D203 Board weighs in on new performance standards
By Hank Beckman For The Sun February 19, 2013 9:42PM
Updated: March 25, 2013 6:15AM
The Naperville School District 203 Board Tuesday night got a chance to sound off on the new format for test results in the state.
The state of Illinois is in the process of adopting more stringent assessment standards for the Illinois State Achievement Tests.
The new standards may mean that some District 203 schools could fail to make Adequate Yearly Progress under federal No Child Left Behind guidelines.
“It was at 85 percent last year due to a waiver,” Assistant Superintendent of Assessment Tim Wierenga told the Board of Education Tuesday of the number of students that would have been required to make AYP without the waiver.
The waiver was granted in part because Illinois is scheduled to begin using the Common Core Standards. The state has also applied for a waiver this year, and is currently waiting to find out its status.
But the waiver applied for this year will be for almost total immunity from any No Child Left Behind penalties, not the benchmark for students making Adequate Yearly Progress.
Wierenga said that the benchmark would probably call for 92.5 percent of students to make AYP this year.
The new standards apply to elementary schools and will reflect the state’s commitment to the coming Common Core. One reason for the change in assessment is that 20 percent of the material on this year’s ISAT tests will reflect content from Common Core, which is intended to bring students into alignment with national standards.
Complicating matters is that high school students are judged on the Prairie State Achievement Exams, which also contain the ACT college entrance test. So when they get to high school, a more rigorous assessment is made of their skills, which could lead to entire schools not making AYP.
The changes will mean that a student may need to score between 13 and 17 points higher in reading to make Adequate Yearly Progress. In math, the difference will be about 21 points.
To prepare the community for what could look like a severe drop in performance, District 203 released numbers showing what percent of students would have made AYP in 2012 using the new criteria.
In reading, slightly over 90 percent made AYP in 2012, but if the new standards had been in place, only 80 percent would have made AYP.
Math tests told a similar story, with 94 percent making AYP, as opposed to only 80 percent using the new standard.
The fact that the same students could appear to have a sharp dropoff in performance while they may in fact be improving was not lost on board members.
“What are they hoping to accomplish by doing this,” board member Suzyn Price asked.
Wierenga said that the change was made anticipating that the coming Common Core curriculum will be more rigorous.
Board President Mike Jaensch said after the meeting that he was in favor of making curriculum more challenging.
“But this is not making it more rigorous,” he said of the new assessments.
Jaensch said he was confident that District 203 schools would make the grade, but noted that many other school districts in the state were in danger of failing to make Adequate Yearly Progress.
“How does this help anyone,” he asked.