ISBE to move ahead with 3x/year state test despite backlash
Chalkbeat reported last week that the IL State Board of Ed wants to move ahead with a new state test for the 2022-2023 school year that they’ll pilot for two years while students also take the current IAR state test.
The new test would be what testing companies call an "interim" or “benchmark” test—administered three times a year—instead of a once-a-year summative test like the existing IAR. This is bad news as ample research has shown commercial interim tests are not educationally beneficial, and attaching high-stakes compounds the drawbacks.Read more
The IL State Board of Education was set to approve a Request for Proposals for a $227M contract to start on July 1, 2021 to develop and administer a new state test for Illinois at its June board meeting. In response to organizing from teachers, parents and assessment experts, they announced a delay to the vote until at least August.Read more
In April, the IL State Board of Education had on its agenda an approval of a Request for Proposals for a $227M contract to start on July 1, 2021 to develop and administer a new state test for Illinois. The test would be administered three times a year, not just once, and would cover K-2, not just 3-8th, which is what the federal government requires. The approval vote has been delayed until ISBE's June 16th meeting, but much of the pubic participation at this week's May ISBE meeting was devoted to comments on this RFP. Marty Gartzman spoke on behalf of IL Families for Public Schools.
In April, the IL State Board of Education had on its agenda an approval of a Request for Proposals for a $227M contract to start on July 1, 2021 to develop and administer a new state test for Illinois. The test would be administered three times a year, not just once, and would cover K-2, not just 3-8th, which is what the federal government requires. The approval vote was delayed until May, and then delayed again.
This RFP looks like a proposal to make NWEA MAP the state test. (Compare the language on the NWEA website with the RFP.) NWEA was orginally marketed as a formative test, i.e. it was designed to show what students are learning at a given time.
ISBE wants to use scores from three different formative tests to create one final, summative score that they would use for high-stakes purposes of rating schools, even though NWEA was not designed to be used in this way.
For the first two years of the contract, 20% of students will be guinea pigs for the new test and continue taking IAR.
How much extra test prep will students be subjected to moving from having a state test once per year in the spring to three times? This will result in a watering-down of the curriculum as basic skills are emphasized on these tests rather than complex critical-thinking skills and creativity.
Sign up below to get updates and get involved on pushing back on this RFP!
We need less testing and lower stakes, not more. The pandemic has made it clear how important engaging learning experiences, physical activity, social interaction and mental/emotional health are to our children's educational environment. It's also highlighted problems with our assessment and accountability system in Illinois and how those assessments are used.
We need to advocate with our state legislators, the State Board and, ultimately, our US Senators and Congressional Reps, who are responsible for the federal law that drives so much of this overuse and misuse of standardized testing and test scores.
EVERY CHILD CAN REFUSE STATE TESTING!
Especially this year, using time and money to administer state tests isn’t what our children and our schools need:
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What is state testing in Illinois for Grades 3–8?
State testing in Illinois for Grades 3–8 consists of a series of tests. Nearly all students in Grades 3–8 take the Illinois Assessment of Readiness (IAR), which tests students in English Language Arts and Mathematics. Students in Grades 5 and 8 also take a science test (ISA). Students with severe learning disabilities take a different test, called the DLM-AA. Students who are English Language Learners also take a test called ACCESS, which tests their proficiency with the English language.
How is state testing different in 2021?
Unlike previous years, results from state tests will not be used for rating schools or for other state accountability purposes. School districts will have more flexibility about when to administer the test. And no school will face penalties this year for low participation, including loss of funding.
What is opting out of the state tests?
“Opting out” of the test is a decision not to take the tests.
How can my child opt out of taking the state tests in 2021?
In Illinois, a parent can request that a child opt out of the tests but children must refuse the test themselves. We recommend that the parent submit a letter to the school indicating that the child will not take the state tests. However, the child must also inform the teacher that she or he will not be taking the tests. You can use these sample letters to opt out of the tests: bit.ly/ILOPTOUT2021 (in English & Spanish)
What if I have chosen remote learning for my child?
All state tests must be taken in person, even if the parents have chosen remote learning for their child. Families that have chosen remote learning can opt out of the tests if they don’t want their child to go to school to take the tests. You do not have to send your child to school just to participate in state testing.
Will my child be penalized for not taking the test?
No. There are no consequences for not testing and your child should not be punished for opting out of the state test.
Will state tests help my child or school in 2021?
The unique challenges of this school year, including changes to the test administration, mean that the test results this year cannot be used reliably to compare with results from previous years. The delays in getting test results to schools mean they will not provide information that can be used to help your child this year. Schools and teachers will gather better information from everyday instruction that will be more useful for helping your child learn.
What will my child do when tests are being administered to other children?
Students should be given an alternative educational activity while other children are taking the test.
Optar por No Participar en las Pruebas Estandarizadas de Illinois en 2021
¿Que es la prueba estatal en Illinois para los grados 3–8?
Las pruebas estatales en Illinois para los grados 3–8 consisten en una serie de pruebas. Casi todos los estudiantes en los grados 3–8 toman la Evaluación de Preparación de Illinois (IAR), que evalúa a los estudiantes en Artes del Lenguaje Inglés y Matemáticas. Los estudiantes de los grados 5 y 8 también toman un examen de ciencias (ISA). Los estudiantes con discapacidades de aprendizaje severas toman una prueba diferente, llamada DLM-AA. Los estudiantes que están aprendiendo Inglés (ELL) también toman una prueba llamada ACCESS, que evalúa su competencia con el idioma inglés.
¿En qué se diferencian las pruebas estatales en 2021?
A diferencia de los años anteriores, los resultados de las pruebas estatales no se utilizarán para evaluar las escuelas o para otros propósitos de responsabilidad estatal. Los distritos escolares tendrán más flexibilidad sobre cuándo administrar el examen. Y ninguna escuela enfrentará sanciones este año por baja participación, incluyendo la pérdida de fondos.
¿Qué es optar por no participar en las pruebas estatales?
"Optar por no participar" de la prueba es la decisión de no tomar las pruebas.
¿Cómo puede mi hijo/a optar por no tomar las pruebas estatales en 2021?
En Illinois, los padres pueden solicitar que el/la estudiante opte por no tomar las pruebas, pero los estudiantes deben rechazar la prueba ellos mismos. Recomendamos que los padres envíen una carta a la escuela indicando que el/la estudiante no tomará las pruebas estatales. Sin embargo, el/a estudiante también debe informar al maestro que no va a tomar las pruebas. Puede utilizar estas cartas de muestra para optar por no participar en las pruebas: bit.ly/ILOPTOUT2021 (en ingles y español)
¿Qué pasa si he elegido el aprendizaje remoto para mi hijo?
Todas las pruebas estatales deben realizarse en persona, incluso si los padres han elegido el aprendizaje remoto para su hijo/a. Las familias que han elegido el aprendizaje remoto pueden optar por no hacerse las pruebas si no quieren que su hijo/a vaya a la escuela para hacerse las pruebas. Usted no tiene que enviar a su hijo/a a la escuela solo para participar en las pruebas estatales.
¿Será penalizado mi hijo/a por no tomar el examen?
No. No hay consecuencias por no hacer pruebas y su hijo/a no debe ser castigado por optar por no participar en la prueba estatal.
¿Las pruebas estatales ayudarán a mi hijo/a o a la escuela en 2021?
Los desafíos únicos de este año escolar, incluyendo los cambios en la administración de pruebas, significan que los resultados de las pruebas de este año no pueden usarse de manera confiable para compararlos con los resultados de años anteriores. Los retrasos en obtener los resultados de las pruebas a las escuelas significan que no proporcionarán información que se pueda usar para ayudar a su hijo/a este año. Las escuelas y los maestros recopilarán mejor información de la instrucción diaria que será más útil para ayudar a su hijo/a a aprender.
¿Qué hará mi hijo/a cuando se le administren exámenes a otros niños?
Los estudiantes deben recibir una actividad educativa alternativa mientras los otros estudiantes están tomando el examen.
IL-FPS testified on the issue of standardized testing this week at the IL State Board of Ed March Board meeting, and we were happy to learn that ISBE is waiving the grad requirement for current seniors for the SAT. The announcement of this can be found in ISBE's weekly newsletter under assessment.Read more
Despite pleas for state testing waivers this year, Biden administration says tests will go on - with some flexibility
The IL State Board of Ed joined many other states in requesting a waiver for giving state tests this year. This came after over 600 Superintendents in IL, led by Tony Sanders of U-46 Elgin organized the mass effort to inform ISBE and the US Dept of Ed that there should be a pause in testing.Read more
EVERY CHILD CAN REFUSE STATE TESTING!
Especially this year, using time and money to administer state tests isn’t what our children and our schools need:
Laws and policies at the federal, state and local level have attached high-stakes consequences to standardized test scores for students, teachers and schools. The resulting overuse and misuse of standardized testing harms children and schools. It distorts both teaching and learning in the classrooms. High-stakes testing negatively affects children's emotional and mental health. It's narrowed curriculum and educational experiences. And it is used as a lever to under-resource, punish, and close schools in the very communities most in need of educational resources. Families who want to take direct action to oppose the misuse of standardize testing can refuse to allow their children to participate in these tests.
Although the federal government says public schools must administer certain tests, it does not say that every child, against their and their families wishes, must participate in the testing. Although the Illinois State Board of Education does not recognize parents' right to opt children out of testing, they have said districts can develop a policy for those students who refuse testing.
We recommend notifying the school ahead of time that your child will be refusing state testing and requesting info on how the school is planning for students who refuse to test. We have sample language and an FAQ on refusing state tests here. If you have questions, you can call or text 413-3OPTOUT or email [email protected].
Fair Test, a national advocacy group, has extensive background and resources on how and why to opt out here and on the problems with high-stakes standardized testing that motivate families to refuse testing here.
If you are concerned about the impact of standardized testing on children and schools, make sure you are on our mailing list to receive updates about testing-related policy and legislation.
Background on federal and state testing requirements
Since the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) almost two decades ago and now under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the federal government has required all public schools in the United States to administer annual testing in reading and math from 3rd to 8th grade and once in high school and science testing three times across 3rd through 12th grades. English-language learners' proficiency is assessed every year (on top of these other tests in academic subjects, which are administered regardless of a student's fluency in English.)
States can choose which tests to administer to fulfill these requirements. The state pays for federally-mandated testing with state and federal funds. The results of these tests are used as factors in the state's school tier rating system.
For 3rd-8th grade math and reading, Illinois previously used ISAT, then PARCC, and now they use a test that is a slightly shorter version of PARCC, the Illinois Assessment of Readiness or IAR.
After many years of administering ACT, and then briefly PARCC, Illinois now requires high schools to administer the SAT to all 11th graders to comply with the federal requirement for annual testing in high school. Illinois is now also requiring districts to administer PSAT in 9th and 10th grade. (Read about our concerns with how the vendor for the SAT and PSAT is selling student data here.)
For science, Illinois uses the Illinois Science Assessment; this year it will be administered in grades 5th, 8th and 11th.
Students with the most severe cognitive disabilities take neither IAR nor SAT, but instead take an alternative assessment the DLM.
Finally, English-language learners from K-12 are given the ACCESS test to assess their proficiency and need for services as emerging bilingual students.
The state uses these scores as factors to assign a rating of your school's performance (Tier 1-4). Refusal/opt out affects your school’s state rating in two ways. Schools that do not have at least 95% participation will not be able to receive the top rating (“Exemplary” or Tier 1) from the state, and after three years in a row under <95%, schools may be assigned a Tier 3 rating (“Underperforming”).
Also, students who refuse are counted as not having met expectations (even though there's no obligation under federal law to do so). Crucially though, since changes in the federal law passed in 2015, a low rating is not tied to punitive policies but to additional funding for things like improving curriculum or climate. (See p. 84 here.) And note that after many years of mass opt out across the country, the federal government has still never penalized any state or district for low participation rates.
How to find out what testing is taking place at your child's school
The first step in pushing back against the misuse and overuse of standardized testing is knowing what testing is taking place. State law requires each public school to report to the IL State Board of Ed and to parents:
- which tests are to be given;
- when they’ll be given and how long they’ll take;
- who is requiring the tests (i.e. state, district, etc);
- which students will take the tests and
- finally, if the results of the test are to be used for purposes other than for guiding instruction, what they’ll be used for, such as promotion, course placement, graduation, teacher evaluation or school ratings.
If your school hasn't sent this information home or posted it online by the 30th day of school, ask your principal to provide it. Some testing is required by federal or state law, but much is at the discretion of districts and schools. Here's the most recent schedule for 2021 state-mandated testss.
High-stakes attached to testing for the students themselves in elementary school is rare in Illinois outside of Chicago Public Schools. In high school, students must take the SAT in order to receive a diploma; this requirement has been waived for seniors graduating in 2021 due to the pandemic, but not for students graduating in 2022. Check with your school and district administrators and ask for documentation in writing of how test scores will be used; it is their legal obligation to provide you with this information.
You can also check whether your school has provided the IL State Board of Ed with this information via the ISBE website. If the info sent to ISBE seems inaccurate or is missing, let your elected school board or local school council know that your school is out of compliance with state law.
Legislation on testing
Check our legislation page for current testing-related legislation that we are supporting or opposing.
Unfortunately, there are currently no bills to clarify parental rights around opting children out of state-mandated standardized testing. In the past, we have supported bills (like this one in 2018). Under that legislation, parents would be able to notify schools in writing that their child was opting out of any state-mandated standardized testing. The child would be provided with an alternative educational activity during test. There would be no negative consequences for students, families, teachers, administrators, schools or districts. A law like this especially needed to protect children who are not capable of refusing testing themselves but who are directly harmed by participating in testing.
- FairTest: Info about opt out, national and state policy on testing, test-optional college admissions and more, e.g. an explanation of how schools and districts will not lose funding no matter how many students opt out: "Why You Can Boycott Standardized Tests Without Fear of Federal Penalties to Your School"
"Taking Stock: Achievement in Illinois Under NCLB" (2016, Center for Urban Ed Leadership at UIC): Research comparing PARCC to ISAT and NWEA MAP from the Center for Urban Ed Leadership at UIC: "Once cut scores are removed from the mix, achievement patterns on the ISAT, NAEP, ACT and most other standardized tests look remarkably similar. The same is true for recently published results from the 2015 PARCC exam. All of these tests predict each other’s results with high levels of accuracy."
"The Fraud of Computer Scoring on the Common Core Exams" (2016, National Education Policy Center) Describes the problems with computer scoring of written responses. All answers on IAR tests are scored by computers, including essays and extended responses. Computers rely on superficial features and statistical patterns to score answers and cannot meaningfully evaluate high-level thinking skills.