SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois State Board of Education is backing away from a new standardized test for high school students after just two years.
The board announced Monday that the SAT college entrance exam will be given free of charge to all high school juniors during the 2016-17 school year in place of the controversial Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers exam, known as PARCC for short.
The new test, which was designed to align with the new Common Core learning standards being adopted in Illinois and nearly every other state, was first given in spring 2015 and was met with criticism from students, parents, teachers and school administrators.
"District and school administrators overwhelmingly agree with ISBE that every high school junior should have access to a college entrance exam, a policy that promotes equity and access and that provides each and every student with greater opportunities in higher education," said Tony Smith, state superintendent of education, in a prepared statement. "The SAT is aligned with the Illinois Learning Standards and will continue to empower educators to measure college and career readiness."
Schools were already prepared to give the SAT after the state switched away from the rival ACT exam, which was long given as part of the Prairie State Achievement Exam, PARCC's predecessor.
As a result of Monday's announcement, high school juniors will take just one test as part of statewide assessment.
Many local school superintendents were critical of the PARCC exam from the start, and their statewide organization hailed Monday's announcement as the right decision for students.
"This will help alleviate the over-testing of students, save valuable classroom time for instruction and learning and also give us useful data regarding where our students stand regarding college and career readiness," Brent Clark, executive director of the Illinois Association of School Administrators, said in a written statement.
Mike Chamness, a spokesman for the association, said one of the most encouraging things about the board's decision is that it was based on "student-centered input" from teachers and others on the front lines of education.
"It's good to see a state agency respond in that way," Chamness said.
In its first year, the PARCC exam, which is largely given online, was plagued by technology problems and by thousands of students refusing to take the test. The Illinois House even passed a bill this spring that would create ground rules for parents who want their students to opt out.
PARCC exams still will be given to students in third through eighth grades.