Correcting the Record: Illinois Hasn’t Scrapped PARCC Assessments

 

A Breitbart News headline proclaims that Illinois has dumped Common Core assessments. The article goes on to claim PARCC took too much time away from classroom instruction, which compelled officials to replace the exam with the SAT for high school juniors.

“We should eliminate duplication,” says Roger Eddy, executive director for the Illinois Association of School Boards. “We assess and assess and assess, and you have got to remember that sometimes we have to teach kids.”

Let’s be clear here: there are no Common Core tests. Common Core is a set of academic standards and tests like PARCC were built to align to those standards, assessing student progress toward college and career readiness.

More importantly, Illinois is not abandoning PARCC. The state will continue to administer PARCC assessments in grades 3-8. High school juniors will now take the SAT in place of PARCC.

“The SAT is aligned with the Illinois Learning Standards and will continue to empower educators to measure college and career readiness,” a spokesperson for the State Department of Education clarified.

Although Illinois will continue to administer PARCC in early grades, it may prove to be a mistake to replace the exam for high school students. Numerous studies show PARCC is a strong indicator of college and career readiness, and that the exam outperforms other next-generation assessments, including the SAT.

A two-year study by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute found PARCC outperformed the MCAS and ACT Aspire, both of which are widely considered leading “next-generation” assessments. The report notes that PARCC and Smarter Balanced both matched strongly with states’ education standards—meaning they align closely with classroom instruction.

Similarly, research by the National Network of State Teachers of the Year (NNSTOY) found PARCC assessments reflect the range of skills students need to become college and career ready; align well with good teaching practices; provide accurate measures of student development; and are both rigorous and grade-level appropriate.

Pam Reilly, a former Illinois Teacher of the Year and participant in the NNSTOY study, wrote, “Because the consortia tests align with what educators are already teaching in their classrooms, they help to eliminate the need to ‘teach to the test.’…I can say with confidence these new assessments are the kind we should want our kids to take.”

Policymakers in Illinois should be wary that the decision to replace PARCC for high school students (and headlines like Breitbart’s) may further energize opponents and open the door for greater pressure to develop new tests.

“The process of leaving consortia that was meant to pacify local protests against Common Core-aligned tests has actually led to chaos and confusion in the classroom, not to mention extra costs to those same states to develop replacement exams,” a Chalkbeat article reported recently.

Likewise, Jim Cowen explains states that have taken the ill-advised path of replacing consortia exams are quickly learning the dangers of doing so. “Beyond the costs, time constraints and technical challenges…states that have struck out on their own have also jeopardized their ability to compare their progress to other states—and may very well come out with an inferior assessment in the process.”

Illinois, and other states in the same position, should reconsider sacrificing consortia exams to appease opponents. All evidence indicates it is a shortsighted and ill-fated decision.