Chicago Tribune -
When students in DuPage County’s Lake Park High School District took a field test of Illinois’ new state exam last spring, the reaction stunned administrators:
“Our students said it was the hardest thing they’ve ever taken,” said Superintendent Lynne Panega.
This spring comes the real thing: a tough, new computerized exam called PARCC that has spawned angst — and even rebellion — across the Chicago region as third- through eighth-graders and some high school students usher in a new era of testing in Illinois.
The exams launching in March replace the familiar Illinois Standards Achievment Tests for grade school students and the Prairie State Achievement Exam for 11th-graders, tests that have been used for more than a dozen years.
The new tests, called Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, will focus on critical thinking, problem-solving and more sophisticated ways to gauge achievement and prepare students for college and work. But unlike the old tests, PARCC will have two testing sessions, one in early spring and one in late spring, which administrators say will double the hours in their testing schedules.
The testing regimen has sparked debate across the country, rejection of the exams in Chicago Public Schools, and a review from Congress on whether to keep or cut some of the annual tests.
CPS officials have said they won’t give the test to the vast majority of its students, citing concerns such as access to technology — though paper and pencil is still an option. Several suburban district officials say they’ll administer the test but remain concerned about a variety of issues, including the number of hours spent on testing rather than instruction. And the big unknown: how students will fare on the first-time exam.
The new reading and math exams, based on Common Core standards for what students should know, are part of national wave to improve student achievement. The federal government requires the statewide exams and states publish results and use scores, in part, to judge schools. PARCC officials say 12 states and Washington, D.C., will use their exams this spring.