State board strikes PARCC for high school juniors

High school juniors can cross one dread off their lists this year: There will be no PARCC assessment in high school.

The Illinois State Board of Education announced to districts by news release on Monday that the SAT will replace the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers.

While it was not altogether shocking to most administrators, it was a sudden move.

“I wasn’t expecting it to happen so quickly, but I’m not surprised by it,” said Belleville District 201 Superintendent Jeff Dosier.

An ISBE spokesperson was not immediately available to comment on how the SAT, a college entrance exam, would better serve the students who are planning an immediate career than the PARCC test.

Local administrators said that with the SAT, everyone from students and parents to teachers and administrators knows what the test means. During the two years of PARCC testing, benchmarks had to be set and then realigned.

“The SAT is a nationally normed test, where you can really rely on the good data,” said Sandra Jouglard, principal of Mascoutah High School.

“I’m trying to be positive, but that’s the huge frustration. We do not have any valid reliable test for the kids with PARRC, and now we’re going to SAT,” Jouglard said.

Dosier said there was “a lot of dissatisfaction” with the PARRC exam, that otherwise high-performing districts did not fare as well in the last two years under the assessment.

Belleville East had about 50 percent of its students meeting or exceeding standards on the PARCC assessment last year; Belleville West had about 43 percent. Melissa Taylor, who is director of special services at District 201, said “we happened to find we were very successful with PARRC, especially with English Language Arts.”

The SAT has a reading section, a writing and language section, a math section where students can use a calculator and a math section where they cannot. There is an essay that is optional for college entrance, but will not be optional for juniors taking it at school.

“There isn’t a specific science section like there was on the ACT, but social studies and sciences are embedded in the literacy” portions of the test, Taylor said.

Instructional time

Many districts offered special training to help teachers better align their teaching methods to the Common Core standards tested by PARRC. Common Core is the term widely used to describe learning benchmarks that a child should reach by the end of each grade in kindergarten through 12th grades in language and math skills.

“We feel like our teachers have invested a lot of time in PARRC, and hate to think that was not time well spent,” Taylor said.

Jouglard said teachers and students had spent “a lot of instructional time realigning with Common Core,” but the SAT also aligns with the Common Core standards.

“The issue is you tested one way with PARRC, and now another way. And for us ... now we’re going to have to embed SAT testing practices and their format back into curriculum after spending a lot of time embedding PARRC,” Jouglard said.

But time spent is also an upside to the SAT over PARRC, Taylor thinks. The SAT is given on one day, for three hours. The PARRC test was spread out over multiple days.

“That’s something we can celebrate,” Taylor said. “The SAT will be much less of a burden when it comes to learning and instructional time.”