Every year schools across the nation conduct standardized testing to measure the growth and academic skill level of their students against others in their area, state, nation, and world. Here at Williamsfield Schools, we use that data to provide better services for the kids of our community. Back in my day, we took the Iowa Test of Basic Skills. For the past several years students have taken either the ISAT or PSAE. All of those tests are traditional "fill in the bubble" tests similar to the ones many of us passed to receive proper certification for our jobs. Thankfully, technology has helped us move away from those type of assessments.
Beginning this year, our students will be some of the 5 million students nationwide who will take the annual PARCC test. The PARCC assessment is a single test in two parts - the performance-based assessment, which our students will begin March 23rd, and the end-of-year component, scheduled locally for the week of May 11th. Currently, more than two million PARCC test sessions have been completed online in the 11 states and the District of Columbia, which make up the PARCC consortium. Since February, schools in Arkansas, the District of Columbia, Colorado, Illinois, Ohio, Maryland, Mississippi, New Jersey, and New Mexico have started testing. Louisiana, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island will begin testing soon.
What does this mean for our students?
Beginning Monday, March 23, students in grades 3-8 will complete three ELA/Literacy testing sessions and two Math testing sessions. Each ELA/Literacy session will ask students to analyze authentic texts and answer approximately 6-8 questions. Each session will end with the students providing a written response in an effort to synthesize and summarize the main ideas and key details of the texts they were given to read. For each of the two math sessions, students will be asked to persevere and solve real-world math problems to demonstrate they meet the basic math skill level expectations appropriate for their particular grade.
High School testing is a bit different in that PARCC tests are designed to correspond with the curriculum students encounter in a particular course. For us, this year that means non-seniors in Advanced Composition will take the PARCC ELA/Literacy test and non-seniors in Integrated Math III will take the PARCC Math exam. The structure of the sessions and test questions for these assessments are similar to those found in grades 3-8.
How will our students take the online test?
Chromebooks. Each 5-8 and high school student taking the test will use the Chromebook issued to them by the school. Students in grades 3 & 4 will utilize classroom sets. Our Technology Director, Mr. Rick Hartz, and I have been following the progress of neighboring districts and states very closely. Chromebooks seem to be having very few issues when it comes to PARCC testing. I continue to be very pleased with the Chromebook route our district chose back in July of 2013.
How much time will students spend taking these tests?
Most students will complete a test session in 40-60 minutes, though we will schedule up to 100 minutes to make sure all students have the time they need to show what they know and can do. Students with IEP or 504 accommodations will receive more time if that correlates with their specific educational plan.
When will these tests take place? (updated 3/5/15)
The testing sessions above correspond with the normal times our students spend in these core courses. Again, most students will complete a test session in 40-60 minutes, however, we will schedule up to 100 minutes to make sure they have the time they need to show what they know and can do. If it takes a student in grade 7, 8, or HS longer than their 50m class period to complete a session, they will simply be written a pass to their next class once they finish.
What is the purpose of these tests?
The PARCC assessments give schools and teachers more information to improve instruction. Moreover, PARCC lets parents know how their child is progressing academically on the path to college and career readiness. Prior to cut score adjustments, ISAT told us that 90% or more of our elementary & middle school students were meeting or exceeding expectations. PSAE results told us 30-40% of juniors were ready for college. That cycle continually repeated itself year after year. As a result, a majority of our graduates who enrolled at Carl Sandburg College were forced to take remedial classes prior to earning credit toward a college degree. The PARCC assessment system is cohesively aligned in Grades 3-11 so we can do a much better job of helping students ready themselves for college and career.
When will we get our scores?
With this being the first year of the new assessment, we don't anticipate receiving scores until the end of October. As we look forward to year two, we anticipate getting scores back in early to mid June so we can make educational adjustments for the following school year.
How can I learn more?
Williamsfield Schools is hosting a PARCC Parent Night in the library on Wednesday, March 18 from 6:30-7:30pm. We welcome anyone and everyone to attend. No RSVP necessary. Additionally, the text from a recent Peoria Journal Star article highlighting our approach can be found here, rock star educator Char Shryock wrote an excellent piece entitled "From an educator's viewpoint", and PARCC published a previous piece I authored entitled "A Voice from the Field."
The teachers, administrators, and staff here at Williamsfield Schools look forward to working together with parents and students to successfully implement year one of the PARCC test! We also look forward to utilizing test results, in conjunction with the work students do in the classroom every day, to help students position themselves for success in college and career.
If you have any questions or concerns, please be sure to contact me at 309.639.2219 or
Tim Farquer, Superintendent