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Chicago District Wants One-Year Delay of PARCC Test

Crossposted from Liana Heitin at Curriculum Matters

Barbara Byrd-Bennett, the CEO of Chicago public schools, announced this morning at a school board meeting that she plans to ask both the Illinois board of education and the U.S. Department of Education to let the district hold off on giving PARCC tests districtwide for another year.

The common core-aligned assessments developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers are scheduled to be administered across the city's public schools this spring. The Chicago district implemented the Common Core State Standards three years ago. Students have been taking tests developed by the Northwest Evaluation Association and ACT—which the district says are also common-core-aligned—for the last several years.

The district will administer the NWEA and ACT tests again this year, according to district officials, because the results of those tests are being factored into teacher, principal, and school evaluations.

In her speech, Byrd-Bennett said she'd like to continue piloting PARCC, but delay full implementation for a year given that students will already be taking common-core-aligned tests. 

District officials mentioned other concerns as well: that students may experience "overtesting"; that not all schools will have the necessary technology to implement the computer-based tests this year; that not all features of the tests were available for practice during last year's field-testing, including some accommodations for English-learners; and that it's still not clear whether the PARCC tests will provide as much instructional information for teachers as the current standardized tests. 

Byrd-Bennett said that, while delaying full implementation, she'd like to expand field-testing to more students this spring. Last year, 10 Chicago schools participated in PARCC field-testing. A district official said there's talk that 10 percent of the district's 400,000 students would take the field test. 

The school board was "almost unanimously" supportive of Byrd-Bennett's decision, according to district officials. The schools chief said she hopes to get a decision from the U.S. Education Department by Thanksgiving. 

Efforts to prevent "overtesting" have been in the news quite a bit recently. Last week, state schools chiefs and leaders from 67 urban districts announced that they would work together to reduce test-taking in public schools. And members of Congress have recently taken an interest in limiting the number of tests students take as well. 

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