand new Technology Enhanced Items (TEI) to see what new computer-based item types will look like. Teachers can use these new items right now for free!
5. Can students opt out?
As we have seen in other states, new tests in Illinois have brought supporters as well as opponents. Some are concerned about the length of PARCC testing in Illinois; others wonder if it has caused a narrowing of the curriculum in public schools. Whatever the case may be, it does not appear that opting out of the test will be officially permitted in the near future.
We hope this list was informative, and that you learned something you didn't know before. We'd love to hear from you in the comments below. Thanks for reading!
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About the Author
David Moadel is in his third decade working in education. He has taught, mentored, and inspired students from elementary age through adult. David has earned his master's degree in curriculum and instruction from the American College of Education, and is currently a certified teacher in Florida. David enjoys teaching, writing, and utilizing technology tools to communicate with people with diverse viewpoints across the globe.