Editorials

Tests change again as Illinois seeks yardstick that fits students

What changes does the state PARCC exam need?

Jim Rosborg, a former Belleville District 118 superintendent, would like to see the state rethink the minimum scores that students need to be considered proficient in English and math. Some images provided by morguefile.com.
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Jim Rosborg, a former Belleville District 118 superintendent, would like to see the state rethink the minimum scores that students need to be considered proficient in English and math. Some images provided by morguefile.com.

When a student fails to master a subject, there are consequences. They may not come for a long time, they may be in small increments, they may be minimized by other talents, but they will be there and measured in income or stress or limited choices.

So the Common Core seemed like a good idea. Set national standards so students know if they are ready for college and career when they compete with others educated in Colorado or New Jersey or Oregon. Enter the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers.

In 2015 Illinois tested students using the PARCC. The results were disappointing, with only 23 of 136 local schools seeing at least half of their students meet the new standards. Three years in and the results are a little better, with 34 of those schools hitting that benchmark.

But nationally the Common Core ideal lost out as states saw their scores. Now there are many tests, and Illinois is about to get many more.

The Illinois State Board of Education is looking to modify PARCC. They want the computer test to adapt to the student, easing up on questions if the youngster is not doing well.

"If they have that feeling of frustration or lack of success, they’re sometimes just moving through the test,” said Tracy Gray, an assistant superintendent in Belleville District 118. “This way, they feel some success.”

So it appears they are trying to change "how" tests measure a student's knowledge as opposed to "what" is measured. Still, if students are essentially tested individually, how do you compare that child's results with peers or with the standards? Would Illinois' 2 million students essentially be taking 2 million different tests?

Illinois just seems schizophrenic when it comes to testing. Our elementary schools saw the Illinois Goal Assessment Program give way to the Illinois Standards Achievement Test give way to the PARCC and now the modified PARCC.

Testing should show knowledge acquired and knowledge gaps.

Question: If you constantly change the test and change the score that determines "pass" versus "fail," what exactly are you left with?

Answer: A heavily footnoted certificate of participation. Good luck, kid.



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