Illinois PARCC Test Results Show Lack of College, Career Readiness


Many of Illinois' best schools saw a drop in student performance scores on the first round of PARCC tests taken last school year.

Diane Rado and Jennifer Smith Richards report for the Chicago Tribune that elite schools such as New Trier, Adlai E. Stevenson, and Hinsdale Central reported never-before-seen low scores. Under half of the test takers at these schools passed PARCC math exams, according to results released by the state.

At several hundred schools, less than 10% of students passed, and some schools had not one student who passed the math and English Language Arts tests. In other schools, so many students did not take the tests that officials said it was difficult to know how to measure PARCC scores and were unsure how the scores will indicate the extent to which a school is performing.

At Arlington Heights-based Township High School District 214, the director of research and evaluation Jeffrey Smith said sparse participation will skew results in some way. Township High School District 214 had a large number of students who skipped the exam, which included 90% of Rolling Meadows High School students.

The tests were dubbed meaningless in other schools, which may cause students to be less motivated, which in turn will bring scores down further. The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers is a Common Core-based test focused on problem-solving and critical thinking skills and replaced previous standardized tests, the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) and Prairie State Achievement Exam (PSAE). It is designed to be taken online, but last school year paper and pencil tests were still an option.

WTVO/WQRF-TV reported that the PARCC test scores released by the Illinois State Board of Education on Friday showed that only one-in-three public school students in Illinois are on track for success in college and careers.

If a student meets or exceeds PARCC standards, the student gets a passing grade of "student met expectations" or "student exceeded expectations." The other scores a student can receive are "approached expectations," "partially met expectations," or "did not meet expectations."

State Superintendent Tony Smith said on Friday that the value of the PARCC scores will be the way in which districts, schools, and teachers use the individual scores to improve, according to Lauren Fitzpatrick for the Chicago Sun-Times.

In Chicago, only one in five students scored proficient in math and one in four in reading and writing. The scores for African-American students were worse with just one in eight black students in Chicago attaining proficiency in math, and one in five in reading. As of now, the test carries no consequences in Illinois.

And Melissa Krishnamurthy and Melissa Silverberg of the Daily Herald reported that 7% of suburban students were found not to be adequately prepared for college. Some educators said the test was implemented too quickly after some districts participated in a trial run in 2014.

Jeffrey Smith said the scores were difficult for parents to understand. Other problems include comparing different grade levels, testing by course instead of grade level, and problems with the administration of the test.

The district's top performing schools remained the same. Not surprisingly, the schools with the highest population of free and reduced lunch students and English Language Learners were at the bottom of the list. Educators said they would continue to use internal measures for their students, however. Jeffrey Smith said:

"It is concerning to us, but I question whether these scores are valid not only for our district or school, but at the individual level. We had students who told us even if they took the test that they gave no effort to it, they were just doing it to get through."

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