High school: Testing standards don’t make the grade
By Tony Graf firstname.lastname@example.org November 3, 2012 5:38PM
Tyree Henderson (left) and other Freshman Academy students use laptop computers in a World Affairs class taught by Jeff Jakob at Joliet West High School Tuesday, October 30, 2012. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 5, 2012 6:29AM
JOLIET — Joliet Township High School believes it has a more reliable gauge of test scores than the one presented last week in the state school report cards.
The No Child Left Behind Act, passed by Congress in 2001, sets standards for adequate yearly progress in student performance on standardized tests. Figures for 2012 show the high school district is not meeting the state standards in reading or mathematics testing, according to the report cards.
In reading tests taken earlier this year at Joliet Township High School, 38.7 percent of students made adequate yearly progress, falling short of the state’s target of 85 percent. On math tests, that number was 36.2 percent, falling short of the state’s 85 percent target.
Joliet Township High School finds these numbers unreliable because they do not follow the same group of students over time and do not track student growth.
The school uses another gauge, the Educational Planning and Assessment System. It tracks freshmen on the Explore test, sophomores on the Plan test and juniors on the ACT national college admissions exam.
Using this gauge, students in the Class of 2012 showed improvement from one test to the next. In fact, the score increase from Explore to Plan was above average for reading in all categories of students.
“The (Prairie State Achievement Examination) provides only a snapshot of student performance and does not measure student growth from one year to the next,” said Karla Guseman, assistant superintendent for educational services. “To obtain a comprehensive measurement of student growth, JTHS uses the EPAS assessment system, which assesses standards that are aligned with the expectations of the Common Core State Standards. JTHS understands that students learn at different rates and enter our school system at different levels. This type of growth model allows us to set student, school and district growth targets. Using the EPAS assessment system, JTHS is able to determine both areas of strength and areas to target for improvement.”
The high school also mentioned its new 1-to-1 technology initiative in the Freshman Academy as an example of improvements.
At both West and Central campuses, every freshman was issued a laptop computer when the academic year began in August. These freshmen are participating in a first-time program designed to improve learning and keep students engaged in lessons.
Overall, the Joliet Grade School District fell short of the adequate yearly progress standards.
However, the district improved its overall mathematics performance, and tied last year’s reading mark, on the Illinois Standards Achievement Test.
For the 2011-12 academic year, at least 85 percent of students taking the test had to meet standards, in both reading and math, in order to meet the overall standard.
In math testing, the district improved and came close to that mark. Overall, 84.1 percent of students met or exceeded standards — coming within 1 percentage point of the mark.
The 84.1 percent is an improvement over 83.3 percent in 2010-11.
In reading testing, the district came to an exact tie of its results from 2010-11. In both years, 70.4 percent of students met or exceeded standards.
“We are proud that we are continuing to make progress,” said Superintendent Charles Coleman. “Our staff is working extremely hard to continue to improve student achievement.”