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.