Student performance on the PARCC exam was low throughout the state, although District 97 students performed better, and participated at higher rates, than students at Oak Park and River Forest High School.
The test, which stands for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, is aligned with the more rigorous Common Core standards. The test replaces the elementary school-level Illinois Standard Achievement Test (ISAT) and the high school-level Prairie State Achievement Examination (PSAE). PARCC scores were released by the state on Dec. 11.
Last spring, students across the state took the new exam for the first time. It was administered in two parts, with the performance-based assessment taken in March and the end-of-year assessment taken in April.
The test comprised two sections — English and Language Arts (ELA) and math. Student performance was scored on a 1 to 5 scale, with 1 indicating “minimal understanding of subject matter” and level 5 showing “distinguished understanding,” according to an Illinois State Board of Education’s PARCC fact sheet.
Levels 4 and 5 scores indicate that students either “met” or “exceeded” expectations, while Levels 2 and 3 indicate that students either “partially met” or “approached” expectations. A level 1 score means a student “did not yet meet” expectations.
At Oak Park and River Forest High School, all students in freshman English and students taking Algebra 1-2, regardless of their grade level, took the PARCC. Ten percent of students who took the test exceeded expectations, while 31 percent met expectations and 47 percent either partially met or approached expectations.
When taken separately, OPRF students’ English and math performance presented striking disparities. Fifty-four percent of OPRF students who took PARCC met or exceeded expectations on the English portion compared to only around 15 percent who met or exceeded expectations on the math portion.
Participation rates also differed markedly, with nearly 11 percent of students not participating in the English portion and nearly 24 percent of the students not participating in the math portion.
In an emailed statement, school officials noted that they’re working on “scheduling and communications designed to increase participation” and success rates. They also noted that many OPRF freshman didn’t have to take the exam since they’ve already completed Algebra 1-2 and are enrolled in more advanced math courses.
“Had all our freshmen been assessed in math, we expect our percent achieving level 4 and 5 scores would have been more similar to prior years’ percentages,” the district stated.
In District 97, the disparity between math and English scores wasn’t as marked. Nearly 68 percent of District 97 third- through eighth-grade students taking PARCC met or exceeded expectations, with roughly 6 percent of eligible students not taking the exam.
Nearly 50 percent of students who took the test met or exceeded expectations on the math portion, with roughly 6 percent not taking the exam.
PARCC results were low for most schools across the state, with even top-tier high schools like New Trier and Hinsdale Central showing a much lower percentage of students demonstrating proficiency on PARCC than on the PSAE, particularly in the math portion.
“While important, the PARCC assessment is only one metric by which we measure student progress,” noted D97 officials in a Dec. 14 emailed statement. “That is why we have and will continue to focus our efforts on creating conditions that promote effective teaching practices and improve student learning versus increasing participation on a single test.”
According to information on the Illinois State Board of Education’s website, the low results connected to the new exam “may seem lower the first few years, since some content varies from previous tests and PARCC asks questions in different ways.”
“Students must now show or explain their work and defend their reasoning. A student who was performing well on the previous tests might not do as well on the new PARCC test, while another student might perform better than before. This first year’s PARCC scores will set a new baseline showing where students excel and where they need additional support.”