Goodbye, ISAT. Hello, PARCC!

This month, our students will participate in Illinois Standard Achievement Test (ISAT). But starting in the 2014-2015 school year, the Illinois state assessment will be replaced with a new annual assessment called the PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers). PARCC was created to build a pathway to college and career readiness for all students across states and school districts. Illinois, along with 22 other states, will use PARCC to test students in grades 3 through 11. Students in Illinois will take the same test as students in other states, such as Colorado, Florida, and New York.

The PARCC is a computer-based test, unlike the paper/pencil ISAT, that will assess students’ knowledge of “Common Core standards” in math and language arts. The Common Core standards, which have been adopted by 45 states, are designed to delve deeper into a student’s understanding of material and mastery of skills.

Over the next two years, Illinois will gradually transition to the PARCC test. Twenty percent of this month’s ISAT questions will be core-curriculum based. The percentage will rise to 40 percent next year and then to the full test the following year. As a result, the ISAT scores necessary to be considered as meeting and exceeding state standards, known as “cut scores,” will be raised significantly. With this transitional process, we will likely see a decline in the number of students categorized as meeting and exceeding standards. However the process will help us to prepare students gradually for the change, as well as align the ISAT better with the high school level ACT exam. This new approach to assessment will give us a better indication of how well a younger student might perform on the ACT later in high school.

An additional benefit to the computer-based PARCC test is that teachers, principals, and organizations like Distinctive Schools will get more student data, and in less time. Having student performance data sooner will allow teachers and administrators to continue to make informed decisions regarding students’ progress and needs, and to customize individual learning plans.

The PARCC test will be rolled out in phases. The first phase of PARCC testing will be early in the 2014-2015 school year, after about 25% of the year’s instruction. Students will then be tested again after 50% and 75% of instruction, with a final summative assessment at the end of the school year. Distinctive Schools will continue to keep you informed as we transition to the PARCC test.

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