“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”
“Upon the subject of education…I can only say that I view it as the most important subject which we as a people can be engaged in.”
Benjamin School District 25 measures students' academic progress through a variety of teacher-made, textbook-published, nationally-developed assessments. Our faculty has carefully selected these assessment tools based on providing useful results and minimizing time taken away from teaching and learning.
Illinois school districts are mandated to administer a new series of tests created by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC) that replaces the Illinois Standards Achievement Tests (ISAT). This consortium has created the tests to assess the Illinois Learning Standards for our grades 3-8 students in the areas of math and language arts. PARCC was established with federal funds which included 26 member states in 2010, but there are now only a dozen states and Washington, D.C. committed to using the exam this school year, according to PARCC.
Our students took the first series of PARCC tests (Performance-Based Assessments) over a two week time period starting March 9 and will be taking a second series (End of Year Assessments) beginning May 11.
The school board, staff and I have four concerns about PARCC testing to share with you.
- First, the total time for both series of exams is 13 to 14 hours as compared to seven hours on the previous ISAT. Valuable instructional time is being lost due to the length of the exams.
- Secondly, students took the tests online which necessitates students being taught how to use electronic tools such as calculators, protractors, rulers, and highlighters, and to become familiar with the exams' formatting. State-required infrastructure trials involving staff and students were conducted. We estimate each classroom has spent approximately five hours to complete these tasks but precious teaching time has been replaced by the test administration requirements.
- Thirdly, we question how useful the results will be since some of the sample test items appear to be overly complicated and confusing. Students will have to manipulate multiple screens, prompts and the previously mentioned tools. In some cases, students must identify multiple correct answers rather than just a single answer. Below is a sample of a grade four math test question provided by PARCC.
- Finally, some parents have informed us that their children felt frustrated and anxious about the PARCC exams due to the length of the test, the excessive rigor and change in the test format. We assure the entire school community--parents, students, and staff--that it is certainly not our intent to impose unnecessary pressure on them. I am confident that our students are performing to the best of their abilities.
We acknowledge the need for useful assessments that benefit our students and staff. Our school board and faculty welcome accountability, but are wary of the short amount of time to implement the Common Core Standards and the PARCC test administration after only a one-year trial. We pledge to keep you informed of these issues and invite you to visit the school district's website at www.bendist25.org to learn more about this new assessment system.
Illinois School District Rankings
A national organization, SchoolDigger.com analyzes the test scores of school districts to rank schools in each state. Benjamin School District 25 is ranked number 45 out of 747 Illinois school districts. More important than the rankings is how well our students do given the “wealth” of many of the school districts with high test results. Our district’s outstanding performance is due to dedicated and committed educators, hard-working students, supportive parents, and a highly-effective school board!
Teacher Appreciation Week
Please join us in celebrating Teacher Appreciation , May 3 - 9, to spotlight our talented, caring and dedicated educators. We have been positively influenced by educators who have provided a sound education for our citizens.
Philip M. Ehrhardt, Ed.D.