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Parents in for shock on tougher standardized tests for kids

The tougher test pass line mean thfewer children will meet or exceed standards according state.  | photo

The tougher test and pass line mean that fewer children will meet or exceed standards, according to the state. | photo

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Updated: March 15, 2013 12:17PM

When the state of Illinois adjusted last year’s standardized tests to this year’s tougher standards in an attempt to prepare parents for sticker shock, the scores showed a stark drop.

Last year, 82 percent of grade school students were found to have met or exceeded state standards on the Illinois Standards Achievement Test.

But when adjusted to the new tougher standards, going into effect on the tests students will take in March, only 60 percent made the mark.

The new nonbinding scores are being made public this week by the Illinois State Board of Education, showing how each elementary school across the state would have done under the tougher standards.

“Schools knew that their numbers were going to decrease, and it makes sense when you looked at it,” said Lynn Strevell of the DuPage County Regional Office of Education. “What they’re expected to do is now at a higher standard.”

In 2012, 74 percent of Chicago Public Schools students met or exceeded ISAT standards. The adjusted number is expected to be significantly lower, but CPS declined to release the information Wednesday.

The state board has been making its annual elementary school evaluations harder to give the third- though eighth-graders taking the test a realistic sense of what to expect in high school.

“The lower expectations of the previous performance levels did our students a disservice by not adequately assessing their ability to succeed after high school,” State Schools Superintendant of Education Christopher Koch said in January. “The new, higher expectations will provide more accurate information about a child’s development and allow us to provide the appropriate supports and interventions earlier in a student’s academic career to ensure he or she is on track to enter college or career-training programs.”

Chicago schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett warned parents in a letter: “Even if scores do drop for your child, it does not mean they know less than they did before or are less capable than they were in previous years. ISBE is simply raising the bar on the ISAT in order to align it more closely with standards that better indicate if students are on a path for college and career-readiness.

The state board is changing the ISAT to the new Common Core curriculum in the version all Illinois students will take in March, and also is raising the cut score by which children will meet or exceed standards. Some children who’ve scored well on the test find themselves struggling onhigh school exams, according to the board.

The tougher test and pass line mean that fewer children will meet or exceed standards, according to the state.

The number of kids who meet or exceed standards “is certainly a drop from last year,” said Mary Fergus, spokeswoman for the state board. “We’ve seen incremental increases in the ISAT [scores] all along, so we believe we’ll continue to see an increase even with these higher benchmarks.”

Fergus said the board has sent letters to districts and parents preparing them for the tougher ISAT standards. She said people should keep in mind that these test scores are one of many methods used to assess students.

“This is one measure. It’s an important measure, but there are other measures of knowledge the districts and teachers provide . . . everything from classroom experiences to local tests to class work and homework are all important benchmarks as well,” Fergus said.

By the 2014-15 school year, ISAT will be replaced by a new nationally available test, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, which will be able to compare Illinois students with their peers nationally.

Contributing: Anna Heling

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