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IL community colleges to use PARCC for placement

The presidents of community colleges in Illinois have agreed that students who earn a certain score on the new PARCC tests can skip remedial courses when they get to community college, the Illinois State Board of Education announced on its website.

It’s a growing trend, we note, as colleges and universities in six states have already agreed to use test results from the other multi-state consortium, known as the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, or SBAC, to determine student placement. The list includes all six public colleges and universities in Delaware, all 23 campuses of California State University, and 78 of California’s 112 community colleges, Education Week reported on April 18.

Here’s the rest of the ISBE press release:


SPRINGFIELD (April 20) — Illinois community college presidents have agreed to start using the state’s new elementary and high school assessment results to determine a student’s readiness for college-level courses. This decision means students who earn certain scores on the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) exam can be placed directly into classes that earn credit toward their college degree without spending extra time and money on other placement exams or remedial courses.

“We applaud the Illinois Council of Community College Presidents (ICCCP) for their decision to use the PARCC exam to help high school graduates identify their course level before arriving on campus,” said State Superintendent of Education Christopher A Koch. “The PARCC exam will give students an earlier indication of their college and career readiness and help reduce some placement exams at the community college level.”

Students who can start their post-secondary education in college credit-bearing courses not only save time and money but are ultimately more likely to graduate. A 2011 Complete College America report shows that at least 20 percent of all college students must take costly remedial courses when they get to college. That percentage jumps to roughly 50 percent when looking at those enrolled in Illinois two-year community colleges after students did everything required to graduate from high school.

This report also points out that 56 percent of students nationwide earn a bachelor’s degree within six years. However, only 35 percent of students who have taken remedial courses graduate in the same time frame.

Lindsey Costliow, a student at Sauk Valley Community College (SVCC) in Dixon, says remedial math courses are delaying her goal of becoming a physical therapist.

During high school, Costliow believed that simply passing her three and a half years of high school math courses was enough to graduate and prepare her for the college-level math required to pursue her career path. However, placement testing at SVCC indicated that Costliow needed to take several remedial courses, such as Algebra and Geometry, to be truly college-ready.

“It set me back two years,” Costliow said. “If I had been given more information about how these classes would slow me down, I would have worked so much harder and done really well in high school before coming to Sauk.”

The ICCCP’s decision underscores the PARCC exam’s relevance to higher education and is a significant step toward the widespread use of this assessment as a college placement exam in Illinois.

The PARCC assessment is aligned with the new Illinois Learning Standards and their emphasis on higher order thinking, application of knowledge and college and career readiness. Third through eighth graders and some high school students are taking this summative assessment, used to evaluate student learning, skill acquisition and academic achievement, in two-parts this spring.

The PARCC assessment uses College- and Career-Ready Determinations, which outline the academic knowledge, skills and tasks students must demonstrate in English language arts and math to show their ability to succeed in entry-level, credit-bearing college courses. A top goal of the PARCC exam is that students who earn such a determination will be admitted to two- or four-year higher education institutions without having to take and pass a college placement test.

In January, the ICCCP approved a policy to accept a performance level of 4 or 5 in math or English language arts on the PARCC assessment to place students directly into credit-bearing classes, beginning in fall 2015 for most institutions. Illinois community colleges can also develop policies to accept a PARCC assessment score of 3 for placement into a college-level general education math or English course when the student has demonstrated other indicators of readiness as determined by that institution.

The policy is available online here.

“All groups involved in developing this policy believe it is in the best interests of Illinois community college students that the Illinois Community College System adopts a statewide approach to the utilization of PARCC scores for placement,” said Tom Choice, president of Kishwaukee College and current ICCCP president. “Our overriding focus is to provide opportunities for all students to quickly enter into college-level work for which they are prepared and to be successful in pursuing their higher education goals.”

The ICCCP’s PARCC acceptance policy was developed with the support and endorsement from the Illinois Community College Chief Academic Officers and Illinois Council of Community College Chief Student Services Officers. Additionally, this policy was developed in consultation with the Board of the Illinois Math Association of Community Colleges (IMACC) and endorsed by the Curriculum Committee of the IMACC.

The first part, the Performance-Based-Assessment (PBA), is given when about 75 percent of instruction is completed and consists of more extended tasks and writing exercises. Illinois schools finished administering the PBA in early April. The second part is the End-of-Year (EOY) assessment, which is given when approximately 90 percent of instruction is complete and consists of multiple choice questions. The EOY will be administered starting in late April and early May. Total test taking time averages about eight to 10 hours, extended over several days and the two separate testing administrations.

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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