PARCC Assessments

(PARCC) Assessments are group of state-mandated tests that assess students' knowledge of the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics. Students in grades 3 through 8 take these assessments annually, with 2016 being the second year of the PARCC Assessments. Prior to PARCC, students took the ISAT (Illinois Standards Achievement Test).

Frequently Asked Questions

What is PARCC? What is College and Career Readiness?

The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) is a group of states working together to develop a set of assessments that measure whether students are on track to be successful in college and their careers in compliance with the federal government’s mandate for annual testing through the Every Student Suceeds Act (ESSA).

From an academic perspective, college and career readiness means that a high school graduate has the knowledge and skills in English and mathematics necessary to qualify for and succeed in entry-level, credit-bearing postsecondary coursework without the need for remediation. Put another way, a high school graduate must have the English and math knowledge and skills needed to qualify for and succeed in postsecondary job training and/or education necessary for a chosen career (i.e. community college, university, technical/vocational program, apprenticeship, or significant on-the-job training).*

To be college- and career-ready, high school graduates must have studied a rigorous and broad curriculum, grounded in the core academic disciplines, but also consisting of other subjects that are part of a well-rounded education. Although academic preparation alone is not enough to ensure postsecondary readiness, it is clear that this preparation is an essential part of readiness for college, careers, and life in the 21st century.*

*Information cited from Achieve

What subjects do the PARCC assessments address?

The tests assess students’ knowledge and skills in English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics outlined in the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

How much time will the tests require?

Depending on the grade level, the tests require between 8.25 and 9.25 hours. PARCC anticipates that many students will need significantly less time to complete the tests.

How many tests will students take per day?

Students will take between one and two assessment per day. If they take two tests in one day, they will have a break between tests.

Why are PARCC assessments required?

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA, also known as Every Student Succeeds Act, ESSA) requires states receiving Title I funds, including Illinois, to administer annual reading and math exams to all students in grades 3-8. With the adoption of the Common Core State Standards, Illinois wanted a new assessment system that aligned with the CCSS. In the past, Illinois used the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) to meet the federal testing requirement.

In what format are the tests administered?

Eventually, all of the tests will be administered online to students in grades 3-8. For the 2014-15 school year, District 27 administered paper/pencil tests in grades 3, 5, 6, and 8. Grades 4 and 7 took the tests online. By minimizing the number of grade levels taking the online tests, we were able to provide the appropriate level of technical support in those classrooms to create the best testing environment possible. For 2016, students in grades 4, 5, 7, and 8 will take the online tests. Students in grades 3 and 6 will take the paper/pencil version of the test.

Are there accommodations for students with 504 plans or Individualized Education Plans (IEPs)??

The DLM replaces the Illinois Alternate Assessment (IAA). A student’s IEP will indicate if a student is taking the DLM (or it may reference the former IAA).Yes, a number of accommodations exist, including taking the assessments in the paper/pencil format. The student’s case manager and the Director of Special Education determine the appropriate accommodations, which are documented in the student’s IEP. We should also note that the Dynamic Learning Maps (DLM) is an alternate assessment system for students with significant cognitive disabilities. It shows what the students know in ways that traditional multiple-choice tests cannot.

Are there accommodations for English Language Learners (ELL)?

PARCC allows for a limited number of accommodations for ELL students. Students who have been in the United States for less than a year at the time of testing are exempt from the ELA tests but must take the math tests. The ELL teacher is managing the accommodations and is very committed to providing the most accommodations allowable to help the students complete the assessments successfully.

How are students being prepared for the PARCC assessments?

Over the past several years, District 27 has been revising its reading, writing, and math curricula to align with CCSS. We have great confidence in the rigor and thoroughness of our curricula, and District and national assessment data continue to indicate extremely high student achievement. Given these realities, our students should demonstrate strong performance.

The key dynamic is that what we teach in the classroom should be directly aligned with what is measured on the PARCC assessment, specifically CCSS.Theoretically, PARCC assesses students’ knowledge and skills delineated in CCSS. Thus, preparation for PARCC rests primarily on implementing a rigorous, CCSS-aligned curriculum and using classroom-based assessments to monitor student learning. We continue to focus on our high-quality curriculum rather than isolated “test prep.” However, we know that students should be familiar with the PARCC test formats in ELA and math. We have embedded some practice questions within our curriculum and distribute that practice across the school year. As testing time approaches, we will familiarize students with the online testing environment. We are committed to maintaining our focus on the District 27 curricula and are keeping “test prep” to a minimum while ensuring that we have sufficiently prepared the students.

How can I support my child?

As with other standardized assessments, you can take two critical steps: ensure that your child gets sufficient sleep and eats an adequate breakfast. We ask that you please refrain from doing any type of test prep. We want our students to feel as relaxed as possible when taking the tests. Because we will not use the assessment results for placement purposes, you and your child should not feel any pressure to prepare. Please allow your child’s teacher to familiarize your child with the PARCC test format.

How will the test results be used?

Due to the newness of the assessments and questions surrounding the validity, utility and timeliness of the data, we will use the data cautiously for purposes of improving curriculum, refining instruction, and identifying individual student needs.

Where can I see sample PARCC test questions?

For a sampling of the PARCC questions, PARCC’s Sample Items webpage provides several math and ELA questions clustered by grade level bands. For a more comprehensive review of PARCC test questions, PARCC’s Practice Tests webpage provides grade level tests for ELA and math. You can view online and paper/pencil versions.

Please be aware that both webpages reference the Peformance-Based Assessments and End-of-Year Assessments. The 2015 PARCC assessments were comprised of these two different tests. For 2016, PARCC has combined these two tests into one test. However, the sample tests still provide an idea of the types of questions students will experience.

If you choose to take some sample tests, please know that we found some of the test items and ELA passages unnecessarily difficult. For example, the following excerpt is part of one of the passages in the Grade 8 test. As you can see, the passage jumps immediately into a description of how an experiment was designed. Although a previous article within the practice test addresses the experiment, it does not provide enough background information or context for a reader to navigate this technical writing. The procedures are so difficult to understand and visualize that one would normally have diagrams to illustrate the experiment set-up. Unfortunately, diagrams are not present in this passage.

Please be assured that we are NOT using samples like the one above with our students. When using practice tests with students, our goal is to familiarize them with the format of the test and to build their confidence.

Can parents "opt out" of the PARCC tests?

No. Federal and state laws do not provide for any opt-out provisions. If fewer than 95 percent of students in a district do not take the assessment, a district will automatically fail to meet its accountability obligations and be at risk of losing federal funding, hurting schools and ultimately all the students.

What is District 27's view of the PARCC assessments?

We fully support a State accountability assessment system. There is much value for the State of Illinois and the Department of Education to know how well students are prepared for the future. We also want to be able to benchmark our students’ achievement with larger comparative groups to ensure that we are highly competitive with other students in Illinois and throughout the nation. With that said, we question the need for annual tests, particularly for a district like ours that consistently demonstrates high student achievement and one that has so many other local and standardized measures to determine our students’ growth and achievement. If annual assessments remain, (as currently mandated under the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001), we support a reduction in the number of assessments.

With respect to PARCC specifically, we believe the tests, as demonstrated through the practice items, have some very good questions as well as some problematic ones. We have significant concerns about the online tests. We believe the online tests measure a student’s ability to navigate an online test as much as it has the potential to assess the students’ knowledge of the Common Core State Standards. The demands of the online tests, especially for young learners, are excessive. As adults, we found certain interactive questions extremely difficult to navigate or maneuver on a computer.

How is District 27 advocating for students and reasonable testing?

Since the time that PARCC has been identified as Illinois’ State Assessment measure, Superintendent Dr. David Kroeze has been working with the State Superintendent as well as state and federal legislators to articulate the aspects of it that are not productive. As we have mentioned, District 27 supports a state-wide accountability system. At the same time we must all remember that schools should focus on the “whole child.” This focus takes into consideration learning in all core subject areas, as well as the fine arts, physical education, social-emotional development, other state and federally mandated instruction. With this broader view in mind, Dr. Kroeze continues to emphasize that no state test should consume an inordinate amount of testing time or instructional time.

Currently, the District is working with state professional organizations such as the Illinois Association of School Boards and the Illinois Association of Schools to unite the education community by developing a long-range blueprint for improving public education in Illinois. This effort is materializing in a plan called Vision 20/20. Its focus is to bring common sense solutions that will improve education. Dr. Kroeze will be communicating more about this plan with Board of Education over the next few months.

In summary, our District is a high performing district that has made it a priority to educate the “whole child” and to maintain the highest standards of achievement for our students. It is our expectation to prepare our students well for Glenbrook North High School and beyond. At the same time we are committed to working cooperatively with our state leaders and improving education for all students.