ISBE Assessment Review Task Force

Like Michael Beyer, I sit on the Assessment Review Task Force of the Illinois State Board of Education. I was appointed as one of two parents on the task force, an appointment that I achieved through my affiliation with Illinois PTA. Like Mr. Beyer, I thought the task force would be a symbolic olive branch rather than a body with actual input.

The meeting started with brief introductions in Chicago and in Springfield, and continued with a set of presentations from Dr. Diana Zaleski, the ISBE project administrator and taskforce co-chair, and Dr. Jacob Mishook, a consultant from Achieve, Inc., about the state’s “balanced assessment approach” and a tool for assessing and inventorying the assessments, respectively. At the end of Dr. Mishook’s presentation, the floor was opened up to questions.

And immediately, the aura in the the room changed completely. Bam! Right out of the gate, state senator Kim Lightford changed the tone of the conversation by saying something like,  “Hey, I created this taskforce when the General Assembly approved the PARCC last year and I need to see that mandating this test across the state makes sense.”

The room practically erupted as representatives from the Illinois Association for School Administrators, Illinois Principals Association, Illinois Association of School Boards, and Illinois High School Districts Organization, as well as assessment expert Dr. Terri Pigott (Loyola) and 2-year-school representative Dr. Julie Schaid (Elgin Community College) clamored to add his or her opinion to the discussion. It was a good discussion. (I got a peep in as well, as did the CTU rep Monique Redeaux.)

The meeting itself was also a great source of information, and I consider myself a fairly well-informed parent on the topic of standardized testing. In previous discussions with my fellow advocates at Illinois PTA, “testing” is a non-issue outside of the city. Or so they tell me. (I find this a bit hard to believe.) While I know that there are few districts in Illinois that are subject to the number of high-stakes and standardized tests as there are in Chicago, I also know that ISBE requires districts to administer sets of tests outside of the ISAT or PARCC. These, according to Dr. Lewis Cavello of the Illinois Association of School Administrators, are tests that measure RTI and student growth data, among other things. He noted that ISBE allows districts to choose which ones to administer, but the menu list of options is still a menu list of options. And, as he and others noted, some districts are able to afford the “best” ones and some are not.

Oops, there’s that darn inequity again.

Working back around, the ARTF tasked itself with inventorying some regions, districts, and schools to see what the assessment load really looks like among Illinois schools. I’m not yet sure how a group of 20 without a budget and a scant 3-hour monthly meeting is going to accomplish that before June. But whatever the ARTF drafts, it’s not necessarily setting policy for the state. As Sen. Lightford noted, the ARTF is supposed to provide information, not necessarily recommendations.

This brings me to the point of this post. While I was able to represent some parent views during my comments last month, I would like to speak with a greater voice in subsequent meetings. My opinion represents a larger point of view, but I’d like my own data to back it up. Or anecdotes that don’t involve my 9-year-old.

So here it is: what is your opinion of standardized testing that public school children must take? Do you understand what all the tests are for? Do you know the difference between formative, summative, and interim assessments? Do you know if or how your children’s standardized tests inform curriculum and teaching within the school building? Please leave a comment.

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3 thoughts on “ISBE Assessment Review Task Force

  1. Melissa B says:

    I consider myself a reasonably informed parent in a good school with strong teachers and a forward-thinking principal but still have limited understanding of all of the various tests my kids (4th and 7th) have to take. I do know that it has caused our teachers to drop meaningful, creative projects from their curriculum because there is simply not enough time to get it all done. I dont believe we’re doing any real PARCC prep but resent the lost instructional time and unnecessary stress the PARCC testing is going to cause for my children. I have a problem overall with the nature of electronic/computerized tests and my kids have had a difficult adjustment with significant drops in math scores. For example, not being able to skip questions or go back and change answers, etc. I understand that in a district as large as ours it is necessary to capture data to assess school, teacher and student progress but it is just way too much. And any high stakes decisions, such as SEHS acceptance, must include other evaluations for kids that simply do not test well. It is not the end all be all indicator of success or intelligence.

  2. Lara says:

    The standardized testing discussion needs to be separated into at least TWO buckets. Elementary (K-8) is very different than High School. I have a freshman and a sophomore and am learning about this in a BIG way this year. High School testing demands due to graduation and college admissions are already a HUGE part of the high school experience. High School kids take so many national tests already, PSAT, SAT, ACT, AP classes. In CPS they take EXPLORE and PLAN as well as whatever the state requires. I agree that the PARCC test is a terrible test in terms of quality and that elementary schools are way over tested. But, I think the committee and the state needs to listen carefully to High School administrators about what testing makes sense when High School kids have the extra burden of college entrance exams on their plates. In addition, the logistics of high school schedules, which are highly individualized, make standardized testing much more complex. I think we need to use ACT (already used for college and a statewide standard for our high schools) for the next 3 years while we figure out a better plan for any new or additional tests at the high school level. If you think there’s anxiety in kids K-8, High School is worse!!!!

  3. Liz says:

    I have a 6th grader and a 4th grader at a high performing neighborhood CPS school. My kids will take the NWEA/MAP test to access growth, the REACH test I believe is for teacher assessment and the PARCC test to be in compliance with the state and NCLB. Oh, in addition, my 4th grader has been randomly chosen to take the NEAP assessment, but I do not know why that test is being offered because it is not offered across the entire district. I consider myself an involved parent and my kids are conscientious students. I have no idea what formative, summative or interim assessments are or why they would be used. My children will lose 11 class days taking these tests. In addition, their curriculum must change when other grades are taking the tests because computer resources and the library and gym often are unavailable when other grades are taking the tests. Lastly, my 4th grader has an IEP which has testing accommodations. The way the accommodations are being implemented means that he does not take the test at the same time as his classmates, but instead does busy work during this time. When the rest of his class is finished, he is pulled out of class to take the test with accommodations. That means he misses even more instruction time. Our teachers do use the results of the NWEA/MAP test to inform specialized instruction for students in the classroom, but REACH and PARCC have absolutely no impact inside the building. I was frustrated when fundraising pleas for our school were made to buy laptops for the main purpose of making testing easier. Not only is CPS spending way too much for the tests, they are not providing the financial resources at the school level to implement them properly. I honestly like the idea of the NWEA/MAP which returns results quickly to inform instruction, but I am assuming that REACH and PARCC will be the black holes like the ISAT where results are not returned in a timely manner. The tests need to be consolidated. It causes a great deal of cynicism especially given that the selective enrollment high school selection process uses test scores.

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