Tougher test benchmarks give students a higher place to aim
By Susan Frick Carlman email@example.com February 19, 2013 11:26AM
These figures illustrate the percentage of students district-wide who met or exceeded existing standards on the 2012 Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) and, with the second number, how many would have done so under new, stricter guidelines that are set to take effect with this year’s testing in March.
Indian Prairie District 204
Reading: 92 / 80
Math: 94 / 79
Naperville District 203
Reading: 92 / 80
Math: 94 / 79
Source: Illinois State Board of Education
Updated: March 21, 2013 6:14AM
The results are in, and there’s room for improvement — but that’s the point.
Performance expectations are being raised for many students taking standardized tests in Illinois. Official numbers released last week show that Naperville kids, like their peers statewide, will now need to work harder to be deemed proficient.
As part of the preparations for upcoming implementation of Common Core State Standards designed to boost kids’ readiness for college and careers, the Illinois State Board of Education is upping the ante for students. New testing material has been added to the Illinois Standards Achievement Test, and the performance levels in math and reading required to meet the definition of meeting or exceeding standards will be tougher.
Across Illinois, 79 percent of students in grades 3 through 8 — the testing population for the ISAT — reached proficiency levels in reading last year, and 86 percent achieved that goal in math. But when the new standards were applied to those results for illustration purposes, just 60 percent met the bar in both testing areas.
“This drop is a result of raising expectations, not a reflection of student or teacher performance,” state board spokeswoman Mary Fergus said in an email. “State and district officials expect to see improved test scores as schools and students rise to the new challenges and benchmarks.”
In Indian Prairie District 204 and Naperville District 203, scores fell between 12 and 15 percentage points when the scores were recalculated.
Indian Prairie Superintendent Kathy Birkett, in a message posted on the district website, stressed that the revised guidelines “do not mean that our students know less than they did before or are less capable than they were in previous years.”
District 203 administrators, who were scheduled to make a presentation on the testing changes to the Board of Education Tuesday evening, were not available to discuss the subject until after the board members had heard about it. But district spokeswoman Susan Rice emphasized that instructors do not focus on preparing students specifically for standardized testing.
“Increased rigor is not something this district has ever shied away from, and we are not unprepared to address these recent changes,” Rice said in an email. “With a revised curriculum designed to meet the Common Core State Standards in the development, we anticipate our students will continue to perform at a high level.”
The ISBE also noted that the expectations shift will help pave the way for retirement of the ISAT evaluations after next year’s cycle. The tests are scheduled for replacement with a new standardized measurement, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, in the 2014-15.
Testing materials added to the existing ISAT, along with the increase in the expectations, are intended to make the exam more similar to the Partnership for Assessment measures.