Tougher academic standards reflected in state test scores
BY TINA AKOURIS email@example.com October 31, 2013 8:18AM
Updated: December 2, 2013 12:05PM
Even though elementary, middle and high schools in Will County are going to be looking at a drop in test scores when the Illinois State Board of Education’s report cards are released Thursday, parents and educators should not push the panic button.
There are two major reasons why scores are down not just in the county but across most of the state.
The state is transitioning to the new Common Core Standards that are more rigorous and in depth than the previous academic standards. The new standards are, in turn, are raising the cut score — what a student needs to get to pass — for both the Illinois State Achievement Test (ISAT) and the Prairie State Achievement Exam (PSAE), thus making the tests more difficult.
Plainfield School District 202 spokesman Thomas Hernandez said the other reason that the test scores are down is because those Common Core questions appeared on standardized tests that were given in April.
“They made 20 percent of the test questions Common Core questions,” Hernandez said. “They told us about this in December and gave the test in April, so there was not much time for teachers to recalibrate.
“We started telling our community about this a year ago, so this should not be a significant surprise to anyone who has been paying attention to it.”
District 202 is one of the largest school districts in Illinois with 28,560 students, 17 elementary schools, seven middle schools and four high schools.
Even though its schools’ scores dropped by double digits in the elementary-level ISAT, the district’s PSAE (given to high school juniors) scores went up. There was also a slight dip in the high schools’ ACT score for the first time in five years.
An analysis by the Chicago Sun-Times shows the highest-ranking high school in the Herald-News coverage area is Lincoln-Way East, ranked 39th and up from 44th in 2012. All four Lincoln-Way District 210 high schools — East, Central, West and North — are among the top 65 high schools out of 677 statewide that were analyzed.
As for the two high schools in Joliet Township District 204, Joliet West ranked 478 and Joliet Central 540.
District 204 officials refute the state school board’s findings that 42.7 percent of their students are making progress in reading and 34.2 percent in math. The state’s target rate in reading is 85 percent, 92.5 percent in math.
In a statement, District 204 officials said they find the state figures “unreliable” because the same groups of students are not tracked over time.
“The PSAE provides only a snapshot of student performance and does not measure student growth from one year to the next,” said Karla Guseman, the district’s assistant superintendent for education services.
Among the two high schools in Valley View Unit School District 365U, Bolingbrook High ranked 397th to Romeoville’s 488. Both high schools had increases in reading scores and a slight decrease in math scores.
District 365U’s elementary schools tell a bigger story, however.
“Overall, with the ISAT we got mixed results,” said Rachel Kinder, the district’s assistant superintendent of educational services. “We did see gains and decreases, but it was most notable in elementary math. When you look at the state trend for math, there was a drop. But we had three (elementary) schools that went against the state trend in math.”
Kinder said those three are Jamie McGee, Kenneth Hermansen and Pioneer. The Sun-Times’ rankings have Pioneer ranked 531, Jamie McGee 814 and Kenneth Hermansen 1,051 out of 2,169 elementary schools analyzed throughout Illinois.
Jamie McGee’s performance in math during the 2012-13 school year was at 63 percent, higher than the state average of 58 percent; Hermansen’s was right at the state average of 58 percent and Pioneer’s was a strong 69 percent.