In the final year that the PARCC Exam will be given to high school students in Illinois, test scores rose at Riverside-Brookfield High School and fell at Lyons Township High.
Both RBHS and LTHS did better than the average for the state of Illinois on the 2016 exam, given last spring. Statewide only 34 percent of students taking the PARCC exam met or exceeded state standards. PARCC stands for Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers and is a nationwide consortium.
At RBHS 37 percent of students met or exceeded state standards in 2016 compared to just 26 percent last year. Another 29 percent of RBHS students fell into the middle category of approaching state standards.
At LTHS 43 percent of students who took the PARCC Exam met or exceeded state standards compared to 52 percent last year. An additional 29 percent of LTHS approached state standards in 2016.
Students at RBHS made big gains in math. Forty percent of RBHS students met or exceeded the state standards in math and another 34 percent approached the state standards in math in 2016, compared to just 21 percent meeting or exceeding the state standards in math in 2015.
RBHS Principal Kristin Smetana said that it is difficult to compare 2016 test results to 2015 results, because the PARCC exam was changed and shortened in 2016.
“It is very difficult to draw conclusions between PARCC scores from the last two years,” Smetana said in an email. “The first year of the assessment, baseline data was collected. There were very few practice test questions and both teachers and students had limited information about the assessment.
“During the second administration at the high school level, the test was significantly shortened, which most likely led to the increase in test scores.”
But Smetana said that a new math curriculum implemented at RBHS also could have played a role in the big jump in math scores.
“This new curriculum exposed students to problems that were more similar in format to the PARCC test, which also could have also led to increased scores,” Smetana said.
Scores at RBHS also improved in English and language arts (ELA). In 2016, 35 percent of RBHS students met or exceeded state standards compared to 31 percent who did so in 2015. Another 24 percent of RBHS students approached the state standards in 2016 compared to 22 percent who did so in 2015.
At LTHS 50 percent met or exceeded the state standards in ELA in 2016 while 60 percent did so in 2015. Another 26 percent approached the state standards in ELA at LTHS in 2016.
However, after just two years the PARCC exam will no longer be given to high school students in Illinois. Instead, in the spring of 2017 the state will require high schools to administer the SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) as the state-mandated test.
High school administrators are happy to see the PARCC exam go and believe that the SAT will provide a better gauge of student learning.
“Since it was a standardized test that could not be used for college entrance, many students did not take the test seriously, despite the incentives we put in place to encourage students to give their best effort,” Smetana said. “As a result, the scores on the PARCC tests do not accurately represent the students’ skills and abilities.”
Two years ago, the PARCC exam replaced the Prairie State Achievement Exam (PSAE), of which the ACT was a part, as the state-mandated test for high school students in Illinois.
PARCC scores were difficult to compare, because each individual high school could choose which grade level to test. RBHS gave the PARCC exam to primarily sophomores, LTHS mostly tested freshmen while other schools chose to give the test to juniors.
Whatever grade level was tested received a test appropriate to their grade level in math and ELA. Some freshmen at RBHS, those enrolled in geometry or honors geometry, took the math portion of the PARCC Exam.