ISAT changes

Why schools are preparing for lower ISAT scores
By Tara Garcia Mathewson

ISAT score changes

Community Unit District 300 director of transportation Donna Bordsen places a stack of ISAT booklets into a box at the district transportation center in Algonquin. The tests are scored by the state.

A local superintendent uses a health analogy to explain the anticipated drop in student scores on the state’s standardized tests taken earlier this month.

“Imagine if the scales were changed overnight and they lowered them,” said Elgin Area School District U-46 Superintendent José Torres. “Overnight, we haven’t eaten one more piece of candy, one more slice of pizza — we would all become obese. And we haven’t done anything different.”

In U-46, the number of students who are meeting or exceeding standards on the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) is going to decrease by 20 to 30 percentage points — a nose-dive that will occur statewide in school districts, though not all to that degree.

The reason for the slump is a change in the way the state board of education grades the tests — students must do better to be considered “meeting” or “exceeding” standards. Harder questions also may bring scores down, and it won’t be just local districts paying attention.

In addition to creating the impression that more students are failing, this year’s results also may put schools in danger of sanctions at the federal level for failing to meet requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act.

The goal of changing the grading scale is to get Illinois students up to par with more rigorous standards for college and career readiness. A new exam for reading and math will come out in the 2014-15 academic year, entirely tied to the more rigorous Common Core State Standards. The comparatively lax Illinois Learning Standards, unchanged since their adoption in 1997, will be replaced.

Educators across the suburbs have concerns with the changing rubric for the test that third- through eighth-graders take each year, especially because the exam itself changed, with 20 percent of questions aligned to the common core.

Marleis Trover, education department chairman at Eastern Illinois University, calls changing the grading scale and implementing a portion of the common core standards at the same time “a double whammy.”

Read the full article and see a graphic representation of projected score drops for districts across the suburbs here.

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