A new way of evaluating student’s performance could be a game-changer for our education system. Starting in the 2014 school year, for the first time a third grader in Illinois will take the same standardized test as a third grader in New York.
A group of 24 states known as the partnership for the assessment of college & career – or “PARCC” – will give new tests that measure, as the name implies, how prepared a student is for life beyond secondary education.
“The curriculum will look different because are based on fewer, clearer, and higher standards instead of so many standards in the present system,” said Tim Wierenga, the Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning for School District 203. “That allows our students to have a better idea of how to get deep into a student rather than just cover a lot of different subjects.”
The PARCC assessment will replace the Illinois Standards Achievement Test, or “ISAT,” and will consists of multiple choice and open-ended questions. Students will take these assessments from second grade through twelfth, four times a year.
“It will feed us student level data on how well students are doing in a specific type of standard in the common core and then it will give us a better roadmap of how we can help those students progress through the course of the year,” Wierenga added.
Before common core, each state had its own objectives. Now there is a new set of more universal goals for students to meet, starting with kindergartners.
“For example, under the old model, they would’ve had a road count from 1 to 100,” said Superintendent for District 203 Mark Mitrovich. “Under the new model, they have to count by 1s and by 10s so they have to have a concept of 10s.”
Such higher expectations are motivating district 203 to start all-day kindergarten. More than 75% of school districts in Illinois offer it, leaving District 203 in the minority of those that don’t.
“Given the volume of content and the rigor of content, for us to not make the maximum use of that time is not the best thing that we’re doing for children,” Mitrovich noted. “When I talk to our teachers, when I talk to our principals, talk to our parents, they’re very supportive of taking this approach.”
Meanwhile district 204 already offers all-day kindergarten and staff say it’s paying off.
“We find that our kids are more prepared for the next few years,” said Kathy Pease, Executive Director for Elementary Teaching and Learning for School District 204. “Our kindergarten teachers are working very hard to create a day that meets the needs of those kindergarteners both academically [and] socially. The transition from kindergarten to first grade is a smooth transition.”
Administrators in both districts hope the PARCC assessments prove to be a step in the right direction for the American education system.
“I look at this as a new floor. It’s not a ceiling of where we can go,” said Mitrovich. “It’s simply saying this is what you know is the minimal expectation and I think we will respond very well to that.”
“Although it is upping our rigor and what we want kids to do, it’s also a good thing because it’s helping us understand what we need to do with our students to help them be ready for college and careers,” added Pease.
And it’s not just students who are subject to new assessments – starting in 2013, half of a teacher’s evaluation will be based on students’ academic performance.
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