Parents’ Guide to New Assessment in Illinois

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Parents’ Guide to New Assessment in Illinois
Posted on 01/12/2015
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In 2010, Illinois began implementing the new Illinois Learning Standards, based on the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The CCSS provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn in English language arts and mathematics as they progress through grades K–12.

In school year 2014-15, Illinois will be rolling out new assessments aligned to the CCSS. The new assessments will be used to gauge how well students are mastering the CCSS — and, ultimately, how ready they are for college and further career education. 

What are the new Illinois Learning Standards based on the Common Core?

The new Illinois Learning Standards based on CCSS are designed to enhance and improve student learning by embracing higher expectations and a clearer focus than the previous learning standards. They are more relevant to the real world, giving young people the knowledge and skills they need for college and career success. 

The new standards emphasize fewer topics and stress not only procedural skills, but also problem solving and Critical thinking. The CCCS build knowledge from grade to grade, enabling students to master important concepts before moving onto others. 

The standards are not a curriculum. Decisions about curriculum, tools, materials and textbooks are best left to local educators and community members who know their students best. 

The CCSS were developed through a state-led initiative, spearheaded by governors and school superintendents, in collaboration with teachers, school administrators, college faculty, parents and education experts. They build on the excellent foundation laid across all states, and have been internationally benchmarked to ensure rigor on par with top-performing nations. 

To date, more than 45 states and the District of Columbia have adopted the CCSS. In 2010, Illinois began implementing the new Illinois Learning Standards, incorporating CCSS changes in each district, school, and classroom. To support professional development and collaboration, Illinois educators have created many free resources for teachers and schools.

Benefits of New Assessments

  • During the next few years, assessments will provide results more quickly and in an increasingly readable and easy-to understand format, most likely online. Parents can use this information to better communicate with teachers and school administrators about their child’s progress, and teachers can use it to better tailor instruction to the child’s needs. 
  • Computer-based assessments will eventually replace pencil and paper tests. Computer-based assessments are more efficient, innovative, and engaging, and they enable insight into student progress at multiple points.
  • The new assessments will be designed to provide accurate measures of achievement and growth for all students, including those with disabilities and English language learners. Online assessments can address visual, auditory, and physical-access barriers for students with disabilities, while enabling them to take tests at the same time as others in their class. English language learners will be able to demonstrate knowledge in the various content areas (e.g., math, science, and social science),regardless of their level of proficiency in English. The intention is not to give these students an advantage, but to provide the accessibility needed for  accurate results.

What Parents Can Expect

This is a new set of standards and assessments with a new way of scoring. Therefore, it is not possible to directly compare new scores with old ones.

The new assessments measure deeper knowledge and skills deemed particularly important for students’ futures, including problem-solving, writing, and critical thinking. Because the standards are more rigorous, student achievement scores may initially be lower. 

A dip should not necessarily be interpreted as a decline in student learning or in educator performance. Educators expect the short-term decline to reverse as teachers and students become more familiar with the standards and better equipped to meet the challenges they present.

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