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Pritchard, Smith defend PARCC results at education meeting

State Rep. Robert Pritchard, R-Hinckley (left) was joined Monday by state Supt. Tony Smith on Monday at the lawmakers latest education council advisory meeting at Sycamore High School.
State Rep. Robert Pritchard, R-Hinckley (left) was joined Monday by state Supt. Tony Smith on Monday at the lawmakers latest education council advisory meeting at Sycamore High School.

SYCAMORE – Preliminary results from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) tests students took last spring reveal a state education system that is transforming, state Rep. Bob Pritchard, R-Hinckley, said Monday.

He commented on the data Monday at an education council meeting he holds periodically that allows citizens in his district to weigh in on educational issues. The district covers swaths of DeKalb and Kane Counties, and a small portion of Boone County.

“It says to me that we’re in transition,” Pritchard, who sits on several education committees, said about the test results. “We’re making a lot of changes. And now, on top of all that, we changed the way we’re assessing.”

The meeting at Sycamore High School also touched on other topics, including school funding and new laws related to education.

Pritchard was joined at the meeting by state Superintendent of Education Tony Smith, and the pair defended the new statewide standardized test that sparked some controversy last year when it was rolled out.

Results from the test are scheduled to be released in phases, with the statewide numbers published last week. Smith said the statewide data helps form the baseline scoring that students in each district will be assessed against.

“It’s been slow to get this first round of data,” said Smith. “We don’t even have all the data yet, and, quite frankly, the details of that data is still to-be-determined scrubbed down to the student level. I was really committed to getting as much information out as early as possible.”

The scores fell into one of five categories, ranging from the high of “exceeded expectations” or Level 5, to the lowest or Level 1 “did not meet expectations.”

The first round of scores revealed that 32 percent of Illinois third-graders tested “met expectations” (Level 4) in English, language arts and literacy, while 21 percent did not (Level 1). For fifth graders tested in math, 24 percent “met expectations” while another 31 percent “approached expectations (Level 3).”

Smith told the crowd, which included active and retired teachers, principals, superintendents and parents, that fifth grade was the grade level used to assess how well students would do in high school math.

He said he would not comment further on the results until the student-level results are released, which should be later this fall.

Local educators also were concerned about mandates that result from legislation that often comes without money to help pay for the new rules to be implemented.

DeKalb County Regional Supt. Amanda Christensen asked Pritchard to advise lawmakers scale back on passing new legislation that requires school districts to adopt new policies or revise standing ones.

“Don’t give us anything else for awhile,” Christensen said. “In terms of curriculum mandates and more policies, please hold your colleagues back.”

Pritchard explained that the General Assembly passed 65 education-related bills this past session. Among them were legislation that dealt with school discipline, setting up new divisions within the state board of education, and allowing school nurses to administer opioid antitodes in cases of student heroin overdoses.

“And this was a slow year,” Pritchard said. He explained that many of the freshmen legislators were trying to fulfill campaign promises.

Gov. Bruce Rauner recently announced a push to relieve school districts of the so-called unfunded mandates as part of a broader plan to change course in funding public education in the state.

Smith said he supports the governor’s efforts. He explained, though, that rules regarding civil rights and student safety should remain in tact.

“Individual districts won’t be able to opt-out of those fundamental laws,” he said.

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