Despite the hiccups school districts statewide experienced last year adhering to the newly designed Common Core State Standards and struggling with revised standardized tests, District 91 remains optimistic that PARCC testing will run more smoothly this time around.
The district is in the midst of administering the PARCC exam for the second year, and Superintendent Louis Cavallo said the district has done much to prepare its students and staff for a better testing process. D91 PARCC exams will be given from May 2 through May 13.
PARCC — or the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers — is an exam serving as an updated measurement replacing previous state standardized tests, such as the ISAT (Illinois State Achievement Test) and working to better provide information for teachers on areas where students are succeeding and where they are struggling.
Combined with the new Common Core State Standards, the PARCC is meant to enhance English language arts, literacy and mathematics expectations. Unlike previous standardized tests, PARCC specifically measures Common Core competencies, which are more rigorous than former Illinois education standards.
“The exam asks the students to write and answer more in-depth questions that require deeper understanding than the former ISAT exam,” Cavallo said. “The PARCC test, however, is still an accountability measure used by the state much the same way as the ISAT was used.”
To prepare faculty, students and families for the PARCC test, Cavallo said the district has done a great deal of preparation not just this year, but for the last several years to make strides in shifting to Common Core State Standards.
The district has re-written its curriculum, provided in-depth professional development workshops to faculty on Common Core teaching methods, and even purchased newer classroom technologies to help meet the more rigorous standards. Last year, the district even held a PARCC night where administrators oriented parents on the change in direction from older instructional methods and provided examples of how the PARCC exam differed from the ISAT.
“[Last year’s event] provided parents the opportunity to ask questions and understand Common Core and PARCC more fully,” Cavallo explained.
The district continued educating parents on Common Core and PARCC this school year by sending home written communications about the exams, updates on student classroom work, and ways students could prepare at home.Nonetheless, the PARCC exam is not without its critics among Forest Park parents, as it has been statewide.
Cavallo said the biggest complaint about PARCC has been concerns regarding the amount of time test preparations take away from classroom instruction time. Last year, the first year the exam was given, there were two different tests administered and both required several weeks of testing. This year, the state has changed that to one test, similar to the schedule of the former ISAT.
However, PARCC is still making revisions to their tests, and some districts, including D91, were asked to complete additional field tests.
“This is a frustration because it requires additional testing time for some, but not all students, and that takes away from instructional time,” Cavallo said.
But there have not been as many complaints regarding PARCC testing this year, he said.
“Overall, I have not heard much about the exam from the community or staff. The state has attempted to address the major complaint of the amount of testing time.”