In a time of growing criticism about the amount of standardized tests that children take in school, District 230 officials last Thursday discussed the new Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) tests set for implementation in the 2014-15 academic year.
“Boy, it just seems like we do a lot of testing,” said board Vice President Patrick O’Sullivan, in reaction to a presentation made by Dr. Kim Dryier, the district’s assistant superintendent for instruction. “I think a lot of that is not our doing, it’s kind of forced on us. But boy, you take these PARCC tests, these pre- and post-assessment tests, your ACT, your ACT prep, and it’s almost like you’re being tested as much as you’re learning. It’s like there’s a kind of test overload.”
The discussion took place at Sandburg High School, before an audience of fewer than 10 people.
The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), as described on its website, “is a consortium of 18 states plus the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands working together to develop a common set of K-12 assessments in English and math anchored in what it takes to be ready for college and careers. These new K-12 assessments will build a pathway to college and career readiness by the end of high school, mark students’ progress toward this goal from 3rd grade up, and provide teachers with timely information to inform instruction and provide student support.”
PARCC plans to “create high-quality assessments that measure the full range of the Common Core State Standards, support educators in the classroom, make better use of technology in assessments, and advance accountability at all levels.”
Exactly what that will mean at the classroom level is something that school administrators and faculty, both locally and elsewhere, have grappled with for the last year, as the effort takes shape slowly.
“This seems to be extremely confusing. I’d hate to be a kid right now,” said board member Tony Serratore, who wondered aloud if the coming PARCC method of student assessment will differ significantly from the well known ACT test, and if that difference will affect students’ ability to get into the college of their choice.
Echoing what many have said in districts across the U.S., Dryier acknowledged that there are still “uncertainties and variables” associated with PARCC implementation and described aspects of the process as “frustrating” and “trying” for administrators and faculty alike.
She encouraged board members to take a longer view, saying that the district’s goal remains to “prepare kids the best way that we can. We truly believe that good instruction, good critical thinking skills will help kids solve problems, regardless of what [those problems] look like,” she said.
“The good news is, we do good instruction here,” she added. “We have good school improvement plans. We are focused on student achievement, regardless of what the [type of] test is. We fully believe that our students will be well prepared for any assessment that may show up on our doorstep next year.”
Dryier added that basic information about PARCC and what it will mean for students in the district will be posted soon at d230.org, but she, and that information may change over time.
A big-picture view of PARCC is available at parcconline.org.
In other matters, board members congratulated and thanked district staff for their handling the Dec. 4 evacuation of Stagg High School, 8015 W. 111th St., Palos Hills.
“We tested before school, during school, after school, outside, inside, in spaces near the boiler,” stated district Superintendent James M. Gay. “We had an outside contractor — White Environmental — come in to help.”
Gay said there is no evidence to suggest any kind of environmental health concern at the school, but that steps have been taken to prevent a re-occurrence of the strange odor that led to the evacuation and to about a dozen students and teachers transported to local hospitals as a precaution.
School officials have said they believe that unusual weather conditions to a high amount of vehicle exhaust to be pulled into the building’s fresh-air intake vents.
The new, preventive steps will be announced at the next board meeting, set for 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 30 at Sandburg, 13300 S. La Grange Road. The public is encouraged to attend.