Despite a growing outcry from parents and educators to mitigate state exams, this state might introduce more next year.
More than ever, the effectiveness and use of state exams are being questioned by parents and educators. When the majority of states precipitously decided to halt standardized tests amid abrupt school closures, the debate over the need for them was challenged by many. In the past school year, states like Florida have passed laws ditching state testing in favor of alternatives. But despite the growing public outcry to re-evaluate the system, Illinois is looking to increase its presence.
According to reports from Chalkbeat, the Illinois board of education announced plans to consider a change from the normal end-of-year exam procedure at an April board meeting. Last year, the Prairie State decided to end its contract with the nonprofit NWEA, which had previously created academic state exams to be administered in the state. Despite petitions to decrease such testing requirements, the board is still considering a new measure to implement standardized tests three times a year, as opposed to the one-time period the state has been accustomed to.
During the board meeting, the Center for Assessment presented responses from a focal group commissioned to collect opinions from educators, school advocates, and parents. The views were collected to weigh attitudes on state exams’ worthiness. Collectively, the group called on the board to create an assessment system that would respond to the needs of students without putting more pressure on them to comply with stressful state testing all year long. Advocates were left confused and upset that the board failed to consider the clamoring of many that believe state tests should be limited.
Standardized tests are state exams that are administered and scored in a fixed manner. Typically, they are made up of questions that can be automatically scored, like multiple choice and true or false questions. These state exams provide benchmarks to measure student progress. They are mandatory in the United States and can weigh heavily on federal education funding.
More critically, teachers and parents have spoken out about the validity and effectiveness of state exams. To start, many advocates believe these tests induce unwarranted stress on students. More so, this pressure can lead to poor exam performance. Teachers complain that the preparation for them is far too time-consuming, saying it often results in educators having no choice but to “teach the test” instead of providing a broader academic curriculum.
To further prove that state exams do little to help students in school, standardized tests often fail to account for students that learn in alternative ways. Every child is different, and some perpetually perform poorly on tests, while they might actually excel in other ways. For example, a student might be an excellent writer in the classroom, yet fail to be able to correctly identify the correct answer to a multiple-choice question regarding grammar or punctuation.
During a press conference on April 29th, the Illinois Federation of Teachers along with accompanying advocates spoke out against the board’s decision to consider the plan to create more state exams in Illinois. The State Assessment Review Committee is expected to give its proposal to the state board during their May or June monthly meeting. The board of education will afterward decide what type of standardized testing schools will implement next school year.