This June Governor Rauner signed into law Public Act 099-0590. This legislation was intended to bring some much needed transparency to the use of standardized testing in Illinois public schools. It was opposed by the Illinois State Board of Education (in the House and the Senate.)
This law requires that within the first 30 days of the school year, every district must provide a detailed report to the State Board of Ed on the standardized tests to be administered that year in each of its schools, including:
- which tests are to be given;
- when they’ll be given and how long they’ll take;
- who is requiring the tests (i.e. state, district, etc);
- which students will take the tests and
- finally, if the results of the test are to be used for purposes other than for guiding instruction, what they’ll be used for, such as promotion, course placement, graduation, teacher evaluation or school performance ratings.
Importantly, the law also says that every school will also make this same information publicly available to parents.
If you are past the 30th day of the school year in your district, request that your principal provide you with this information. If schools and districts are not providing this information willingly, you can make a Freedom of Information Act request to investigate whether they have provided the information to the IL State Board of Education or whether they are in violation of the law. Email us if you need more information on how to do a FOIA request.
Unfortunately, not every non-teacher created test that’s being administered for purposes other than instruction is covered by this law. The definition used in the law is taken from the IL Administrative Code (p. 6) where different types of assessments are defined:
“Every reliable assessment that measures a certain group or subset of students in the same manner with the same potential assessment items; is scored by a non-district entity; is administered either statewide or beyond Illinois, such as assessments available from the Northwest Evaluation Association, Scantron Performance Series assessments, Renaissance Learning’s STAR Reading Enterprise assessments, the College Board’s SAT, Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate examinations, or ACT’s Educational Planning and Assessment System tests; and will be administered by each school that school year.”
So, for example, a standardized literacy assessment that’s scored by a classroom teacher rather than a non-district employee may be omitted from an inventory of standardized assessments provided to comply with this law.
In addition, within CPS, teachers must administer to at least one or two classes of students a REACH performance task at the beginning and end of the year. REACH task scores are used to evaluate teachers; this was mandated under the new teacher evaluation law passed in 2010, known as PERA. These tasks are not written by a child’s classroom teacher but by a committee within CPS Central Office, and their level of difficulty and appropriateness is questionable.
Because they are not nationally-used standardized tests (and in fact are not standardized in any meaningful way) a school would not have to disclose them under this law. (Also note that a student may opt out of REACH tasks with no consequences, however.)
Given the limitations of this law, we recommend that a school’s assessment list disclosed as part of this law only be a starting point for discussions with your child’s teachers and administrators and your local board of education about your school’s assessment policy.
The first step in pushing back against the misuse and overuse of standardized testing is knowing what testing is taking place. Passage of this law is a good step to improve local and state policy.