In the letter, Republican Illinois House members David Reis (R-Ste. Marie) and Dwight Kay (R-Glen Carbon) said more than 60 percent of Illinois public schools are not equipped to use the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) tests because their schools lack the technology and innovation.
The Common Core-affiliated tests demand assessments be done online rather than with pencil and paper as previous testing used. That would mean personal access to computers, laptops or tablets for each student, something way beyond the budget scopes of a majority of Illinois' schools.
Not only is method of testing an issue, Illinois students need more time to get acquainted with the new Common Core-linked Learning Standards.
"llinois needs additional time to allow for the new Illinois Learning Standards to be absorbed by our students before we can start accurately assessing student outcomes, to do otherwise might lead to a false conclusion of failure," the letter says.
The biggest concern is that federal funds will be withheld if every Common Core curriculum demand is not in place.
Then, using the Affordable Care Act is used as a reference, the lawmakers ask for delayed deadlines.
"In the last couple of years we have observed the need on the national level, as demonstrated by the extension of many deadlines in the Affordable Care Act, for some additional time to work out unintended consequences during the implementation of large public policy decisions," Reis and Kay write. "We feel this situation deserves the same consideration. The last thing we need is a public relations nightmare for a new education testing procedure let alone the costs associated with it."
May 13, 2014
United States Department of Education
Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education
400 Maryland Avenue, SW
Washington, D.C. 20202
Illinois is currently in the process of making changes to how we will assess student achievement for students in our public schools. Accurately measuring student growth through assessments allows our local schools, teachers, and administrators the ability to intervene with students or modify lesson plans to achieve maximum student outcomes, while at the same time providing a metric for student growth in regards to teacher evaluations within the State of Illinois.
Illinois will begin brand new assessments that will now be aligned with the new Illinois Learning Standards, also known as the Common Core Standards. The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) is a new way for Illinois schools to assess students by incorporating technology and innovation.
However, there have been a wide variety of concerns that have arisen from superintendents, teachers, parents and school administrators around the State. Most of these concerns revolve around the fact that well over half of all Illinois public schools are not technologically prepared for an all online assessment. Schools will be allowed to administer paper and pencil tests for the 2014-2015 school year, but this comes at an additional cost to the State and could also have unforeseen consequences on the equitability of testing across school districts.
The following are some key concerns that have been brought to us by many local superintendents, teachers, parents, and students:
- PARCC significantly increases the amount of time and frequency that students will spend taking standardized tests, which results in less classroom and instructional time.
- Over 60% of school districts throughout Illinois have claimed that they lack the technology or infrastructure for online testing.
- The State has still not identified how it, or local school districts, will be expected to cover the technological costs associated with the new assessments.
- Many schools are recommending changes to the syntax of several test questions, in addition to multiple requests to make the online assessment easier to navigate.
- The current 11th grade assessment for high school students has the ACT incorporated within the test, something that PARCC does not offer. This allows students an opportunity to take a nationally recognized college readiness assessment that is widely accepted at colleges and universities across the country at no additional cost to the student.
- Most Illinois students, at the 11th grade level, have only been exposed to the curricular rigor associated with the Common Cores Standards for, in some cases, only a couple of years and are now required to take a test that their educational preparation has not been aligned toward.
There is a fear amongst the Illinois State Board of Education that any deviation from the current assessment plan could put federal education funding at jeopardy.
It is with these reasons we request and strongly urge the United States Department of Education to allow Illinois to obtain a two-year extension of any and all federal requirements regarding state assessments, while maintaining our recently acquired ESEA Flexibility Waiver and maintaining all federal funding, during the time Illinois adjusts to the implementation of the new PARCC assessments.
This would give the State an additional year to conduct field tests and acquire possible funding for computers and broadband improvements. Illinois needs additional time to allow for the new Illinois Learning Standards to be absorbed by our students before we can start accurately assessing student outcomes, to do otherwise might lead to a false conclusion of failure.
In the last couple of years we have observed the need on the national level, as demonstrated by the extension of many deadlines in the Affordable Care Act, for some additional time to work out unintended consequences during the implementation of large public policy decisions. We feel this situation deserves the same consideration. The last thing we need is a public relations nightmare for a new education testing procedure let alone the costs associated with it.
We would request that any communication on how Illinois can achieve this waiver be conveyed to the Illinois State Board of Education. We look forward to your prompt response as we craft our annual budget and begin preparation for the 2014 – 2015 school year.
Representative David Reis Representative Dwight Kay
109th District 112th District
632 State House 223-N Stratton Bldg.
Springfield , IL 62706 Springfield, IL 62706