In Illinois, 2/3 of Students Not on Track for College Readiness

(Photo: Pixabay, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Pixabay, Creative Commons)

Illinois received bad news when the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) released "sobering" scores from the latest round of PARCC standardized exams, as between 60 and 70% of public school students are not making the scores necessary to succeed in college and careers.

Pupils in grades three through eight and some high school students earned lower scores in reading, but raised their scores in math. Young people in secondary schools in the state showed the lowest test results.

In English and language arts, scores for those who met or exceeded expectations ranged from 34.1% in high school to 37.3% in seventh grade. For math, 21.8% of high school pupils met or exceeded expectations, and 39.6% in third grade did the same.

Superintendent Tony Smith said he could not yet say which scores changed or where the students who received certain grades were enrolled. The ISBE would not reveal how many students opted out of the exam. but approximately 1 in 10 test-eligible pupils in Chicago Public Schools did not take the test last year, says Lauren Fitzpatrick of the Chicago Sun-Times.

"The work to really have kids to engage meaningfully and successfully in the workforce and higher ed, we've got a long way to go," Smith said on a conference call. "This is the part that is sobering. There is considerable distance to travel to have every single one of our young people ready, and currently that's not the case."

Board of Education testing official Angela Foxall noted that there is no single test that can represent the entirety of a young person's academic makeup. She added that the same was true for educators and school systems. Foxall said that getting the results out earlier this year will mean there is more time to review and use the data, as well as to strategize.

School report cards and the full district-by-district results will be published at the end of October.

The Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness of College and Career is used to attain data that shows how well youngsters have learned the standards included in Common Core. But PARCC is longer and more involved than the previous standardized tests used to assess Illinois young people. The exam asks students to show how they arrived at their answers.

The time involved in taking the exam and the computer glitches that cropped up in many schools during last year's testing have caused many parents to protest and refuse to let their children take the test. Roughly 15% of students across the state took the pencil and paper version of the exam, which is less than the 25% who did the same last year.

In general, more Illinois pupils met or exceeded the math standards, but fewer met or exceeded the English language arts standards, writes Mary Cooley for the Belleville News-Democrat.

"Just getting a kid across the stage wasn't sufficient; were they ready to participate in the world?" State Superintendent Tony Smith said. "A number of kids are not ready for the workforce, and looking at that in high school is really important."

Smith added that many high schools that had participated in the PARCC testing would continue to use it, although the state is requiring that juniors move to the SAT college entrance exam. ISBE advised that they would pay for these high schools to give the SAT and PARCC.

Diane Rado, reporting for the Chicago Tribune, writes that some state and local officials are questioning whether PAARC is worth the considerable amount of time it takes away from classroom instruction and the money it costs to administer.

But Illinois is still in the "high-risk status" according to the federal government, and will remain there until the state gives the SAT to juniors in the spring, which would allow the state to meet the requirement that students take a standardized test at least once during secondary school. The DoE has not yet withheld funding for this violation.

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