PARCC Testing

Test Expectations, Changes, and Parent Involvement

Welcome Parents!

This newsletter brief aims to inform Northtown parents, students, and community members about the Partnership for Assessment of Career and College Readiness (PARCC) test that our students will be taking. The newsletter will highlight what the test is, what the results indicate, what changes have been made since the 2014-2015 school year, and what kind of role you, as a parent, can have with the test.
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What Is PARCC?

What is PARCC?

The PARCC test is a standardized test created to assess student understanding and mastery of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The test requires critical thinking and analysis skills. Currently, the State of Illinois uses CCSS as its standards for student instruction K-12, and as a result, has opted to use the PARCC test to assess the effectiveness and mastery of these standards.

  • As of July 2015, we are one of nine states to administer the PARCC assessment. The other states include Colorado, District of Columbia, Louisiana, Maryland Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, and Rhode Island ("The PARCC Tests", 2015). There has been a decline in states administering the PARCC test since its first inception. Visit the NPR Interview link below for more information about scaling back on the tests and impact on the CCSS.

  • During the 2014-2015 school year, The State of Illinois administered the PARCC test to students in 3-8th grade, as well as select high schoolers. The test is given to assess English Language Arts and Mathematics CCSS. The test was initially given twice in one year, with a Performance Based Assessment (PBA) at the beginning of the year, as well as an End of Year (EOY) assessment ("Fact Sheet", 2015).

  • Testing is available through online or in print testing; according to the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) website, 75% of students in the State of Illinois took the PARCC assessment online. The state plans to have all students take the test online during the 2015-2016 school year ("Fact Sheet", 2015).

Assessment Results

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2014-2015 was the inaugural year for PARCC implementation. Because it was the first year for the test, and changes are still being made, this administration of the test was considered a baseline to determine performance standards for future years ("Fact Sheet", 2015)

Assessment results for the 2014-2015 test were made available to school districts in September for those who took the test online; scores for those who took the written test will be produced later in the year. Students were scores on a 1-5 scale, with 1 showing minimal understanding and 5 showing distinguished understanding. Results will be available so that parents can compare their student's performance with that of other students in a given school, district, or state ("Fact Sheet", 2015).

Students will be provided with a report card, indicating the specific skill and level of mastery. This report card will allow you as parents to get a greater understanding of what your child needs to work on in order to become college and career ready. See the sample student score report provided by PARCC to gain a better understanding of what the results will look like.

According to findings reported in the Chicago Tribune, approximately 17% of high school students who took the test in the state of Illinois met PARCC standards in mathematics, while 31% met these standards in English Language Arts. This is the lowest scores reported for any statewide assessment (Rado, 2015).

The Illinois State Board of Education wished to emphasize PARCC scores are not comparable to ISAT or PSAE tests of the past, and that it is likely that scores may appear lower than what we may expect on previous state assessments. According to ISBE, the "PARCC exam uses higher expectations for what it means for students to truly master content and grade-level standards. These results do not mean our students know less or

are less capable or that our schools are failing...We have simply raised the bar for the type of skills and knowledge students must possess before moving onto the next grade level" ("ISBE Sample School", 2015).

Testing Changes from 2014-2015

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There have been significant changes to the PARCC test from its inaugural implementation in 2014-2015. These testing changes were made because of feedback from students, parents, teachers, administrators, and districts during informal and formal surveys ("PARCC Test Design", 2015). The most important changes are as follows:

  • The testing window is shortened from two to one; students will take one test in the Spring of every year as opposed to two (a PBA and EOY).
  • The test will be shorter; students will spend approximately 90 fewer minutes testing than before.
  • The test will still have an administration window time, but testing changes will allow for more flexibility to fit during the school day and year.

Additionally, PARCC can now be used to obtain college credit

  • Illinois community colleges have agreed to accept qualifying PARCC scores as a baseline for entrance into college courses. Because PARCC indicates college and career readiness, the Illinois Council for Community College Presidents believe it makes sense to utilize these scores in lieu of a college placement exam ("Illinois Council", 2015).

Parent Voices

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We want you, as parents and community members, to be as involved in the implementation process as possible. Please check out these areas of interest for parents:

Students with special needs

  • Dynamic Learning Maps (DLM) - Students with significant cognitive disabilities will take an alternative test to the PARCC. If you are unsure if your child qualifies for this alternative test, please contact Kathryn Coughlin, Director of Student Services.

  • For those who do not qualify to take the DLM, accommodations can be made to the PARCC test itself for diverse learners. Pleas contact Kathryn Coughlin, Director of Student Services to see how your child's IEP accommodations can be applied to the test.

Parents have choice in test administration (opt-out)

  • For the 2014-2015 PARCC test administration, more than 20,000 Illinois students opted out of taking the test. While our schools and school districts cannot refuse to administer the test, parents, if they so choose, can opt their student out of testing. ISBE does not encourage student opt out, as testing data is important to track student and school performance. While there is no formal policy on doing so from ISBE, parent-run website Raise Your Hands has created a sample form letter for parents to create and give to their student's administrators. Schools will typically present an alternative activity in lieu of the test ("Raise Your Hand", 2015). You may view this information at the link below.

Parent Feedback

  • Since scores have now been made available, PARCC and Pearson, the company administering the test, would like feedback on the process. This survey is separate from any survey we conduct as a school. Feel free to provide honest feedback to improve the test and score reporting.


Ms. Wilkie teaches Writing II and serves as the moderator for the NTA Writing Center. Please do not hesitate to contact her with any questions you may have.


Fact Sheet 2015-2016 State Assessment Update. (2015, August 1). Retrieved December 1, 2015, from

Illinois Council of Community College Presidents response to PARCC. (2015, March 12). Retrieved December 1, 2015, from

PARCC Test Design Change Infographic. (2015, May 21). Retrieved December 1, 2015, from

Press Release: Illinois parents and students park the PARCC: More than 20,000 students opt out, State Board of Ed refuses to release data. (2015, November 23). Retrieved December 1, 2015, from

Rado, D. (2015, September 16). Most Illinois students fall short on new PARCC tests. Retrieved December 1, 2015, from

Raise Your Hand. (2015). Retrieved December 1, 2015, from

Segal, R. (2013, July 25). Common Core Could Be Disrupted As States Drop Out Of PARCC. Retrieved December 7, 2015, from

The PARCC Tests. (n.d.). Retrieved December 1, 2015, from

What is PARCC? (2015, April 6). Retrieved December 1, 2015, from