The Examiner U-46 News Feed
U-46 Board discusses merits of state exam
By Seth Hancock
As the School District U-46 administration presented its report card numbers to the Board of Education, questions were raised about the merits of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) exam at the board meeting on Monday, Jan. 11.
This is the first report card to use PARCC as the measure on which to see how many students are meeting or exceeding expectations. The first-year numbers were less than desirable across the state with only 32.9 percent of Illinois students and 32.2 percent of U-46 students meeting or exceeding expectations.
U-46 CEO Tony Sanders has called it “baseline data,” and during the presentation board members questioned the accuracy of the results to whether the results should be used for placement.
Laura Hill, director of Assessment and Accountability, said that only eligible students took the test, and 2 percent of U-46 students did not take the PARCC exam.
Board member Sue Kerr asked about the high school students who took it regarding the math portion of the exam. Only one level took the PARCC exam with school districts across the state choosing which class would take it, and freshmen were chosen in U-46.
Hill said “it depends on what course you’re enrolled in” regarding some freshmen not taking the math portion of the exam. The math portion was given to Algebra I students, and those taking another course were not tested.
“So that strikes me as skewing the results compared to say the grades three through eight PARCC tests which were given to the entire grade,” Kerr said.
Hill said: “Correct, I would not compare the math results from high school to the results in elementary or middle school for that very reason because again, as we know, over 33 percent of our students are taking algebra in eighth grade you’re taking the top right off.”
Kerr asked if there were any similar concerns at other grade levels which Hill said there were not. Hill said freshmen were chosen by U-46 to take PARCC for a “continuity of data” as it was third- through ninth-graders taking the exam.
On how the state plans to use the exam in the future, Kerr asked if there may be some uniformity across the state at some point regarding which class is tested at the high school level. Hill said that the state is considering using college entrance exams, the ACT or SAT, to determine student achievement at the high school level.
Board member Traci Ellis said that she heard that the PARCC exam may be being used inappropriately for placing students.
“Anytime we have a measure, we use that measure as a piece of data,” Hill said. “It is never solely used as a piece of data, so in placement it is actually on the placement sheets for students and it will say whether or not… they met standards, they were approaching standards. Whatever the case might be.”
Hill added that a student exceeding expectations would “certainly want to use that data” and “you never would be limited by a score, but it could give you a better picture about where they are at that point in time.”
The PARCC is one of 10 pieces of information used for class placement according to Hill.
“I don’t think, necessarily, they knew that this data was going to be taken,” Ellis said. “What are we supposed to do? What does this data even mean for the first year given the problems, given all of the uncertainty around it and… is it appropriate to be using the test this year for those types of decisions?”
Hill reiterated that it was one of 10 pieces of data and it would not limit a student and that “we only look for positive statements when we look at placement data,” but Ellis pointed out what appears to be a fallacy in that logic considering it might limit a student found to be not exceeding.
Ellis said: “Right, but that necessarily limits and I understand when we are using a test that, you know, has been vetted and everyone’s comfortable with, which is not the PARCC test.”
Suzanne Johnson, assistant superintendent of Teaching and Learning, added: “I don’t know if I’m going to add any more clarity except that with the triangulation of data, that one piece would not prohibit a student from having an opportunity at potentially…” in a given course.
Johnson said that the district has shifted communication to make sure parents were aware of the usage of the PARCC results, but the district may “need to do a better job of communicating.”
After the first year of using the exam, representatives of districts across the state, including from U-46, lobbied to reduce the impact of the exam which did result in the time of administering the exam being reduced by the state. That’s a trend that board member Jeanette Ward likes as she is opposed to PARCC and the trend towards more standardized testing.
Ward said: “I’m no fan of PARCC. I never made that a secret when I was running for school board. I think it’s developmentally inappropriate, and I appreciate the efforts, whatever efforts we could take to lessen the impact on students of that test because I vehemently disagree with that test.”