There's No Time to Delay on College-Ready Tests in Illinois

For the first time, all Illinois families can examine the health of their local schools with comprehensive data that go far beyond the “temperature check” provided by a single test score. Yet, as Diane Rado reveals in her Illinois Report Card analysis in the Chicago Tribune, this comprehensive checkup was far from rosy in many Illinois high schools. Overall, about two-thirds of Illinois students from the class of 2012 were enrolled in college a year later, but only a quarter of them were “college-ready.”
Across the state, the college-going rates for 16 months ranged from about 7 to 94 percent, reflecting factors that include the diversity of the state's 600-plus public high schools and the influence and expectations of parents about going to college, educators said. But while thousands of the 2012 graduates were headed to college, only about 25 percent of that year's class was considered "college-ready" — meaning they could perform at least average in freshman classes in four key subjects, based on student scores on each section of the ACT. That ACT college-readiness figure was about the same as reported in this year's report card for 2014 graduates.
Illinois School Superintendent Chris Koch acknowledged the wide gulf between college attendance and readiness to succeed in college courses. The disconnect is backed up by national statistics that show that a fifth of high school graduates end up re-taking high school coursework in college remediation classes and only 46 percent of Americans complete college after they start.
One of the reasons we're implementing (new state exams) is that we can determine what students need in terms of remediation...Many students do start college and do not finish, and we want to make sure they are able to complete college.
These new Common Core-aligned exams, PARCC, will be piloted this spring in Illinois and will measure the higher-order thinking skills and knowledge required to succeed in college and careers. And they will prove crucial to diagnosing these gaps far earlier than 11th grade, which is why it is so important that Chicago Public Schools rethink its proposal to delay implementation of the PARCC exams this spring. Dozens of Chicago high schools are below the state average for college-going, even if its elite selective-enrollment schools are tops in the state. Chicago cannot afford to lose momentum around closing the college-readiness gap.  
Tracy Dell’Angela
Tracy Dell’Angela is a writer, education nonprofit executive director and a mom passionate about education improvements. Previously, Tracy was Director of Outreach and Communications for the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) at the U.S. Department of Education in Washington, D.C. She came to IES from the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research, which produces research that ...

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