Schools to seek assessment help from NU

Haven students peruse their devices on the way to school

Stymied in their efforts to find an assessment system for reading proficiency that provides continuity from the early grades through high school, Evanston’s two public school systems plan to ask Northwestern University for help.

Their efforts were discussed at a twice-a-year joint meeting of the Evanston/Skokie School District 65 and the Evanston Township High School District 202 boards of education, held Monday night at the high school.

The problem was outlined by Peter Godard, District 65’s head of research, accountability, and data, and Carrie Levy, his counterpart at ETHS, in a memo presented to board members before they met.

It started in January, 2015, when the two boards agreed upon a goal “that all students are proficient readers and college and career ready by the time they reach 12th grade.”

Since then, however, “there have been significant disruptions to the state accountability and assessment systems that were to serve as the basis for measuring achievement of this goal,” the two administrators said.

Employing acronyms to describe the various standardized tests used in Illinois, Godard and Levy came face-to-face with this situation:

“At the elementary and middle school levels, the ISAT assessment was replaced by the PARCC assessment in 2014-15 and the PARCC assessment was then redesigned in 2015-16.

“At the high school level, the state replaced the ACT assessment with the PARCC assessment and then the ACT assessment.

“The state has not yet announced which benchmarks it will use to report proficiency on the SAT. Further, the state’s contract for PARCC at the elementary level will soon need to be rebid.”

They tried three new approaches since they last reported to the joint boards at a meeting last March, they said, but the tests they attempted to use were not “aligned” in a way that would produce meaningful results.

So now they have turned to the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern “to review the analysis conducted and provide guidance on how an aligned measurement system can be developed.”

District 202 Board member Jonathan Baum expressed amazement that, with most school systems in the country operating within a kindergarten-through-high-school system,  that a solution to this problem was not readily identifiable.

The newest member on either board, Sergio Hernandez, Jr. of District 65, said he thought “we’re complicating the issue. Our parents just want us to teach their kids how to read.”

Veteran District 202 Board member Gretchen Livingston ended the discussion with a suggestion to “let’s just let the Institute do their work and see what they come up with.”

With that, the group turned to the next item on their agenda.

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