Ahead of Wednesday’s IL State Board of Education meeting, thirty-seven Illinois state legislators are sending a letter Tuesday to the Board asking them for more due diligence before any approval vote on a multi-million dollar new state testing system.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 14, 2021
CONTACT Cassie Creswell
Illinois Families for Public Schools
37 STATE LEGISLATORS TO STATE BOARD OF ED:
PUT A HOLD ON STATE TESTING PROPOSAL
Ahead of Wednesday’s IL State Board of Education meeting, thirty-seven Illinois state legislators are sending a letter Tuesday to the Board asking them for more due diligence before any approval vote on a multi-million dollar new state testing system. The letter (attached) will be delivered to ISBE before their Wednesday meeting.
State Superintendent Carmen Ayala first brought this plan to the State Board in April 2021 but the final vote on the proposal has continued to be pushed back.
The $228 million proposal would replace the once-a-year Illinois Assessment of Readiness (IAR), a test of math and reading for grades 3-8, with a three-times-per-year assessment, sometimes referred to as through-year or interim testing. The plan would also begin optional 3x/year testing for kindergarten through second grade.
New testing would require multiple years of piloting the test, which means double testing 20% of students, who would take both the IAR and the new tests. The US Department of Education would need to approve any changes, including how scores from three tests could be combined into one, a practice that no other states currently use for school accountability.
Education researchers question the value of interim testing vs once-a-year summative testing. Chicago Public Schools recently dropped their system of high-stakes interim tests for 3-8th grade in part because of languishing scores; after several years of nationally-renowned growth, the switch to the NWEA MAP test as the district’s high-stakes test coincided with stagnating and in some cases dropping test scores as measured by the National Assessment of Educational Progress.
University of Illinois at Chicago education professor Paul Zavitkovsky explains the discrepancy: “All assessment professionals outside the testing industry will tell you that large-scale standardized tests can’t provide the type of diagnostic information teachers need to inform day-to-day instruction. Test vendors often make strong claims about what interim tests can do. But the research is clear: Large-scale interim tests don’t help improve academic achievement and growth.”
The State Assessment Review Committee, an independent body created by the IL General Assembly to monitor and make recommendations on state assessments, has been meeting over the last several months, but committee member’s questions for ISBE on the research basis for the new testing system have gone unanswered.
Although the plan has been under discussion since spring, ISBE only began to survey stakeholders about the changes this month in a very limited fashion without real dialogue among stakeholders of how to create a balanced assessment system.
State Senator Cristina Pacione-Zayas, one of the signatories of the letter, expressed her concerns about whether there has been sufficient input from those directly affected by changes to the tests, saying: “While serving on the Illinois State Board of Education, I consistently advocated for a robust stakeholder engagement strategy and feedback loop for all aspects of our decision making, especially when millions of tax-payer dollars are at stake. This instance is no exception, and even more critical because of an existing contract that may overlap with the timeframe for implementing a new assessment system.”
The letter was signed by Senators Omar Aquino, Christopher Belt, Meg Loughran Cappel, Jacqueline Collins, Sara Feigenholtz, Robert Martwick, Antonio Muñoz, Cristina Pacione-Zayas, Robert Peters, Mike Simmons, Elgie Sims, Patricia Van Pelt, Karina Villa, Celina Villanueva, Ram Villavalam, and Representatives Jaime Andrade, Dagmara Avelar, Kelly Cassidy, Margaret Croke, Eva-Dina Delgado, Mary Flowers, Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz, Edgar Gonzalez, Jr., Angelica Guerrero-Cuellar, Will Guzzardi, Michael Halpin, Barbara Hernandez, Elizabeth Hernandez, Lindsey LaPointe, Natalie Manley, Theresa Mah, Joyce Mason, Aarón Ortíz, Delia Ramirez, Sue Scherer, Denyse Wang Stoneback, and Ann Williams.