The Illinois State Board of Education will consider raising the performance levels of the Illinois Standards Achievement Test for elementary and middle school students during Thursday's board meeting in Springfield.
"Raising expectations is never easy, and the anticipated drop in students' scores will be significant," said State Superintendent of Education Christopher A. Koch in a statement. "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."
State Board of Education spokesman Matt Vanover said raising performance levels of the ISAT means the scores used to determine whether a student exceeds standards, meets standards, is below standards or falls into academic warning will be altered. The ISATs, used as part of the state and federal accountability system, assess third through eighth graders in math, reading and science each spring.
The proposed performance level changes will raise the score needed for a student to meet or exceed standards. For instance to meet standards currently, a third grader must score 191 to 226 on the ISAT reading test. If the new higher performance levels are approved by the board, a third grader would have to score 207 to 235 on the ISAT reading test to meet the standard.
The higher expectations of the new ISAT cut scores will cause a downward shift in the number of students who meet or exceed standards.
"Students will have to answer more questions correctly to meet standards," said Susan Sarfaty, superintendent of St. Clair County Regional Office of Education. "We are anticipating there will be a drop in the number of students who meet and exceed standards."
According to the 2012 ISAT results, 79 percent of all third- to eighth-grade students scored proficient in reading and 86 percent of students scored proficient in mathematics. 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.
Belle Valley School District 119 Superintendent Louis Obernuefemann said the ISAT scores will be different, but the actual student performance will be the same.
"It's still going to measure the student productivity, but it will do so using a different scale," he said. "It's using a different measurement tool for the same device; it's like using a ruler versus a yard stick."
Harmony-Emge School District 175 Superintendent Pam Leonard said she anticipates the students meeting and exceeding standards in her school district to be reduced by 20 percent to 25 percent if the state board approves the increase in ISAT performance levels.
"It's going to be a little bit of a sticker shock for everybody," she said. "This next year will look different, but as we go down the years, it will get better and better as we will be raising those standards."
In the long run, Leonard said it's going to be better for the students. "It's going to give our kids a better position to be competitive in the global market and that is the long-range goal," she said.
East St. Louis School District 189 Superintendent Arthur Culver said he supports raising the ISAT performance levels. "Every student should be equipped with the knowledge, skills and abilities necessary to pursue higher education and enter the work force in the 21st century," he said. "The current ISAT performance expectations are not aligned to college and career readiness, so this adjustment of performance levels on the ISAT will better inform us of students' progress toward college and career readiness."
Vanover said raising the performance levels will better align with the more rigorous Common Core State Standards being implemented in schools across the state and pave the way for tougher assessments set to debut in 2014-15, which will replace the ISATs.
According to the State Board of Education, ISATs have not proven to be a strong indicator of college and career readiness.
"We're setting those performance levels to be in line with college and career readiness," Vanover said.
He explained there's been a disconnect between the higher scores of the ISAT results, at 82 percent of students meeting or exceeding standards statewide last year, and the lower scores of the Prairie State Achievement Exam given to all 11th graders, at 51 percent statewide last year.
Performance expectations for the science assessments will remain the same until new science standards are finalized later in 2013.
Contact reporter Jamie Forsythe at 239-2562 or firstname.lastname@example.org.