Each year, a large number of students go through the terrifying process of preparing to get in to the top schools of Chicago. To be frank, it isn’t easy and not every student is able to successfully land at an elite high school. It was already difficult earlier but recently, Chicago Public Schools added another twist to the entrance exam.
Illinois Standard Achievement Test (I-SAT)
Earlier, the Chicago Public Schools(CPS) used the Illinois Standard Achievement Test (I-SAT) to evaluate the best candidates for the best schools. Broadly speaking, the I-SAT included testing students for admissions in top schools from 3rd to the 8th grade. I-Sat included a math, a reading and a science portion for students grades 4th till 7th.
Northwest Evaluation Association’s Measures Of Academic Progress Test (NWEA-MAP)
Recently, the Chicago Public Schools changed their entrance from the I-SAT to Northwest Evaluation Association’s Measures of Academic Progress test (NWEA-MAP) and the first test scheduled under this new system is in the coming month of May. Conducted through using a computer, this test adapts to the abilities of the candidates, meaning if a student answers a question right, they will get an even harder question the next time and if the student answers it wrong, the next question would be simpler.
The NEWS-MAP test includes reading, math and language tests for secondary grade students, reading and math test for primary grade students, a science assessment is also included which includes general science questions.
Although the NWEA-MAP test seems much intelligent to adapt to the particular skills of all students, but the untimely change in the entrance tests has got Chicago Public Schools facing much criticism by parents and students.
Parents Reaction to the New Exam
Without any prior notice the Chicago Public Schools change their entrance exam three months before the test, a number of parents said, “You know kids have to get straight A’s and do well on the I-SAT, so for years they have been practicing for that test. Then three months before the test the Chicago Public Schools suddenly switches to NWEA-MAP, a test you can’t study for and is much harder. That’s irrational!
Parents also mentioned that apart from the fact that their kids can’t really prepare for the new test, it is adaptive, which means it gets increasingly harder after each question. The students are not able to go back and correct their mistakes. Also CPS students are going for this test the first time whereas private school students have been taking this test for years, which means there is discrimination and inequality.
District officials said that as the Illinois State Board of Education changed the I-SAT, it would no longer provide a percentile score that will rank CPS students according to other students nation-wide therefore they needed a test that provided a national percentile and chose the NWEA-MAP.
As Rebecca Labowitz, a blogger for the Chicago Public Schools said, “It is a crummy year to be a 7th grader because everything is a moving target and it is all coming late!”