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Illinois Business Journal Staff Report
    SPRINGFIELD — Teachers, students and parents who said state assessment testing is taking too much time are being heard at the state level.
    The new Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers assessment will return this coming school year with a shorter, simpler format to improve the testing process for both students and educators.
    The exam was originally divided into two parts that measure different types of knowledge and skills. The PARCC Governing Board voted to consolidate the two testing windows into one and reduce total test time for most students by 90 minutes beginning in the 2015-16 school year. The vote came in response to school district feedback during the first year of testing and a careful review of the test design.
    “The big change is that the new PARCC testing window will only be one time,” Madison County Regional Superintendent Bob Daiber said. “Last year there were two test windows which took additional instructional time. This proposal will take less time from teachers for testing. It also simplifies the test preparation in that there is only one test to prepare students for this coming year.”
    The structural change will not detract from the test’s purpose — to ensure that each student is learning the knowledge needed to advance to the next grade level and ultimately, college and/or careers, said State Superintendent of Education Tony Smith.
    “We made the changes in response to the insights and comments we’ve heard from teachers, students, and parents. We are committed to listening to feedback, now and in the future, and will continue working on the content and process based upon that feedback,” Smith said earlier this year.
    The exam will continue to align to the new Illinois Learning Standards and maintain its focus on critical thinking, concept mastery and writing skills. The assessment will also still provide reliable and valid information about student achievement that can be used to improve teaching and learning for individual students and for students as a group.
    The testing window will be up to 30 days and will extend from roughly the 75 percent mark of the school year to the 90 percent mark.
    “The test will be in the spring, but the test window is not yet set,” Daiber said.
    Going forward, the PARCC exam will also now consist of six or seven test units, depending on grade level, compared to the eight or nine sessions that students took this past school year. The PARCC Governing Board’s decision also reduces the math testing time by 60 minutes and removes a half hour from the English language arts portion for most students. (Each year a limited number of students will participate in an additional embedded ELA field-test unit.)