ISAT Scoring Will Change—109 Expectations Remain High

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 Deerfield Public Schools District 109 son or daughter drops from "exceeds standards" to "meets standards" or from "meets" to "below" standards in the upcoming Illinois Standard Achievement Tests (ISAT).

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.

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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. 

Standards in the Deerfield Schools have always been high and Communications Director Cathy Kedjidjian does not expect that to change. She sees little reason for concern among local students and parents.

“As ISAT testing is approaching in early March, we don't want our staff, students or parents to have any anxiety about the change in cut scores,” Kedjidjian said. “Our students ‘jump high’ and we expect they will continue to do so; it's just that the bar they are jumping over is being raised."

Last year, 96.9 percent of District students met or exceeded state standards exceeding the statewide average of 82.1, according to Kedjidjian. 

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.” 

Editor's note: Patch editor Amanda Luevano contributed to this report.

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