New standardized testing days implemented at Uni

Up until this year, Uni has been exempt from the mandatory state rule which requires public schools to have student standardized testing days due to Uni’s status as a “laboratory school.” 

However, the Student Services Office (SSO) announced near the end of February that the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) has removed that exemption and Uni will now hold official testing days for subbies through juniors.

In past years, the only presence of standardized testing at Uni was the PSAT, a test given to sophomores and juniors preparing for the SAT that could also award merit scholarships through the National Merit Scholarship Programs, along with the SSAT, which (up until this year) was required to apply to Uni.

On Mar. 21, subbies and juniors experienced this change firsthand with the first standardized testing day since the ISBE’s rule came into effect for Uni.

Both classes took the “Illinois Science Assessment” in Uni Gym during parts of the day, leaving many vacant chairs in classrooms during normal periods which all other students attended as usual. 

Junior Lili Tiouririne mentioned her thoughts regarding the Illinois Science Assessment, saying that the test was a bit pointless.

“I just think it’s lowkey ridiculous because it doesn’t actually go towards anything for us personally, and it’s just another couple hours of us sitting there and doing these questions,” Tiouririne said. “We learned this stuff in subbie science, and you’re testing us on it [during] junior year.” 

On Apr. 13, all subbie, freshman, sophomore, and junior students will participate in the second day of standardized testing, each grade level taking their own respective exam. 

Subbies will take the “Illinois Readiness Assessment” for Math and ELA skills. Freshmen and sophomores will take their own level of the PSAT (PSAT 8/9 for freshmen, PSAT 10 for sophomores). Finally, juniors will take the SAT with essay, a decision that has confused many as College Board – the organization that manages the SAT – had announced many months ago that the essay portion of the exam will no longer be offered.

In past years, Uni students who want to take a standardized test to submit to colleges (SAT or ACT) have done so by scheduling their own testing day at another official exam site such as Centennial High School. With the ISBE’s rule now in-place, juniors have a chance to complete a form of standardized testing without paying to take an equivalent exam somewhere else. However, there are still mixed emotions regarding the required testing.

Tiouririne shared her conflicting thoughts regarding the SAT for juniors as well, saying she could “see both sides.”

“If you take it here, you can still use it for college admissions, and you don’t have to pay, so I definitely understand that aspect,” Tiouririne said. “But, the whole essay thing threw me off because [College Board] took them off all SATs, so why are we taking the essay?”

The SSO has already made many preparations for the upcoming standardized testing day

Courtney Smith, SSO administrator and registrar, spoke about how the test administration process requires intensive planning and scheduling.

“We have to get the spaces ready, which includes tables and chairs for everybody, [and] finding enough spaces in the building, which is difficult because we’re trying to test over 200 students at once,” Smith described. “There’s certain specifications for desks and writing spaces that have to be met, [and] each test has about a 100-page manual that has to be read with rules and instructions… The testing materials themselves have to be prepped, so names, labels, [and] things like that have to be put together and sorted and ready for testing.”

With this being the first year of ISBE testing, the SSO have found the transition a lot to handle according to Smith.

“It’s just a lot because it’s new. Trying to find a day in the calendar is difficult because we already have the year’s calendar planned out, so we had to move the schedule around to accommodate testing,” Smith explained. “We actually had to split up testing into two days again because we have so many tests that we have to give now, and we just don’t have the space to do all of that at once.” 

Additionally, Smith expanded on the challenges these new tests present: “It’s been tough. The PSAT side of it we have done before just with juniors, so that’s just on a broader scale, but some of the Illinois State tests that we have to give to subbies and juniors now, those are more intensive and time consuming. There’s a lot more computer, behind-the-scenes stuff that happens as well.”

Due to seniors not having standardized testing on a school day where no classes are held and everyone else is taking some form of exam, the class will instead participate in a “volunteering day” where seniors will help out in places around the Champaign-Urbana community. 

Associate Director Karl Radnitzer, along with senior sponsor Ben Leff and the senior Student Council members, are helping to make these plans a reality so seniors can get out in their community. According to Radnitzer, some places students could potentially volunteer at include the Champaign County Humane Society, the Urbana Park District, and the Cunningham Children’s Home, among others. 

“We have been talking about [the volunteering day] actually as a staff that on those anchor days, wouldn’t it be cool if on a regular basis, our school could go out and do volunteering,” Radnitzer mentioned. 

He continued by saying, “I thought, ‘Why don’t we try to do something as a group as just the seniors?’… Just half a day as if you were coming in and taking an exam, just to get out in the community and put our name out there [and] do something people are interested in.”

Although official sign-ups regarding the volunteering day have not yet been finalized, senior Ariana Mizan finds the prospect of volunteering with her friends a great opportunity for class bonding.

“I’m pretty excited. I think it’ll be something good for us to do,” Mizan said. “I think it’ll be a class bonding activity before we go, because we only have two months left which is crazy… This will be a really nice time for our class to bond and also do something good for our community.”

As the Uni community approaches the end of the semester, it looks like these standardized testing days will become part of the Uni high school experience for years to come.