District 113 administrator: Students didn’t take PARCC ‘near as seriously’ as …

11 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

District 109 chief: PARCC part of ‘journey of continuous improvement’.

A vast majority of students in Deerfield Public District 109’s four elementary and two middle schools met or exceeded expectations on the latest round of standardized tests required by the state of Illinois.

CHICAGO (STMW) — Last spring, a new standardized test was met with loud calls in Chicago to skip it and with potential legislation in Springfield to consider granting parents permission to do so.Eight months after Illinois students took a new, more rigorous test based on the controversial Common Core standards, district and school administrators are just getting a look at the results.State test scores took a nosedive as students struggled to pass the first PARCC exams last school year, with some of Illinois’ most elite schools seeing a sharp drop in performance compared with the old days of easier exams.

District students taking PARCC tests — that stands for Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers — in March and April scored nearly twice as well as the state average, according to Superintendent Michael Lubelfeld. Some parents and teachers decried the PARCC test saying it wasn’t ready, it took too much time away from classroom learning, it was one among many tests given to Chicago Public Schools students.

In English and Language Arts, the percentage of students meeting or exceeding expectations was slightly higher, though still hovered around one-third, according to results based on spring tests. Officials in the Oswego-based district said they were happy with the results, and plan to look into them to make decisions about instruction and curriculum.

Many of the highest opt-out rates happened at North Side schools, but all parts of the city had schools with a 50 percent or lower participation rate in the lengthy, in-depth PARCC test that seeks to measure critical thinking. And several hundred schools saw fewer than 10 percent of their students pass, including some schools where not one of the test takers passed the math and English Language Arts exams. With so many kids not taking the exams in some schools, educators say it’s unclear what PARCC scores mean and how well they reflect on how a school is performing. “Certainly you can make the conclusion that it (low participation on the exams) is going to skew results in some way,” said Jeffrey Smith, the director of research and evaluation in Arlington Heights-based Township High School District 214.

On the math side, 27.7 percent of district test-takers met or crossed the math minimum proficiency threshold, half a percentage point below the 28.2 percent statewide. Students’ scores earned them one of five levels: did not yet meet expectations, partially met expectations, approached expectations, met expectations and exceeded expectations. The results for the district are a reflection of the day to day learning that goes on in its schools rather than any specific preparation, according to Lubelfeld.

Northside College Prep tested 17 percent, Lane Tech High School 22 percent and Whitney Young Magnet High School about 39 percent, according to data released this week by the Illinois State Board of Education. “It’s not just testing backlash” in high schools, said Megan Vidis of Advance Illinois, which championed PARCC. “There were very specific reasons about why high schoolers didn’t take it.” The March and May testing windows for PARCC, which carries no consequences, coincided with tests that did count. The 2015 scores will be a new baseline for measuring student progress. “These results do not mean our students know less or are less capable,” said Lynda Andre, superintendent of the Edwardsville School District. “The bar has been raised for the type of skills and knowledge students must possess before moving onto the next grade level.” Two consortiums developed Common Core-aligned assessments for several states last year. Unlike the previous tests used by Illinois, the state has yet to send the district the kinds of contextual information that helps officials decipher the score thresholds and other factors, district officials said.

Passing rates of 90 percent — and even 80 percent — were far less common on PARCC compared with prior years, when students took the ISAT and Prairie State exams. There are questions about the increased literacy required in the test, with the math section’s word problems, for example, and how English-learning students fare with such material, officials said.

The state also saw far higher numbers of students slated to take the test go untested, either because students refused to take the exam or because they were absent. Rates at schools like Blaine Elementary School, whose PTA organized an opt-out, was no surprise to Cassie Creswell of the More Than A Score group that informed parents about their testing rights. Roughly a third of the high school students who took the test also did not sit for the math section because it was algebra they had already advanced beyond, according to Dr. But then she was pleased by “places where we don’t know anyone there and they still had a huge opt out.” “There’s definitely some really high percentage children-of-color, high low-income schools that certainly bucked the trend of what you hear in the media (about) wealthy kids,” Creswell said. “Once parents are informed, once children are informed, if it’s not a high-stakes test for them individually, (they wonder), ‘Why are we spending so much time on this, I don’t want to take this.’” ISBE said about 4,000 CPS students were coded as refusing the test; another 15,000 were absent.

Creswell questioned the high absences during the weeks-long testing windows, saying the codes had to be changed by hand from “absent” to “refused” and not all schools bothered. We want to be able to get the results in a timely fashion like we do for the MAP tests so we do not have to wait to impact on instruction in a timely fashion. Among the changes is an additional performance level for individual student scores for those who are considered “approaching” state standards, but not failing. Officials said they may receive such information from the state next month, but that they have not received any set confirmation on when that will arrive. The test is designed to gauge students’ understanding of the recently implemented Common Core curriculum, a new way of teaching that aims to help students apply classroom lessons to the real world in a more practical way via critical thinking.

For example, high schools could test kids in Algebra 1, which would mean ninth-graders and perhaps a few 10th-graders would be tested, along with freshman English. District CEO Tony Sanders earlier this year said that if the district did not demonstrate that 96 percent of its kids took the PARCC, it risked losing out on federal aid. As a result of many, many candid conversations all of our parents and students were on board with taking the more rigorous PARCC test.” (Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2015. At New Trier’s ninth-grade campus in Northfield, 77.1 percent of students passed the PARCC in English, but only 41.4 percent passed the Algebra 1 exam.

The delay has meant that test results typically used to help identify the students who need extra help in math and reading are only now available, four months into the new school year. Stevenson High School spokesman Jim Conrey said it wasn’t surprising that students taking the Algebra exam at the Lincolnshire school posted a passing rate of 45.1 percent. “I think it is fair to say these students tend to be at the more basic level in terms of math knowledge,” he said.

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