PARCC finishes first round of testing

14526605-mmmainBy Lauren Miller
Associate Online Editor-in-Chief 
District 214 got their first taste of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test this week with the paper English test for juniors Monday, March 16 and the iPad Algebra 2 test Wednesday, March 18.
Well at least some of District 214 did. According to Superintendent Dr. David Schuler, Rolling Meadows High School had the highest number of refusals, with Prospect, Hersey and Buffalo Grove high schools having the number of refusals lie between 25-65% of students. In stark contrast Elk Grove & Wheeling high schools had nearly 100% participation.
Schuler said, “We saw what was going on at Rolling Meadows, and we know that a lot of South students split between Prospect and Meadows, and we thought that there was going to be some spill over between Meadows and Prospect, but we didn’t know the degree to which that would happen. Because Prospect and Hersey are so close we assumed there was going to be some spill over from Prospect to Hersey, and because Prospect and Hersey are so close to Buffalo Grove we assumed there was going to be some up there. So we really weren’t sure [what it was going to look like].”
With this trickle down effect and in turn many students refusing the test, the district will most likely not meet the required 95% participation, which could result in loss of funding or not being recognized as an IHSA sanctioned school. This was the punishment if a district broke federal regulation and refused the test, but whether or not this will be a punishment for not meeting 95% participation and what exactly participation in this test is defined as is unclear.
“There’s a lot of things we don’t know about the participation… For the people who didn’t take the English, but took the Math… does that count for participation? If you took the first part of math, but then refused to take the second and third does that count for participation? If you didn’t take the PDA, which is this round of the assessments, but you take the end of the year assessment next month or in May, does that count for participation?”  Schuler said. “I don’t know what the expectation can be for us except for me to be able to say to all of our staff, ‘Do not discourage people from taking the test, tell them we want them to do their best, to try and take the test.’ But if there is a test refusal process out there from the State and our parents and students are following it, I don’t know what could happen to us. There’s a threat that we could lose our title funds. We could lose recognition by the state … If there is test refusal protocols out there, then I’m not sure how we can be held accountable for the 95%, but at the same time the … have said we’re not making up the 95%.”
While a lot seems to be up in the air, the feedback the district has received regarding the test is concrete. According to Schuler there were some logistical issues trying to get everyone on the math exam. He also notes that students have indicated their frustration with the test.
“That [their frustration] could just be because it was the first time through. It could be that it was much harder than they were expecting. I think we need a little bit more time on that piece,” Schuler said. “People were also frustrated with the time of it … the timing to have the window overlap ACT and AP is just really rough for our high school juniors.”
The timing of the PARCC test for juniors has been one of the major criticisms of it. While other schools around Illinois switched to testing freshman, District 214 did not. But there is a good reason for this, according to Schuler the ILSB (Illinois State Board of Education) sent out a letter in early December notifying schools that they were able to switch from testing juniors to testing freshman. But Wheeling had already started testing before the letter came out because they are on a block schedule, so the district was unable to switch to freshman.
“Had we had the opportunity we would have done like most schools and gone to the freshman. It would have made sense to go freshman, and the next year freshman, sophomore, and the year after that freshman, sophomore, junior, to do a gradual implementation.”
After the makeups for the PARCC test occur the week after spring break, the district plans to step back and regroup before the next set of tests in April or May. Looking even further ahead to next year the PARCC test will not only be offered to juniors again, but freshman and sophomores as well. The test will also expand to include science along with English and Math, but whether or not the test will undergo changes before next year is unknown.
“From the very beginning we have expressed concern with PARCC and its format. But at the same time we have said we will always comply with state and federal law,” Schuler said. “I really really hope that the State Board and PARCC officials solicit feedback on implementation and look at the timing and the length of the assessment and look at the impact on AP and the ACT. I’m really hoping they solicit feedback and then as a result of that feedback they strongly consider modifying PARCC in someway before we implement it next year.”
While Schuler cannot say what his ideal world version of the PARCC test would be because it is “probably above his pay grade,” he hopes that whatever exam ends up being chosen by ILSB relates to what students value as important.
“I think what matters to high students are grades, AP scores and early college credit, and getting acceptance into college. So if there’s an assessments that’s out there that students take seriously and really try their best on, it needs to relate to either grades, early college credit, or acceptance into college.”