Illinois is heading the familiar call for a reduction of standardized testing and data that informs instruction. The state summative test, Illinois Assessment of Readiness, or IAR, is administered to meet federal law, which uses them to hold teachers, schools and districts accountable for meeting state educational standards. Like in most states, the summative test in Illinois is taken in the spring. Teachers unions maintain that current systems are not helping children learn, so they are pushing for a change. See below for Illinois’ State Board of Education consideration for overhauling its testing system:
The initial proposal
- Replacing the single year-end test with three smaller tests that would be given in the fall, winter and spring.
- District option of testing children in kindergarten through grade 2.
- ISBE backed away from that plan last year due to teacher and union pushback.
- The union wants to decrease the amount of testing, period!
- Commissioned a survey from the National Center for Assessment to get feedback from teachers, administrators, parents, students and others about ways to improve the state’s testing system.
- Key findings included:
- current testing system doesn’t provide much instructionally useful information because the tests are administered in the spring and results aren’t released until the next fall, after students have already advanced to another grade.
- Too much time is devoted to preparing for and administering tests, taking away from actual classroom instruction.
- State could provide more resources to help local districts give interim tests at different times of the year — tests that would be completely separate from the accountability tests given in the spring — to help teachers tailor their instruction to meet their students’ immediate needs.
- Take its time and move deliberately before making any major changes to the testing system.
- There is high agreement about the need to improve state assessment, but less consensus about what improvement consists of.
- ISBE can play a central role in providing leadership, building up trust, and developing plans that balance moving forward with maintaining needed quality.
- Discussion and considerations is complicated by the use of data, particularly for accountability and rate school performance.
- Issues of equity and fairness are also on the table, especially to minority and low-income students
- There are testing systems available that would produce more useful information for teachers, but many of them don’t report the results in any meaningful way and may create opportunity gaps.
- The work continues.