According to statewide data, 70 percent of students scored proficient in reading and 86 percent in math on last year’s ISAT test. Using the new cut scores, those numbers would drop to 60 percent in both reading and math. Compared to previous cut scores, the new cut scores, outlined above, raise the proficient benchmark about 13-17 score points in reading and 21-30 score points in math.
Ann Gill Editor
The Illinois State Board of Education has raised the bar for elementary and middle school students by realigning achievement test scores.
Last month state education officials announced they cut scores for meeting or exceeding state standards as determined by the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT). The move brings scores more in line with the new Common Core State Standards and closer to those used in calculating the Prairie State Achievement Exam (PSAE) taken by every high school junior.
"The lower expectations of the previous performance levels did our students a disservice by not adequately assessing their ability to succeed after high school. The new, higher expectations will provide more accurate information about a child's development and allow us to provide the appropriate supports and interventions earlier in a student's academic career to ensure he or she is on track to enter college or career training programs," said State Superintendent of Education Christopher Koch.
ISAT tests are given to all third through eighth graders each spring. The tests assess students in the areas of math, reading and science.
"Compared to previous cut scores, the new cut scores raise the proficient benchmark about 13-17 score points in reading and 21-30 score points in math," said Tammy Elledge, director of curriculum and instruction for Unit #1.
According to statewide data, 70 percent of students scored proficient in reading and 86 percent in math on last year's ISAT test. Using the new cut scores, those numbers would drop to 60 percent in both reading and math.
Elledge has spent quite a bit of time looking at the scoring data and its local impact.
"Even with the new scores, in some areas we have 80 percent of our students meeting standards which is great," she said.
In a recent report to the Unit #1 Board of Education, Elledge took a look at third grade math scores. Last year 98 percent of students met standards, with the new cut scores that would be 62 percent, a 58 percent decrease.
Elledge also looked at seventh grade reading in which 81.6 percent of students met the state standard. Under the new scoring guidelines 63.2 percent would have met.
"We we're hitting the target but they've moved the target and it keeps moving," Elledge said.
The drop is a result of raising expectations, not a reflection of student or teacher performance, and that is what local school officials want parents and the public to know.
"As always, our school district will embrace this new data and see it as an opportunity for continuous improvement. However, it is important that our school community understands why school districts across Illinois will experience serious declines in the number of their students who meet or exceed standards on the upcoming 2013 ISAT test," said Unit #1 Superintendent Dr. Kent Bugg.
The new expectations do not mean that students know less than they did before.
Elledge said parents who have concerns about how their student is doing should be in contact with teachers who can answer any question they might have about their child's progress.
The new cut scores will be used to score the 2013 ISAT which will be administered at the elementary, intermediate and middle schools starting March 5.
"Raising the cut scores is a definite challenge, but it's not the only new challenge we will be facing on the 2013 ISAT assessment," Bugg said.
In preparation for the state's transition to the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) in 2014, 20 percent of the 2013 ISAT questions will be aligned to the more challenging Common Core curriculum.
Illinois is one of 45 states and five United States territories to adopt Common Core as a means of providing a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn. PARCC is a consortium of 22 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands working together on a common set of assessments in math and reading.
Based on changes in the test and new cut scores, the superintendent is well aware the percentage of Unit #1 students who meet or exceed standards will decline.
Scores on the PSAE, which includes the ACT, will not change. The test will be administered at the high school April 23 and 24.