State and district testing are still in flux, two years after Illniois began using PARCC. Although CPS has not revealed much about its plans, we've put together our research into a list of questions about the present and future state of standardized testing in CPS and Illinois.
You can also print this as a one-page fact sheet to share. [Updated 2.3.2017] And a toolkit with additional handouts for families interested in refusing PARCC can be found on our Testing Toolkit page.
How can I find out what tests my child is taking?
Starting this year state law requires each school to report to the IL State Board of Ed (ISBE) and to parents what standardized tests are being administered when and what the results will be used for. If your school has not yet sent this information home or posted it online, ask your principal to provide it. CPS administers more than a dozen standardized tests; some students may be taking standardized tests every month or even biweekly. Some testing is required by federal and state law, but much is at the discretion of the district.
Why is CPS administering PARCC in elementary school?
CPS administers PARCC because IL requires all public schools to administer PARCC to 3rd-8th graders to comply with federal law. States can choose which test to administer; IL selected PARCC. The state pays for PARCC.
Why isn’t CPS administering PARCC in high school?
After two years of massive opposition, Illinois discontinued PARCC in high school. IL now requires schools to administer the SAT to all 11th graders to comply with the federal requirement for annual testing in high school. The SAT has also replaced the ACT in high school. The state will now only pay for districts to administer the SAT.
Will Illinois also get rid of PARCC in elementary school?
Possibly. IL has a contract for PARCC with the testing company Pearson only through 2018. ISBE has not yet decided whether IL will continue with PARCC after 2018. Both the state superintendent and Governor Rauner have made statements that indicate that PARCC might no longer be used after 2018 when IL’s initial contract ends.
Are PARCC scores a reliable and/or useful measure of what my child is learning?
This year all answers on PARCC tests will be scored by computers, including essays and extended responses. Computer algorithms rely on superficial features and statistical patterns to score answers and cannot meaningfully evaluate high-level thinking skills. PARCC score reports provide canned descriptions of a child’s performance level. Teachers can only see a tiny portion of the actual test questions and no student answers. PARCC is longer and more expensive but does not provide substantially different information about students than older standardized tests.
How many states are still using PARCC?
Six states and the District of Columbia are using PARCC in 2017.
Why would it be problematic for CPS to adopt PARCC as a high-stakes district test?
PARCC scores have been set so that the majority of students who take PARCC are labeled as not meeting expectations (a score of 3 or lower on a 5-pt scale). Less than ⅓ of students are labeled proficient. For English-language learners and students with disabilities, fewer than 1 in 10 students are labeled as proficient based on PARCC. If high-stakes decisions like school closings, teacher ratings and student promotion are based on PARCC, these policies will become even more damaging to under-resourced schools and students.
Can my child refuse PARCC this year?
Yes, students can refuse to participate in PARCC. The fewer students that take the test this year, the more difficulty CPS will have in creating statistical formulas to rank and rate students, teachers and schools next year. If participation is low enough, CPS may not be able to make the test high-stakes next year due to a lack of data. PARCC scores from Spring 2017 will not be used for any high-stakes decisions for any CPS students (promotion, graduation, SE admissions.)
Will low participation on PARCC hurt our school or district?
CPS had <95% participation in both 2015 and 2016 with no consequences. After three years of mass opt outs across the country, the federal government has still never penalized any state or district for high opt-out rates on state tests.
Why is CPS still administering NWEA MAP in elementary school?
There is no state or federal requirement for CPS to administer NWEA MAP. When the state switched from ISAT to PARCC, CPS decided to use NWEA MAP as an interim high-stakes test for elementary schools, i.e. for rating schools, evaluating teachers and promoting students in 3rd, 6th and 8th grades. Previously CPS told schools last summer that 2016-2017 would be the last year for MAP in elementary schools, but currently their plans for 2017-2018 are undecided. CPS will not be using this year’s PARCC scores for selective-enrollment admissions and will continue using NWEA MAP until further notice. Private schools are not using the PARCC, and the PARCC lacks national percentiles used for selective admissions.
Future of PARCC: The contract to manage the PARCC consortium, currently held by PARCC, Inc. runs out in June. The PARCC consortium put out a Request for Information in February and a Request for Proposals this month. Read more on this from education blogger and author Mercedes Schneider here. The PARCC consortium has shrunk greatly, and there are many unanswered questions not only about who will run the consortium but what the test development and test item ownership will be like.
Research comparing PARCC to ISAT and NWEA MAP from the Center for Urban Ed Leadership at UIC: "Once cut scores are removed from the mix, achievement patterns on the ISAT, NAEP, ACT and most other standardized tests look remarkably similar. The same is true for recently published results from the 2015 PARCC exam. All of these tests predict each other’s results with high levels of accuracy."
National Education Policy Center piece on the problems with computer/machine scoring of written/essay responses
Detailed explanation of the new testing transparency law from More Than A Score.
- Governor Rauner included this mention of PARCC in his State of the State address January 2016 as one of ten long term goals for education: “Develop a comprehensive, consistent, objective student growth measure, not necessarily based on the PARCC system, so we can track our students’ progress in each grade towards college or career, holding our schools accountable for results while eliminating unnecessary testing and bureaucratic mandates.” (emphasis added)
IL State Superintendent Tony Smith responded to a question about whether Illinois will continue to use PARCC in elementary school beyond the 2017-2018 school year at an IL House Elementary and Secondary Education: School Curriculum & Policies Committee subject matter hearing on ESSA and state funding on Sept 23rd 2016, declining to provide a definitive answer. Listen to the quote in context here at minute 46:56:
"That high quality content in, in PARCC I would expect us to stay with. What it’s called after our contract ends, um, you know, High Quality Illinois Assessment for Readiness, I, uh, whatever, it’s, it’s going to be something that has the kinds of items that have been developed by Illinois educators, I think we need to keep using, so we’re as a, as a foundation the PARCC work, we’re in for at least two more years, this year and next, and then, the content which I think is really high-quality, we need to build on, um."