Metro-East News

‘Who knows’ what will happen to PARRC achievement test?

Third graders in March at Illini Elementary school in Fairview Heights practiced taking the digital PARCC test.
Third graders in March at Illini Elementary school in Fairview Heights practiced taking the digital PARCC test. News-Democrat

Nothing is getting public school kids out of taking the PARRC achievement test this year, but an attorney speaking to school administrators on Wednesday in Carbondale gave a glimmer of hope to the test’s haters.

Mike Chamness, spokesman for the Illinois Association of School Administrators, said the organization’s attorney, Sara Boucek, spoke to school administrators about the future of the test at Wednesday’s meeting.

Chamness said Boucek’s message was: “Be prepared there will be a second round, then who knows.”

Boucek was not made available for an interview afterward to confirm her remarks.

Fewer than 40 percent of Illinois students met or exceeded expectations on the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers assessment, according to preliminary numbers released Sept. 16 by the Illinois State Board of Education.

Every time they do a test and results are bad, they change the test. Nothing else seems to change except the test.

Governor French Academy Headmaster Phillip Paeltz

The state has a four-year contract with Pearson Education to administer the PARRC assessment, according to the Illinois State Board of Education. There is an option for the state to get out of the contract before it’s up at the end of the 2018 fiscal year, but “there are no plans at this time to forgo the PARCC exam,” said Amanda Simhauser, spokeswoman for ISBE.

The greater concern for some schools in the area is not what comes after this school year, but what comes in a few months.

“What I know for sure is that we don’t know what we’re going to be giving” this year, said Melissa Taylor, director of special services for Belleville District 201.

Taylor said the high school level of PARRC does not yet know “what level we’ll be testing or how many levels.” Taylor said PARRC last year was administered to Algebra 2 and English 3 students, typically juniors, but which classes get tested could be different in the spring. She said federal law requires testing one grade level, but states could test more.

“I would assume it might have something to do with the budget,” she said, because while the test’s development is paid for, the administration is not.

Preliminary results “seem jarring,” wrote Illinois State Board of Education Superintendent Tony Smith in his weekly message.

“I appreciate your help in explaining why we must stay the course in order to have better, more reliable test results that more accurately tell the story of college and career readiness for each child,” he wrote to school administrators on the ISBE website.

“What this is showing is the vast majority of kids are not” doing well, said Headmaster Phillip Paeltz of Governor French Academy in Belleville. Private schools are not permitted to take the test, but Paeltz was at the monthly meeting of Illinois Association of School Administrators at Carbondale.

“Every time they do a test and results are bad, they change the test,” Paeltz said. “Nothing else seems to change except the test.”

Whether PARRC is used again after this school year is not part of administrators’ concern, Chamness said.

“Bottom line is, it’s not our decision to make. We don’t know anything that the general public doesn’t know regarding ISBE’s plans for the future.”