The results of the state’s new PARCC exam were not very pretty for Riverside Brookfield High School as, in an unexpected result, RB students scored worse than the state averages. In the composite scores only 26 percent of RB students met or exceeded state standards compared to 33 percent of students state wide.

At Lyons Township High School 52 percent of students met or exceeded state standards.

But RB principal Kristin Smetana was not especially concerned by the results saying that PARCC is just one test and a new one at that. Smetana places more weight on other assessments that the school has a history with.

“At RB we always look at a variety of assessment measures to monitor student progress,” Smetana said. “We don’t just always look at one assessment so we continue to place value on our ACT scores and our AP participation and our AP pass rates which our students are doing very well on.” 

PARCC stands for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers and the new test replaced the old ISAT, of which the ACT was one component. High schools had a choice of which grade to test and RB chose to test mostly sophomores while LT tested primarily freshmen. So last spring RB tested students who were taking Geometry and English 10 while LT tested students who were taking Algebra I and English 9 and the exam was aligned to those subjects and levels so RB and LT students did not take the exact same test. The multiday PARCC test is based on the new Common Core state standards and seeks to measure higher level thinking skills than the ISAT did. 

Many high school administrators did not support the switch to the PARCC test and say that students did not take the test seriously and may not have given their best effort on the test because, unlike the ACT, the test results have no impact on students’ futures or on their grades.

“We encouraged our students to do their best,” Smetana said. “I think due to the lack of implications our students weren’t very motivated to do their best. There’s not a lot of incentives tied to the PARCC test, meaning it doesn’t count for college entrance and as a result, you know, it’s a very long test and so I think students didn’t take it very seriously, like a majority of students in Illinois.”

 Scott Eggerding, LT’s curriculum and instruction director, said he didn’t find the PARCC results very useful.  

“I really don’t know what to make of the results,” Eggerding said. “The test has already changed. It won’t be given the same way next year. They’ve eliminated some sections and shortened or lengthened other sections.” 

Eggerding also said that LT students had little motivation to take the test seriously.

“They’re not very highly motivated to take it,” Eggerding said. “Our students are questioning why they’re doing it. Our business is teenagers and teenagers are motivated by what does this do for me. ACT is a college entrance exam; they take that very seriously. AP could give them college credit and definitely is something that colleges are looking for. They take that seriously. We still don’t have commitments that PARCC will get you anything at a college or even be used as a placement test.”

Both RB and LT decided not to test juniors because juniors already are typically taking the ACT in the spring of their junior year and many juniors are also taking Advanced Placement exams then. 

“It just didn’t make any sense for juniors to be tested that frequently,” Eggerding said.

When asked about the differences between the LT and RB results Smetana hypothesized that freshmen might have taken the test more seriously than sophomores.

“We gave our test to sophomores and a majority of schools either gave it to juniors or they gave it to freshmen and I think you can get freshmen to be a little more motivated in a situation like that because they’re still new to high school where with sophomores it’s a little harder to motivate them to engage in the test,” Smetana said.

The old ISAT test had four categories while the PARCC has five categories making direct comparisons difficult. 30 percent of RB students approached expectations and another 26 percent of RB students partially met expectations so only 18 percent of RB students were ranked in the bottom category of not meeting expectations. At LT only 8 percent of students of students did not meet expectations.

At Oak Park and River Forest High School 41 percent of students met or exceeded state standards while 25 percent of students did so at Morton West High School.

RB’s PARCC results have already damaged RB in the eyes of some. On the web site, which aims to help homebuyers by ranking schools, RB’s ranking plummeted 202 spots from 36th in the state to 238th and RB fell from a five star ranking to a three star ranking after the PARCC results came in. LT moved up one spot to 31st in the rankings.

Last year was the first year that the PARCC exam was given so the scores at least set a baseline for future comparisons. But the exam will be shortened this year in a response to concerns about schools devoting too much time to testing.