Superintendent's Message, 2.5.2015

Dear District 96 Families,
As you know, the PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) Assessment is replacing the ISAT (Illinois Standards Achievement Test). When we shared your student’s most recent 2014 ISAT results, we reiterated that it would be for the last time. District 96 will be administering the new assessment as required by the State of Illinois and the U.S. Department of Education.

We are nearing the first testing window for the new PARCC Assessment, which will assess students in Mathematics and English and is completely aligned to the Common Core Standards. As opposed to the old ISAT, the PARCC is administered in two different windows. District 96 will administer the Performance-Based Assessment portion March 9th - 27th and the End-of-Year portion May 6th - 21st. We are working with your student’s principal to design an administration schedule to be shared with you soon.

Forty-three states have adopted the Common Core Standards and will be using assessments aligned to these learning standards. There are two consortiums that have developed Common Core-aligned assessments: PARCC (of which Illinois is a member) and Smarter Balanced. Twelve (12) states, plus the District of Columbia, belong to the PARCC consortium; twenty (20) states belong to the Smarter Balanced consortium. Thus, 32 states will be administering a new aligned assessment developed by one of the two consortiums. The assessments created by each consortium are Common Core-aligned and serve the same purpose. Recent media stories, however, have made this unclear.

Illinois adopted the Common Core Standards in 2010 and District 96 began the process of understanding the standards and creating an implementation plan immediately after the adoption. In fact, we did our Common Core work collaboratively with Lincolnshire District 103, Aptakisic District 102, and Stevenson District 125 to ensure consistency and vertical alignment as students move from elementary to middle to high school.

It’s expected that students will spend more time on the PARCC than they did on the ISAT, but District 96 participated in the PARCC pilot and found that our students needed far less time than allotted. In addition, the assessments will be spread out through the balance of the school year.

While mandated, we do believe that the data from the PARCC Assessment will better inform our curriculum and instruction than the old ISAT, as the new assessment is aligned to our new more rigorous standards and we anticipate that our students will do well. In addition, we will use the results to calibrate our curriculum, to develop district-level goals to drive continuous school improvement, and as one data point to determine the need for intervention. 

District 96 will administer the computer-based version of the PARCC and our teachers have–and will be–working to familiarize students with the format and rigor through classroom instruction. Students have also been engaging in the types of questions presented on the assessment throughout the school year. We have also tested for hardware and infrastructure readiness and have been deemed ready. I have included several resources for you, for a deeper understanding of the assessment and its format. Feel free to access these helpful parent resources at your convenience.

District 96 Curriculum Frameworks
District 96 Pacing Guides
ISBE PARCC Primer for Parents
PARCC’s Resources for Parents

I recognize that some school districts do not feel prepared to administer the PARCC Assessment for a variety of reasons, including lack of access to technology hardware and infrastructure. Those concerns are valid, but in District 96 our belief is that we–and our students–are ready for the PARCC Assessment. What we cannot control is how the assessment system handles the national traffic it will experience during the testing window. As with any new implementation, we will be prepared to work through the challenges, should they occur.

Julie Schmidt, District 96 Superintendent of Schools