The Illinois State Board of Education might change its standardized testing system. Here’s what Evanston educators think


Daily file photo by Patrick Svitek

The Evanston/Skokie School District 65 Education Center, at 1500 McDaniel Ave. The Illinois State Board of Education is considering updating its end-of-year assessment for third through eighth grade students.

Olivia Alexander, In Focus Editor

After receiving community feedback, the Illinois State Board of Education is considering making changes to the Illinois Assessment of Readiness, which third through eighth grade students take at the end of each school year. 

The agency completed statewide outreach to solicit thoughts from teachers, parents, students and school administrators, ISBE Executive Director of Communications Jackie Matthews told The Daily in an email. 

“We have consistently received feedback from Illinois schools that the current assessment takes too long, delivers results too late and adds too much undue stress to students and educators,” Matthews said. “Our goal is to be responsive to the needs of teachers, students and families.”

ISBE conducted a survey with more than 5,200 respondents on potential changes to the state end-of-year assessment. 

Almost 75% of survey participants said they were not satisfied with the current end-of-year test. More than half of survey responses indicated the current test needed “substantial change.” 

About 60% of survey respondents said they supported a test system with multiple shorter tests throughout the year rather than a single end-of-year assessment. But Matthews said some school districts don’t want to lose local control over curriculum sequencing. 

ISBE is also exploring other options, including making the end-of-year assessment shorter and available on the computer so it can deliver individualized results more efficiently, Matthews said. However, she said these changes could have adverse results.

“Shortening the current test could make the results less accurate,” Matthews said. “Students would have fewer opportunities to demonstrate mastery of a standard, so ISBE would need to consider any unintended consequences.” 

At its Wednesday board meeting, ISBE presented feedback from the 12 focus groups it held with educational leaders from across the state, providing recommendations to the state board. 

Evanston/Skokie School District 65 ​​Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Stacy Beardsley said the Illinois Assessment of Readiness has “strong” standards. She said test materials align with grade level standards, and it’s appropriate to have both open response and multiple choice questions. 

Beardsley also said students have to take significant amounts of time to complete the test. Because test results are released much later, teachers don’t have enough time to revise their instruction to fix identified problem areas. 

“It’s operating as a summative assessment rather than being something that is truly helpful for informing our teaching and learning,” Beardsley said. “My hope is that whatever the state issues going forward is something that is able to deliver results in a more timely and action-oriented manner.”

Matthews said educators and school administrators have disliked the assessment for a long time, and ISBE wants to explore ways to make the test better.

ISBE said any changes made will be in accordance with federal law and approved by the U.S. Department of Education. The state board’s goal is to spend no more on testing than it already does and reduce the amount individual school districts spend on additional local testing. 

“We’re constantly thinking about how we can improve our assessment system to be more responsive to students,” Beardsley said. “Depending on the direction the state goes, we will adjust to try to make sure that when kids are taking assessments, that that data is coming right back in to helping improve the learning experiences.” 

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Twitter: @oliviagalex

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