Students in Proviso Township High Schools District 209 will take the first round of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) assessment March 12 through April 2.
This test, which will be administered to other high school students in Illinois as well as third- through eighth-graders throughout the state, represents a significant shift across the state. It is the culmination of five years of statewide work, beginning with the adoption of the new Illinois Learning Standards in English language arts and mathematics in 2010. This test, unlike the one that Illinois students took last year, is more engaging, interactive, and meaningful and will better prepare students for life and careers in the 21st century.
Change, especially large-scale systemic change such as this one, is never easy. We fully expect there will be challenges as schools administer this test in the coming weeks. But that does not mean we should change course or lower our expectations.
The PARCC assessment system is aligned to our new learning standards and aims to give educators, families, and students a more accurate measure of how well Illinois public school children are performing, how they compare to peers across the nation, and whether they’re on track to succeed in college. This is important because many students in the United States, including Illinois, are arriving at college -- after doing everything required to graduate from high school -- without the knowledge and skills to succeed in a credit-bearing college course or an understanding of how what they learned in school is applicable to a career. Anywhere from 20 percent to half of all students in postsecondary institutions must take one or more costly remedial courses their freshman year. This is a waste of both money and time and immediately puts these students at risk of not finishing college. The PARCC assessment will more closely track student learning so that any necessary remediation can take place as students progress through elementary and high school.
The PARCC assessment is designed to reflect classroom experiences. About 111,000 Illinois students - including several from District 209 - and 1 million students nationwide participated in the PARCC field-testing last spring. This is not a test that is passed with rote memorization and last-minute drills, but one that calls for critical thinking, problem-solving, and the ability to synthesize information from various sources and provide evidence and reasoning when making an argument or solving a math equation. It measures writing skills at each grade level. Rather than just asking students to select the correct answer and fill in the bubble of a multiple-choice test, it pushes students to apply their knowledge, thus better preparing them for higher education and a career. All students deserve the opportunity to demonstrate what they know and see how knowledge is applied to real-life situations.
"We encourage all parents and guardians who have any questions about the PARCC assessment to speak with their students’ principal and administrators to learn more about the PARCC assessment," said Dr. Nettie Collins-Hart, superintendent of District 209. "In addition, we encourage you to talk with your children and share that while this is an important test, it only yields one piece of information about them and their school’s progress. Students’ school attendance, the school climate and culture, classroom work, homework, projects, local tests as well as sports and extracurricular activities all contribute to helping children grow and learn."
For more information about the PARCC assessments, please consult the ACT and PARCC testing section
on the District 209 website. It has several resources for review and research, including those from the Illinois State Board of Education website.
Much of the information in this article is from a letter to parents by Dr. Christopher Koch, Illinois State Superintendent of Education.