Illinois board of education moves to change state test by 2023

A high school student sits at a black table taking an exam with a yellow No. 2 pencil. Two students sit at black tables behind her taking an exam.

The Illinois State Board of Education is moving ahead with a plan to switch state tests before its existing contract expires in 2025.

That means some students in Illinois school districts will have to take both exams before the state’s contract with developers of the Illinois Assessment of Readiness expires. The new exam could debut as early as the 2023-24 school year.

The board has been working since last spring to determine what the new exam should look like as it aims to have a contract with a vendor by July 2022.  The board wants the assessment to include an optional kindergarten to second grade test and a Spanish Language Arts exam. So far, the board has heard from stakeholders who say that they want an exam that is relevant to their curriculum and instruction, gives data to schools in a timely manner, and provides quality tests for all school districts. 

School district leaders have not found the current end-of-year exam to be useful because the data isn’t shared until  the following fall. A majority of school districts use an interim test to examine students three times a year to track students’ academic progress. 

The Center for Assessment, a Dover, New Hampshire-based nonprofit, and the state board of education held a presentation during the board’s annual retreat on Tuesday to discuss the options for a new exam. The board’s current options for when school districts can take the exam is a shorter end-of-year assessment that meets the federal requirement for testing, an interim assessment without an end-of-year exam, or an interim assessment that matches the end-of-year exam. 

The state hopes the new exam will be cost effective, too. Currently, the end-of-year assessment costs an estimated $251,554,623 over 10 years, but the board says it wants to bring the cost down to  $227,991,866.70. 

State Superintendent Carmen Ayala said Tuesday at the retreat that her goal for a new assessment is to deliver results fast to school districts.  

“We want to be able to reduce testing time and we want to make it cost effective as well,” Ayala said. 

Donna Leak, board member and Superintendent of Community Consolidated Schools District 168, said she hopes that the next stakeholder meeting will include kindergarten to eighth grade educators. 

“At the end of the day, those are the people that actually have to use these assessments in their classrooms to improve outcomes for students,” she said. “I want their voice to be a little louder in the stakeholder engagement sessions.”

The board and the Center for Assessment, along with the State Assessment Review Committee and the Technical Advisory Committee, will host eight stakeholder feedback sessions between now and November. During the board’s December meeting, the Center for Assessment plans to present recommendations for a new assessment so that officials can move forward with a request for sealed proposals. 

The board wants to release the request for sealed proposals by spring 2022.

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