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Q: What are the Illinois learning standards based on the Common Core?

A: They are a higher, clearer and deeper set of learning standards for English Language Arts and math based on what students will need to know to be successful in college and career.

Q: Why is Illinois adopting the Common Core Standards?

A: Learning standards have not been updated in Illinois since 1997 and the world has changed a lot since then. These new standards will ensure that our students are better prepared for college and the workforce by emphasizing more complex content and the development of real-world skills like problem solving, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity.

Q: How are Illinois students doing now?

A: Currently, only one in four of Illinois students graduates ready for college or career. Only 29 percent of Illinois students who begin high school will ever earn a 2- or 4- year college degree in an economy in which most employers are requiring them. We can do better!

Q: When were the Common Core State Standards introduced?

A: The standards began to be introduced in Illinois classrooms fall 2012. All Illinois districts were required to fully implement the standards by fall 2013.

Q: Is Illinois the only state using Common Core based standards?

A: Far from it! Almost every state- 46 in fact- have voluntarily adopted the Common Core and all public schools within those states will use these standards. This consistency means we will be able to accurately compare how our students are doing with those in other states and that Illinois students will be ready no matter where they end up living, working or going to college.

Q: Does my child’s teacher know about this?

A: Absolutely! Teachers across Illinois participated in developing the new standards and have been working hard to prepare to teach to the new standards and support raising the bar for our students.

Q: Does the Common Core tell teachers what to teach?

A: Common Core creates a framework for what students must learn and skills they must develop, but teachers and principals will continue to have the flexibility to create or select the curriculum that best fits the needs of their students.

Q: What will the transition to the new standards mean for my student?

A: During the ramp-up period to the new standards, students’ grades and test scores may drop, so it’s crucial for parents and teachers to work together to help students during the transition. Remember, this doesn’t mean students know less, it means our expectations for what they must learn have been raised.

Q: Are colleges on board with Common Core?

A: Yes. The higher standards will mean students are better prepared for the careers and education they pursue after graduating high school. And better prepared students will mean that fewer students will have to take expensive remedial classes in college.

Q: What can I do as a parent?

• Learn more about the Core! The more you know about standards, tests and what’s expected, the better you can advocate for your children. Check out the Illinois State Board of Education’s Common Core website and visit CommonCoreIL.org for more information and examples of the standards.
• Work with teachers to understand what will be expected of your children this year and create a plan to help them succeed.
• Explain to your children that new higher standards will help them reach their college and career goals.
• Don’t panic if you see a slip in test scores and grades. It’s not that students know less, it’s that we expect them to know more. Research shows that if you raise expectations, students will meet them though it may take some time.
• Keep your eyes on the prize! The Common Core is critical to giving our kids a world-class education that prepares them for college and career. They deserve nothing less!


Q: Will the ISAT continue to be used?

A: The ISAT will be administered for the last time in 2013-14. For this final administration, all of the reading and mathematics questions have been written to test to the Common Core learning standards. A new test called the PARCC will be launched in the 2014-15 school year to replace the ISAT.

Q: What is PARCC?

A: PARCC is the name of the new test that will replace the ISAT and Prairie State Achievement Examination (PSAE) in 2015. It is named for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), a group of 19 states, including Illinois, that worked together to develop a common set of computer-based K-12 assessments in English language arts/Literacy and math aligned with Common Core State Standards. Click here for a list of PARCC states.

Two separate PARCC segments, the Performance Based Assessment (PBA) and the End of Year (EOY) segment will be introduced in spring 2015. All public schools in Illinois will be required to administer the PBA and EOY to grades 3-11. They are computer based tests in math, reading and writing designed to measure students’ content knowledge and key skills such as the ability to think critically, solve problems and use information from their reading material to write well-developed essays.

Q: How will my child benefit from the PARCC assessments?

A: These assessments will provide teachers, parents and students a clearer, more detailed picture of students’ strengths and areas that need improvement. Educators and parents will be able to tailor their attention to a student’s individual needs.

In English language arts/literacy, the ISAT did not assess writing and critical-thinking skills. PARCC will do both. In math, we will move from fill-in-in-the blank “bubble tests” to an assessment that gives students a chance to solve real problems. Plus, students will not only have to solve complex problems, but they will have to show how they arrived at their answers

Q: Why do we need new standardized tests/assessments?

A: New standards require new tests. In 2010, Illinois adopted new learning standards based on the Common Core State Standards. By doing so, Illinois raised expectations about what our kids must learn and be able to do to be ready for life in the real world. We need assessments that are aligned with the expectations of Illinois’ new learning standards.

What’s more, the new tests are being developed in response to the longstanding concerns of educators, parents, and employers who want assessments that better measure students’ critical thinking and problem-solving skills and their ability to communicate clearly.

Q: When will my child begin taking the PARCC test?

A: PARCC will be administered beginning spring 2015. The testing window for the Performance Based Assessment component is March to April, 2015. The testing window for the End of Year  component is April to May, 2015. Some schools will field test portions of the PARCC test during the second half of the 2013-14 school year. Read More

Q: What if my child’s school does not have the technology to do online testing?

A: While our state is working to ensure that all schools have the technology to do online testing; getting all of them prepared will take some time. Until then, paper and pencil tests will be available for schools that do not have the technology to do online testing.

Q: Are college admissions tests like the ACT and SAT changing?

A: No, the ACT and SAT will still be the primary college entrance exams. But mastering the new standards will mean students are not only prepared to excel on college entrance exams, they will also be well prepared to succeed in college.


Q: My child is field testing the PARCC. What does that mean?

A: Over a million students across 14 PARCC states and the District of Columbia will field test portions of the PARCC assessments spring 2014. The field tests are a “test of the test questions” and are designed to determine whether the questions measure what they were designed to measure, and are clear and fair. Two components of the PARCC will be field tested, and most participating students will take one component, not both, though a small percentage of students will field test both components in a single subject. The field tests will take no more than three hours for most students.

Q: What is a field test?

A: A field test is used during the test development process to check on the quality and appropriateness of test items, administration procedures, scoring, and/or reporting. Field testing enables educators and test developers to make sure that an item measures what it is intended to measure—that the questions provide an accurate, fair and valid representation of what students know and can do.

Q: Will the PARCC field test count toward my child’s grades or impact his or her achievement?

A: No. Field tests never count toward a student’s score or ability to advance to the next grade. In fact, you will not receive your child’s scores for the PARCC field test. Students’ scores on these field-test items are only used to evaluate how well the items or test questions capture the knowledge and skills they are designed to measure.

Q: How long will the PARCC field test take?

A: The Illinois State Board of Education expects that by participating in the field test, student ill take an additional two to six hours of testing this spring.

Q: Will my child also take the ISAT during the field test?

A: Unless your child takes the full PARCC assessments in mathematics or English language arts- and very few will- he or she will still take the ISAT. Contact your school for information specific to your child.

Q: How can my child practice taking the PARCC exams?

A: Students can get ready for the field test by checking out publicly released sample items available at www.parcconline.org/computer-based-samples. Plus, all students will be able to try out practice tests when they become available this spring. It’s a way for students to become familiar with the types of test questions and how the technology platform works before taking the full test in spring 2015.


Q: What changes are coming to the Illinois Standards Assessment Test (ISAT)?

A: The ISAT- given in grades 3 through 8-  will be administered for the last time in spring 2014, after which it will be replaced by PARCC. In 2013, in preparation for the transition to PARCC, Illinois changed how the ISAT is scored by raising performance expectations on the test. The change in ISAT scoring was similar to changing a grading scale where from 90-100 was considered an A to now 94-100 is considered an A. This change paves the way for the adoption of more rigorous PARCC tests.

Q: Why was it necessary to change how the ISAT is scored?

A: The previous lower ISAT expectations did not adequately measure students’ ability to succeed after high school. We’ve known for a while that many students who took the ISAT in 3rd-8th Grades and were classified as “meeting standards” did poorly when they took the Prairie State Achievement Examination (PSAE) and the ACT in high school. New expectations will align to the new learning standards (Common Core State Standards) focused on success in college and the workforce.

Q: How will my child’s ISAT scores be affected?

A: Your child will have to score higher in order to be categorized as “meeting” or “exceeding” standards. As a result, some students who previously met standards will now be classified as needing improvement. The higher expectations of the new ISAT cut scores will cause a decrease in the number of students who meet or exceed standards. This drop is a result of raising expectations, not a reflection of student or teacher performance.

Q: Will schools still have to make Adequate Yearly Progress?

A: The state has submitted a comprehensive waiver application to the federal No Child Left Behind Act that proposes using multiple measures to evaluate public schools. The growth model will replace the current status determinations for Adequate Yearly Progress under No Child Left Behind. Schools will instead be assessed on outcomes.