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State

State wants your input on student testing

Officials considering major changes to annual reading, math tests

SPRINGFIELD – State education officials are seeking public input on potentially significant changes to the annual reading and math tests students take each year.

The Illinois State Board of Education has launched an online survey – at isbe.net/assessmentfeedback – to get feedback about how to make those tests “more useful, inclusive, equitable and balanced.”

Annual reading and math tests in every classroom became mandatory nationwide in 2002 with passage of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Testing changed dramatically in 2010 when states, including Illinois, banded together to develop the Common Core Standards.

Last year, the state switched to its own version of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) tests, the Illinois Assessment of Readiness.

ISBE spokeswoman Jackie Matthews said that exam covers the same content and uses the same questions as the PARCC tests but is about one-third shorter.

High school students currently take a version of the PSAT exam or, for 11th-grade students, the SAT exam.

Matthews said ISBE is considering at least three major changes to the way it administers those tests, and is seeking public input about which changes should be given highest priority.

One of those is to develop a “computer adaptive” test in which each successive question might change depending on how the student performed on previous questions. Under that system, questions might get progressively difficult for students who do well on the first few questions, or they might get easier for students who perform poorly at first. That could help teachers better identify exactly where the student is academically.

Another possible change, Matthews said, is to administer “native language” tests for students with limited English proficiency. She said that could be especially important in math exams, which are currently administered in English, making it difficult to tell if the test is measuring a student’s math skills or English skills.

Finally, she said, officials are considering developing “interim” tests that could be given at different points throughout the year to track how well students are progressing.

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