PARCC Makes Changes - For the Better

Quality Schools | 06/02/2015

Jessica Handy
Government Affairs Director

Jessica advocates at the state capitol for fair school funding and equitable education policies.

I’m a little late to the party, but let me add my voice to those who have recognized PARCC for listening to feedback and improving its test. This is the first year for statewide PARCC implementation in Illinois. Like any new program or system, continual improvement is critical, and PARCC’s next round of changes – announced last week – represent important progress.

PARCC announced they will shave 90 minutes off of the total testing time. They will combine two testing windows into one. (This year, there was a round of testing in March called the "performance-based assessment" and another in May called the "end-of-year assessment"). Schools will no longer have to gear up for school-wide testing twice, which certainly seems like a positive step. And finally, PARCC will consolidate testing units, which will make for easier administration.

As an advocate for smarter tests, Stand has supported Illinois’ transition to the PARCC exam. We also share concerns that plenty of PARCC critics have about over-testing. A contradiction, you ask? Not at all. Because Illinois' old standardized tests (ISAT) were nearly worthless, districts did not get the information they needed from them. So they layered other assessments on top: NWEA, Cognitive Abilities Tests, and district-written assessments. Some of these tests were better than others, but all of them took away needed classroom time. When people complain about over-testing, I get it. PARCC takes the heat for it, but PARCC’s not the biggest culprit.

We do need a rigorous yardstick for all Illinois students. One where districts get the information they need on school accountability, teachers get timely feedback to inform instruction, parents understand how prepared their children are on the path to college, and colleges see what they need for admissions. But the only way we will get to that point is for PARCC to hear feedback and keep making adjustments so that the test can realize its promise. So, my compliments to the PARCC for responding to fair concerns from the field and please keep listening and improving.

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