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Elementary students still will ‘double test’ as CPS keeps NWEA

Chicago Public Schools will continue to double test students in grades three through eight. | File photo

Chicago Public Schools will continue to double test its elementary students next school year, saying the state hasn’t committed to continuing its own standardized test.

So Chicago’s third- through eighth-graders will continue to take both the NWEA test CPS uses for school rating and teacher evaluation purposes, as well as the PARCC test required by the Illinois State Board of Education, chief education officer Janice Jackson told parents in a letter late Friday.

“CPS plans to continue to use the NWEA MAP exam for students in 2nd through 8th grade for at least another year to ensure consistency in our accountability measurements, pending Board approval,” Jackson wrote. “With the PARCC expiring next year, CPS is not willing to put all our stakes in that assessment until we see a longer-term commitment from the state of Illinois.”

NWEA MAP — or the Northwest Evaluation Association’s Measures of Academic Progress — will also continue to count for selective enrollment admissions next year as promotion in grades three, six and eight, she said.

The decision is costly for the cash-strapped district, which officials say spent $2.2 million on NWEA this school year.

CPS rates its schools on a five-point scale from 1+ at the top to 3 at the bottom, and uses student growth — or the difference between two testing years — as a percentage of the total score. That means the state’s largest school system needs to use the same test two years in a row.

To rate high schools, CPS has used ACT scores. But with 11th-graders switching to the SAT this spring, CPS also told high school parents on Friday that it’ll begin counting SAT scores in the 2017-18 school year but hasn’t yet figured out how to calculate growth.

PARCC was hailed several years ago as an improvement on “bubble-in” state standardized tests like the Illinois Standards Achievement Test because it aimed to get at how students arrived at their answers and made them show their work.

PARCC also tested Common Core state standards and meant to lay out how children were doing, year by year, to be ready for college by high school graduation. But it has lost support, falling from 26 states originally to six plus the District of Columbia fully participating. Illinois also dropped it for high school students but still administers it every spring to third through eighth grades.

ISBE’s PARCC contract expires in June 2018, and the state board hasn’t yet said what it plans to do after that. CPS has had relatively high refusal rates compared with the rest of the state. Some opponents say the lengthy, computer-based test takes up valuable learning time but doesn’t count for anything tangible unlike the other tests CPS students have to take.

District officials say that the district currently meets the 2015 Obama Administration recommendation that students spend no more than 2 percent of instructional time taking standardized tests.

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