Illinois high school PARCC testing violated federal law, Education Department says
linois' move to get rid of a hodgepodge of high school PARCC exams and give a college entrance exam to 11th-graders was praised by educators who had pushed for change and felt their voices were heard.
But new details show there was more to the story: The testing decision announced Monday came after the U.S. Department of Education determined that Illinois had run afoul of federal law and threatened to withhold federal education dollars because of the controversial way the state tested high school students in 2015 and 2016, records show.
Not all high school students were given the same state exams in reading and math, and the Tribune reported earlier this year that some students were left off the testing rosters, including kids in special education, limited English and even gifted and honors classes.
In April, the USDE placed Illinois in what the agency calls "high-risk status" for not complying with federal testing requirements, according to correspondence provided to the Tribune Friday by the Illinois State Board of Education. That status jeopardizes student poverty-related funds that states receive from the federal government.
"My decision to place Illinois on 'high-risk' status was based on the fact that Illinois did not administer the same assessment to all high school students," said USDE official Ann Whalen in a June 14 letter.
"This ... resulted in districts throughout Illinois holding high school students to different academic content and achievement standards in reading/language arts and mathematics ... based solely on their zip code, and afforded inconsistent information to parents and the public about student achievement among districts in Illinois."
The testing problem is not related to the PARCC test given to students in grades 3-8.
Federal law requires that states give reading and math exams at least once in high school, and beginning in 2014-15, Illinois launched PARCC, short for the Partnership for Assessment in Readiness for College and Careers.
PARCC is a Common Core based exam that focuses on critical thinking and problem-solving and is designed to prepare students for college and work. Test scores have been dismal and the state tests have drawn opposition from families who questioned the amount of testing at school — part of a national movement Illinois high school PARCC testing violated federal law, Education Department says - Chicago Tribune: