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ISAT Scoring Will Change—Fewer Highland Park Students Likely to Meet, Exceed Standards

Arbitrary "cut" scores are changing to align ISAT scores with ACT and PARCC assessments. That means students' and schools' performance grades are likely to drop in the categories of English and math.

Don't be surprised if your District 112 son or daughter drops from "exceeds standards" to "meets standards" or from "meets" to "below" standards in the upcoming Illinois Standard Achievement Tests (ISAT).

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The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) last month approved new cut scores that will help align the ISAT results with those of the Prairie State Achievement Exam (PSAE) — colloquially called the ACT test — given to 11th graders, and establish a foundation for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) exam set to debut in the 2014-15 school year. 

The higher expectations of the new ISAT cut scores will cause a downward shift in the number of students who meet or exceed standards. According to the 2012 ISAT results, 79 percent of all grade 3 through 8 students scored proficient in reading and 86 percent of students scored proficient in mathematics, according to an ISBE press release

"These higher expectations will result in a significant reduction in the number of students who meet and exceed standards," said Illinois Superintendent of Schools Chris Koch in a statement. 

The drop in a student's test score "should not be seen as a decrease in student ability, but rather reflects the new, higher standards with which all educators and students are being held accountable," according to a letter from Assistant Superintendent Rachel Kinder posted on Chicago Tribune

"Your student will have to score higher in order to meet or exceed standards," reads an FAQ available on District 112's website. "As a result, some students who previously met standards will now be classified as needing improvement. This shift in where students rank will likely be significant."

While the initial decline may be discouraging, "these new expectations do not mean that our students know less than they did before or are less capable than they were in previous years," according to the FAQ. "Instead, it means that we are raising the bar on how well students are prepared to meet college and career readiness benchmarks."

Read more: See how Highland Park students did on the ISAT

In 2010, Illinois became one of 45 states and the District of Columbia to adopt Common Core Standards for public education. The standards are more rigorous and robust than the Illinois Learning Standards previously in place, and are intended to better prepare students for success in college and careers within our increasingly global economy, as well as to compete with peers around the state, the country and the world for the jobs of tomorrow, according to District 58 officials.

The Common Core Standards are set up as year-by-year guidelines outlining the skills and content students must minimally master at each grade level. 

When using the new performance levels to analyze the ISAT data collected in spring 2012, the percentage of students who meet and exceed standards drops to 60 percent for both reading and mathematics. The drop is a result of raising expectations, not a reflection of student or teacher performance, according to the ISBE release.

“Raising expectations is never easy, and the anticipated drop in students’ scores will be significant,” Koch said in the ISBE release. “However, we must seize this opportunity to tap into our children’s full potential and better prepare them at an earlier age to compete for jobs in a global economy. I am confident that our students will rise to the challenge and show continued progress under the new performance levels.”

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Additional reporting by Jacob Nelson.

forest barbieri February 26, 2013 at 12:03 AM
As stated, raising the bar on scoring will lower the median performance on a "score" basis. That said, one would hope it will conversely raise the standards of our teachers who will need to improve student comprehension and performance on the test. Remember that US schools are all about teaching to the tests so in reality good will come out of this, as teachers will need to step up their game.

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