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Changes coming to state’s controversial test for elementary school students

CTU teacher Carol Hays hands out flyers to students that explain how to refuse to take the PARCC test outside Walsh Elementary School on Wednesday, March 16, 2017. | Santiago Covarrubias/For the Sun-Times

State education officials are eyeing changes to PARCC testing for grade-schoolers across Illinois.

The controversial standardized test — which stands for Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers — has been derided by Chicago Public Schools families, teachers and administrators alike for its length, format and extended turnaround time to receive results.

Now the Illinois State Board of Education is trying to implement tweaks to the testing system to make it more palatable — and functional.

“We are absolutely retaining an anchor set of PARCC items so that we maintain the benefits: its rigor, quality, continuity and comparability,” ISBE spokeswoman Jackie Matthews said. “What is going to evolve is the form and format of that test.”

State officials will soon review bids to make PARCC tests “computer adaptive” — an issue for CPS students who weren’t prepared for computer tests — and to expand testing for students in their native language.

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Portions of the overhaul will take years to implement, including the computer-adaptive testing. Others aimed at improving scoring time could be in place by next year, depending on the bids, Matthews said.

PARCC is given to third- through eighth-graders and some high schoolers. Aligned to Common Core standards, it aims to show how well students are preparing for college at each grade level. Results have arrived by late autumn, rendering them largely useless for parents or teachers.

Its format was previously simplified and shortened, but feedback from students, parents and teachers shows it hasn’t been enough, said Matthews, adding that PARCC remains the state’s only option that meets federal standardized testing requirements.

The state board of will being reviewing vendor proposals next week.