The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) released preliminary statewide scores from this past spring’s Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) assessment yesterday. District-level scores will be released in late-October, and families will see their individual student’s scores sometime in November. Here are the eight key points to know about the PARCC score release.

  1. These are only preliminary scores. The data used to generate these scores are aggregated at the state level, use only the scores from students who took the test online, and have not been “scrubbed” to eliminate duplicate student records or other data inconsistencies. As the results of those students who took the pencil-and-paper, Spanish, and other versions are included and the data is cleaned up, these statewide scores are likely to change.
  2. Higher standards mean higher expectations. The New Illinois Learning Standards for English/Language Arts and Mathematics are higher than our old learning standards and are designed so that students graduating high school are ready to take the next step to college or a career. Students meeting or exceeding the old standards were often not prepared for college or career as nearly half of all students required remedial courses in college. A report last year by Achieve noted that even students who don’t require remedial courses often arrive at college with gaps in their knowledge. In the same report, employers hiring high school graduates reported similar gaps that required additional training before beginning work.
  3. New standards, new assessments, new results. With the New Illinois Learning Standards comes new assessments. The PARCC assessment is very different from the ISAT or PSAE tests that students took in the past. PARCC is aligned to the new standards and asks students not just to reach an answer but to explain how they reached that answer. While ISAT and PSAE generally had a selection of answers to choose from, PARCC required students to come up with a specific answer rather than pick or guess from a list. Because the PARCC assessment tests a student’s abilities differently than the old ISAT and PSAE, the results are different as well. PARCC scores are not higher or lower than before, just different.
  4. The PARCC assessment looks towards the future. The new PARCC assessment is focused not on what a student already knows, but whether a student is ready for the next step in their education. Because the New Illinois Learning Standards are aligned across grades, with each year building on the previous one, students who meet or exceed standards with the PARCC assessment are ready to tackle the challenges of their next step.
  5. Scores are based on standards mastery, not the performance of other students. When families see their student’s scores later this fall, each student will fall in one of five categories:
    • Exceeds expectations (5)
    • Meets expectations (4)
    • Approaches expectations (3)
    • Partially meets expectations (2)
    • Did not meet expectations (1)

In developing the PARCC assessment, teachers helping to create the questions and develop scoring for each question broke down what it really meant for a student to completely understand the standard being assessed. Getting the right answer was part of it, but having an explanation that showed that a student understood how to get the answer (even if they got it wrong) was also important. Consequently, a student’s aggregate score is built up from how they did on each standard for their grade, not compared to how they did relative to other students. It is important for families to focus on where their child has mastered or is struggling with the standards, not on what percentile they fall into. The way the PARCC assessment works, each child is not asked the exact same set of questions, making comparisons between students difficult. Finally, it is far too easy for families to assume that their student is doing fine if they fall in the 75th percentile, but if 80 percent of students are not meeting expectations, a student in the 75th percentile is still not ready to take the next step in their education.

  1. Scores will be released faster in the future. Because this is the first year for the PARCC assessment, teachers and other education experts spent a lot of time dissecting questions and answers to determine what the threshold scores between the five categories should be. Also adding to the delay was the scoring of pencil-and-paper versions. With the threshold scores now being set and as more students take the online version of the PARCC assessment, scores will come back to teachers and families much more quickly.
  2. Results will help teachers and families help students. Teachers will be able to use the results of the PARCC assessment to see which specific standards each student is struggling with. This will allow them to focus on each student’s specific needs. With more and more teachers sharing lesson plans aligned to the common core standards online, a teacher can use specific resources to help an individual student. The PARCC consortium will be releasing a selection of questions from the assessment each year, allowing teachers to use the online PARCC materials to create a quick quiz with a few questions on a specific standard to determine if a student has mastered the standard that they were struggling with. Families will also be able to help their student by using online resources like org, the Khan Academy Common Core lesson series, and the Howard County (MD) Public School System’s Family Mathematics Support Center to focus on the specific areas their child is struggling with.
  3. ISBE has created a new site for families, teachers, and administrators: PARCC Place. PARCC Place is a clearinghouse of information for families, teachers, and administrators on the PARCC assessment in Illinois. Among the resources already available are links for educators, families, and students to PARCC’s online resources and an information sheet of three things families need to know about the changes to this year’s assessments.