Sample PARCC tests give District 153 board members pause

District 153 board member Tom Brabec proved just how difficult the PARCC test can be. 

Students will begin taking the new state mandated five-part assessment test Feb. 25, but at the school board’s meeting Monday, Brabec volunteered to come up to a computer and take a three-part practice test in math designed for a 3rd grader. 

Watching his actions on the overhead projector, no one in the room found it to be a laughing matter. Brabec first calculated an answer (part 1), and then struggled to make a chart in which he had to shade in 56 squares (part 2). It was time consuming and it was finally agreed that he could move to part 3.

He was able to use paper and pencil to come to his part 3 answer. Then the equation was typed into the computer.

After that experience, Brabec passed on taking the literature/language arts test for 4th graders, but the audience read along with Kathy Schaeflein, director of curriculum and instruction. She pointed out the likely problems with using the computer to read the story and then going to another section on the screen to answer questions.  After that, students will be asked to write an essay on the story.

“Our students are really good at supporting the answers,” said Churchill School Principal Cece Coffey. “But in this context it’s just too complex. We teach them on paper how to outline a story recognizing the highlights and then to discuss those points and then write an essay.  With this test, we’re asking our students to compose an essay in their heads and get it onto a computer screen.”

School administrators and teachers across Illinois are raising the alarm on PARCC — Partnership for the Assessment of College and Career Readiness. The computer-administered PARCC test is designed as a Common Core curriculum assessment for students in third grade through high school. It is replacing the pencil-and-paper Illinois Standard Assessment Test.

At one time, 26 states were part of the PARCC consortium.  Today, fewer than a dozen states, including Illinois, are still in the program. Opting out of the PARCC exam is not an option for school districts, unless they are willing to lose state and federal funding.

District 153 administrators also are concerned that students will be overwhelmed by PARCC and just say they can’t do it.  Schaeflein said there is a 24-hour window to complete the test, but giving the student that extra time could throw off the next scheduled exam time.

Schaeflein said students may spend as long as 14 hours taking the PARCC — given as three language arts and two math exams. District 153 school administrators have been working to adjust schedules so that all students have a computer available to them for testing.

Contact Marilyn Thomas at [email protected]

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