As some school districts in the area scramble to prepare for the implementation of Common Core standards next school year, Brookfield-LaGrange Park District 95 has been chosen as a beta-testing site for the new Partnership for the Assessment of College and Career (PARCC) exam, which will replace the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) in 2014-15.

In the next few weeks, third-graders at Brook Park School will take the language arts portion of the PARCC exam as a pilot program being conducted by Pearson Education Inc., the company producing the test.

Brook Park is just one of two schools outside the state of New York to be included in the beta testing. Students at the school will be given the computer-based version of the PARCC test, which asks progressively harder or easier questions based on answers given by students.

“We’ll have a chance to see how our technology holds up to that rigor,” said District 95 Superintendent Mark Kuzniewski.

The results of the pilot exam won’t count for purposes of seeing where District 95 third-graders stand with respect to the new, more stringent Common Core standards. That’s probably a good thing, for now.

According to Kuzniewski, the third-grade beta test will have material that’s completely unfamiliar to this year’s third-graders.

“They’re taking a test over a set of goals and objectives set through the Common Core in areas they have not yet been taught,” said Kuzniewski.

More important than being a beta testing site for PARCC, said Kuzniewski, will be the access District 95 teachers have to resources — things like textbooks, web links, supplemental reading lists — to help them teach to the new standards. 

“The struggle we’ve encountered is, you go in and start to look at third-grade math and what the Common Core standards require. Then you open our third-grade math book, and the information you need no longer exists in the third-grade math book.”

Without resources from Pearson Education, teachers are forced to scratch together the resources. 

“Our hope is that this will serve as a primary resource for teachers, so they don’t have to reinvent the wheel for every lesson,” said Kuzniewski.

Other schools may not have access to any of these resources when the school year begins in the fall, said Kuzniewski. While District 95 has been preparing for the implementation of the Common Core for the past three years, there are some districts that are just beginning to come to grips with the impending changes.

To make matters more complicated, said Kuzniewski, the Illinois State Board of Education has backed off on its initial plan to have all students in the state take a computer-based exam. There is now a paper version of the test, which doesn’t have the same interactive capability of the computer test.

“You can’t replicate it in a paper-pencil test, so how does PARCC become valid, because some schools don’t have the infrastructure to do it?” said Kuzniewski.

There have been calls to postpone the implementation of the Common Core in Illinois, because so many districts aren’t prepared. Some question the cost involved for technology and textbook changes in order to accommodate it. There’s a resolution calling for the delay of implementation, introduced last year, currently languishing in a subcommittee in the Illinois House.

“It’s litany of issues,” said Kuzniewski.