A Message From The Superintendent
Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) recently decided to increase
the grading scale for the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT).
The end result is that the percentage of elementary and middle school
students “meeting” or “exceeding” standards is expected to drop
substantially when the scores of this year’s test are reported next
fall—even though their actual scores may increase.
good analogy is a pole vaulter who clears the bar at 12 feet, improves
his vault to 13 feet, but fails because the bar has been raised to 15
feet. His performance improved, but the bar was raised even higher.
reasoning for raising the scores needed to “meet” or “exceed” the ISAT
standard is to better align the ISAT with those of the Prairie State
Achievement Exam (PSAE) administered to 11thgrade students in
Illinois, as well as to align it with the new federal Common Core
standards designed to indicate college and career readiness. This
is part of a transition to the new Partnership for Assessment of
Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) assessment that all schools
will be required to administer beginning with the 2014-2015 school year.
impact will the new grading scale have? By aligning the 2012 test
scores to the new scale, the percentage of students who met or exceeded
state standards would have dropped from 86% in math and 79%in reading to
60% in both subjects. Again, that does not reflect any drop in scores,
just a raising of the bar.
the most distressing aspect of the “transition” from the ISAT to PARCC
assessments and the increase in cut scores is the disregard for how
these changes will impact the children in our classrooms. Why are we
subjecting thousands of children and teachers to the stress of ISAT
administration for the next two years and the humiliation of a
pre-determined course of failure on the ISAT? How do school staff and
parents explain to a 9-year-old that their failure to meet state
standards is to due to a statistical adjustment that will enable ISBE to
avoid the public relations disaster of a dramatic drop in test scores
with the new PARCC assessment? How do school administrators explain to
their dedicated teachers that they are doing an outstanding job of
working with children despite a dramatic downturn in test results?
Elementary School 122 applied the proposed new cut scores to third
grade math results from the 2012 ISAT tests. The result was a change in
the number of third grade students who failed to meet state standards in
math from 12% to 48%. Similar trends will be seen across all grade
levels in districts across the state. ISBE has advised school
administrators to prepare to have “tough” conversations with the many
parents who will be alarmed that their child is now performing
“below”standards on the same state assessment that in previous years
they earned a“meets” or “exceeds” designation. Essentially, LaSalle
Schools will become part of a traditional “bell shaped curve” to
inequitably sort and separate students, for purposes no one really seems
reality, our scores are improving. The trend shows significant
improvements in our scores overtime. That has not changed. Our
students are doing better from year to year. We expect that to continue
and we remain proud of our students and our staff.
are facing many obstacles. With continued decreases in state and
federal funding at a time when “school reform” requires that we do more,
we are asking everyone to do more with less. Despite these challenges,
I continue to believe that we can and will continue to meet the
standard of excellence in education.
Daniel F. Marenda