Public school students and their parents in Riverside, Brookfield and North Riverside who take the controversial Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test next year may be relieved by some of the changes to the exam that were announced on May 20 by the PARCC governing board.

Perhaps most significantly, the PARCC test will only be administered one time during the 2015-16 school year. This year, students in grades three through nine sat for the test twice — both earlier this spring — in the so-called performance-based assessment and in the spring for the end-of-year exam. Each testing window lasted eight to nine hours, depending on the grade level, over the course of a week.

“I think making the PARCC once a year makes a lot of sense,” said outgoing Komarek School District 94 Superintendent Neil Pellicci. “I’m very happy that they’ve made some adjustments. 

“It’s kind of common sense and it actually should have been thought out before they put everybody through this year. It’s kind of hindsight, but I guess hindsight in this case is OK, because they are correcting things that they needed to correct.”

According to a statement released by the Illinois State Board of Education, the single testing window “will simplify administration of the test for states and schools that expressed concerns about the challenge of scheduling two testing windows.”

“The test window will be 30 days and will extend from when roughly 75 percent of the school year is complete to the 90 percent mark. Most schools will complete testing in one to two weeks during that window,” according to the statement.

In addition to the consolidated testing window, the number of units on the exam will be reduced “from eight or nine, depending on the grade level, to six or seven.” 

And the amount of time most students will be required to sit for the test will be reduced by 90 minutes — 60 minutes for math and 30 minutes for English language arts.

The significant changes to PARCC come in the wake of a pronounced uptick in the number of students throughout the country, most with the explicit support of their parents, who were opting out of the exam due to a range of concerns about the test. 

Concerns included the amount of time it took to finish the exam, over whether the test had been adequately developed, the rigor of the exam and what some believed to be an overemphasis on standardized testing.

New Illinois State Board of Education Superintendent Tony Smith, who sits on the PARCC governing board, said that the board made the changes “in response to the insights and comments we’ve heard from teachers, students and parents.” 

“These changes to the structure will not take away from the PARCC test’s vital purpose to ensure that each student in every school is learning the skills and knowledge needed in order to advance to the next grade level and ultimately, college and/or careers,” Smith said.