Sunday, August 1, 2021

IL bids a partial adieu to PARCC tests


The Illinois State Board of Education announced yesterday that high school students in the state would no longer use the PARCC tests for accountability purposes, the Chicago Tribune reports. The state had provided the ACT for high school students but switched to the SAT beginning this coming school year, since the ACT contract had expired.

Illinois takes a step back on the PARCC tests
Illinois will not use the PARCC tests for high school students.

The tests from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers have been criticized on many fronts. In Illinois, they have been criticized for the amount of time it takes kids to take them—secondary to the amount of time they have to be pulled out of classrooms. Lyons Township High School told the Tribune the test was taking 13 days to complete, given the need to schedule students into computer labs to take the online test.

“Using a college admissions test like the SAT for state and federal accountability is logical; it is meaningful for students and they have buy-in,” the paper quoted Superintendent Lynne Panega, of Lake Park High School District 108, as saying in an email. “This is what many high school superintendents continuously advocated for beginning several years ago. The implementation of PARCC at the high school level was flawed from the onset.”

Voxitatis has been critical of the tests for their online delivery system as well. In high school math, students who took the test on computer scored a bit lower than those who took the PARCC tests using pencil and paper, and we hypothesized that this “mode effect” was the result of their unfamiliarity with the online test-delivery tool developed by Pearson. It was inappropriate to require students to answer math problems in paragraph form using a palette that in no way resembles how teachers teach math or how students learn math.

We quoted S James Gates, a professor of physics at the University of Maryland, a member of the Maryland State Board of Education, and a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Science from President Barack Obama, as saying, “If you told me I had to use an equation editor, that would be an impediment. You might think I was a blithering idiot.”

That sums it up for me: lower scores, the opinion of a distinguished scientist, and states that are dropping the PARCC tests left and right. Earlier this year, Massachusetts decided that it would no longer be a member of the shrinking consortium of states that use PARCC, although the state may decide to use some of the test questions on their own test at some point. Illinois will continue to use the tests from PARCC for students in third through eighth grades, where mode effects were smaller.

But states seem to be moving away from PARCC more than toward the consortium’s tests. Remaining states using the tests in full force are Maryland, New Jersey, Rhode Island, New Mexico, and Colorado. Louisiana, like Massachusetts, may use questions from the test in a limited way on their own tests, and the District of Columbia schools also use the PARCC test.

Those remaining states, as well as the diminishing number that remain in the Smarter Balanced consortium, could scale back their commitment to the tests like Massachusetts and Illinois have done, since the Every Student Succeeds Act, signed by President Obama in December, allows them to measure high school achievement with college-entrance exams instead of standards-based assessments. Those ACT or SAT exams have more value for students anyway, and I would encourage their use.

Paul Katula
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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