Education

Two years ago, students took a state-mandated science test. Schools just got the results.

Comparing the state tests for Illinois students

In 2018, schools in Illinois were digging into state test data to learn how much students knew about new science standards in 2016. Belleville News-Democrat education reporter Lexi Cortes explains what the Illinois Science Assessment is.
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In 2018, schools in Illinois were digging into state test data to learn how much students knew about new science standards in 2016. Belleville News-Democrat education reporter Lexi Cortes explains what the Illinois Science Assessment is.

Results from a new state test have been released two years after students turned it in, and the budget impasse is getting the blame for the delay.

But some local educators say there’s still plenty to learn from the dated scores about the way they teach.

The Illinois Science Assessment was given to students in 2016. That’s when the state expected schools to have a new curriculum in place based on updated standards for what children should be learning about science.

In Highland District 5, Assistant Superintendent Derek Hacke said the lessons became more hands-on with students, from building things to doing experiments in class.

“We’re trying to do science rather than just read about science,” he said.

Some school officials who saw their students fall short on the assessment said that their curriculum changes either hadn’t hit classrooms by 2016 or that the concepts may have been too new for students to grasp them.

“The two-year-old data will be viewed as a baseline from which to grow,” said Sydney Stigge-Kaufman, spokesperson for East St. Louis District 189. She said schools have since made changes to help students.

The students who are required to take the Illinois Science Assessment each year are in fifth and eighth grades. High school students taking biology for the first time are also tested.

Statewide, an average of 57.5 percent of fifth-graders and 61 percent of eighth-graders in 2016 were considered proficient in science. An average of 40 percent of high school students met the expectations.

More than 90 metro-east schools scored above those averages.

What are top-scoring schools doing right?

Leaders from the top-scoring local schools said, in general, it helped that they were already teaching students what they were expected to know about science. O’Fallon District 203, for instance, didn’t have to change its curriculum in preparation for the test, according to Assistant Superintendent Martha Weld.

O’Fallon Township High School topped the list of local high schools with 66.5 percent of its students meeting the standards on the 2016 assessment.

Children in some of the metro-east schools who performed well on the new science test also had access to technology and resources that other districts might not have.

We’re trying to do science rather than just read about science.

Derek Hacke, Highland District 5 assistant superintendent

Superintendent Lynda Andre said Edwardsville District 7 students have interactive whiteboards in every classroom, microscopes and other equipment, plus an online library of material to help them from home. She said the district can spend up to $1 million on science resources and that having an involved parent-teacher organization is helpful for funding.

“We invest heavily in having good, functioning science equipment,” Andre said.

District 7 had two schools among the top-scoring in the five-county area: Albert Cassens Elementary School and Edwardsville High School.

At Marine Elementary School in Triad Unit 2, every student has a Chromebook laptop to use in school and to take home after class. Triad Superintendent Leigh Lewis said the parent-teacher organization there helps with purchasing those resources, too.

Marine Elementary School fifth-graders helped Triad break into the top-scoring schools in the area for the first time in the last three years of state testing.

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News-Democrat file photo

Lewis thinks their scores might be higher on the 2016 Illinois Science Assessment because students were tested in May, near the end of the school year, which she said gave them more time to learn the new standards. Students usually take state assessments in the spring, between March and April.

Triad also gives students opportunities to learn about science outside the classroom on field trips and through camps, according to Lewis.

“Science is one of those things that can easily be enhanced out of the school day,” she said.

How do schools plan to improve?

East St. Louis District 189 had six schools among the lowest-scoring in the metro-east on the 2016 science assessment. District spokesperson Stigge-Kaufman said educators there were just beginning the process of updating the science curriculum when students were tested.

According to Stigge-Kaufman, teachers and other staff have since received training, and students are getting more hands-on and virtual lab opportunities in East St. Louis classrooms.

She said District 189 has also hired new employees, including:

▪  A science content specialist in 2015 to help with the curriculum.

▪  Science instructional coaches for each middle school in 2017 to help teachers come up with their science lessons.

The two-year-old data will be viewed as a baseline from which to grow.

Sydney Stigge-Kaufman, East St. Louis District 189 spokesperson

Stigge-Kaufman said District 189’s elementary school teachers now specialize in specific subject areas — either science and math or English language arts and social studies.

“This departmentalization allows teachers to focus on subjects they are strongest in and increases their effectiveness with student learning,” Stigge-Kaufman said.

In O’Fallon, most eighth-graders at Joseph Arthur Middle School didn’t meet the state’s standards when they took the science assessment. Central District 104 Superintendent Dawn Elser said the new standards hadn’t been in place that long in 2016 and that students and teachers didn’t know what to expect from the test, which could have contributed to their low scores.

Elser said District 104 is looking for training opportunities for its teachers so they can get a better understanding of the science standards.

032417tvrollerskate
Students from 8th Grade Academy in Cahokia District 187 learned about various sciences while at a special rollerskating class at Skate City in East St. Louis in spring 2017. The students heard about the history of roller skating, the laws of physics that come into play while skating, and here, learned the various parts of roller skates and how to disassemble and re-assemble them. The middle school students were in sixth through eighth grades. Tim Vizer News-Democrat file photo

Assistant Superintendent Hacke said that although Highland District 5 teachers would make time for science, it could be difficult for them because of the focus on preparing students for PARCC, another state test that covers English language arts and math.

“Sometimes, it is very challenging to fit it into the school day when ELA and math requirements and time required for those lessons and teaching those skills has increased over time,” he said. “It’s really squeezed science”

In general, though, students performed better on the new science assessment than they have previously on PARCC.

Statewide, only about 34 percent of students are scoring high enough to meet PARCC’s standards.

Mason-Clark Middle School eighth-graders in East St. Louis scored almost that high on the 2016 science assessment — about 31 percent of them met the standards — and were among the lowest-scoring for their grade level.

How do the state tests compare?

The state’s goal with the PARCC assessment was to move away from asking students to memorize facts. Instead, it asks them to support their answers and show how they solved problems, which Illinois education leaders say will prepare them for college or a career.

The new state test asks students to apply what they know about science. Here’s an example of the kinds of questions students see on the Illinois Science Assessment:

▪  Dragonflies are insects. They have six legs and long, thin bodies. Dragonflies have two pairs of wings. They have two big eyes, and two small antennae. What are these sentences mostly about: why dragonflies fly; where dragonflies live; what dragonflies look like; or how dragonflies use their wings?

Some questions on the science assessment are multiple choice, but others require students to write their own answer, according to the state board. The test covers engineering, technology, applications of science and life science. Fifth- and eighth-graders are also tested on earth and space sciences and physical science.

Students take both the science assessment and PARCC online if their schools have the means.

Time limits are more flexible for the science assessment. It’s designed to take about an hour, but students can take as long as their school allows, according to the Illinois State Board of Education. The only requirement is that they finish the test in one day.

And while PARCC has five categories that students’ scores can put them in — including partially meeting or approaching state standards — they either meet the standards or they don’t on the science assessment.

Why were schools left waiting for results?

Without a state budget for more than two years, the Illinois State Board of Education says it struggled to pay vendors to create and score the science assessment.

State Superintendent Tony Smith has called the timeline for releasing the 2016 test scores “unacceptable.” The results from the science assessment that students took in 2017 are expected to be released next month.

And by the end of February, school districts should also have more detailed information on how much students knew about specific areas of science in 2016.

Right now, schools know what percentage of their students scored high enough for the state to consider them proficient in science. They’re waiting on score reports for individual students, which will give them a better idea of where they might need to make changes to the way they teach science.

Learn more about the Illinois Science Assessment at www.isbe.net/ISA.

Eventually, schools will also send a copy of the student reports to their families.

Parents who don’t receive a report should contact their child’s school or district. They can also request a copy from the Illinois State Board of Education if they know their child’s nine-digit state student ID number by calling 1-866-317-6034.

More students will take the Illinois Science Assessment this spring — sometime between March 1 and April 30.

Shiloh District 85 Superintendent Dale Sauer said he’s looking forward to more feedback in the future because there have been staff changes in the middle school’s science department since 2016. Those changes come after Shiloh Middle School eighth-graders were among the top-scoring in the area.

“... Any new trend data will be helpful in assessing our instruction,” Sauer said.

Megan Braa: 618-654-2366, ext 23, @MeganBraa_

Robyn L. Kirsch: 618-239-2690, @BND_RobynKirsch

At a glance

The following are the percentage of fifth-grade students who met state standards on the 2016 Illinois Science Assessment in schools in the five-county area:

County

City

School

Percentage of students who met standards

St. Clair

Belleville

Wingate Elementary School

81.6

Belleville

Henry Raab Elementary School

76.2

Belleville

Roosevelt Elementary School

73.8

Belleville

Signal Hill Elementary School

60.9

Belleville

Westhaven Elementary School

60.5

Belleville

Harmony Intermediate Center

55.7

Belleville

Jefferson Elementary School

54.3

Belleville

Belle Valley School

54.3

Belleville

Douglas Elementary School

54.2

Belleville

Union Elementary School

50.8

Belleville

Abraham Lincoln Elementary School

50.0

Belleville

Whiteside Middle School

48.5

Belleville

Franklin Elem School

47.6

Cahokia

Estelle Sauget School of Choice

42.9

Cahokia

Huffman Elementary School

19.1

Cahokia

Penniman Elementary School

17.1

Dupo

Bluffview Elementary School

84.2

East St. Louis

Katie Harper-Wright Elementary School

20.8

East St. Louis

Annette Officer Elementary School

15.1

East St. Louis

Gordon Bush Elementary School

9.4

East St. Louis

Dunbar Elementary School

14.8

Fairview Heights

William Holliday Elementary School

56.9

Fairview Heights

Grant Middle School

46.2

Freeburg

Freeburg Elementary School

80.5

Lebanon

Lebanon Elementary School

50.9

Lovejoy

Lovejoy Elementary School

N/A

Marissa

Marissa Elementary School

62.5

Mascoutah

Mascoutah Elementary School

67.6

Millstadt

Millstadt Consolidated School

68.8

New Athens

New Athens Elementary School

68.4

O’Fallon

Estelle Kampmeyer Elementary School

82.9

O’Fallon

Marie Schaefer Elementary School

82.0

O’Fallon

Delores Moye Elementary School

74.4

O’Fallon

Laverna Evans Elementary School

71.4

O’Fallon

J Emmett Hinchcliffe Sr Elementary School

70.9

O’Fallon

Joseph Arthur Middle School

37.9

St. Libory

St. Libory Elementary School

N/A

Scott Air Force Base

Scott Elementary School

73.3

Shiloh

Shiloh Middle School

67.3

Smithton

Smithton Elementary School

73.6

Swansea

Wolf Branch Middle School

76.0

Swansea

High Mount Elementary School

52.1

Washington Park

James Avant Elementary School

21.6

Madison

Alton

Eunice Smith Elementary School

56.5

Alton

Lovejoy Elementary School

50.0

Alton

West Elementary School

40.8

Alton

East Elementary School

38.5

Collinsville

Dorris Intermediate School

43.7

East Alton

Eastwood Elementary School

61.3

Edwardsville

Woodland Elementary School

82.1

Edwardsville

Columbus Elementary School

79.0

Glen Carbon

Albert Cassens Elementary School

84.8

Godfrey

North Elementary School

53.3

Godfrey

Gilson Brown Elementary School

41.7

Godfrey

Lewis & Clark Elementary School

35.5

Granite City

Grigsby Intermediate School

42.5

Hartford

Hartford Elementary School

59.1

Highland

Grantfork Upper Elementary School

81.8

Highland

Highland Elementary School

69.6

Madison

Bernard Long Elementary School

35.6

Marine

Marine Elementary School

86.7

Moro

Meadowbrook Intermediate School

73.8

Roxana

Central Elementary School

52.4

Saint Jacob

St. Jacob Elementary School

77.4

South Roxana

South Roxana Elementary School

44.6

Troy

Silver Creek Elementary School

70.6

Troy

C A Henning School

58.6

Venice

Venice Elementary School

20.0

Wood River

Lewis-Clark Elementary School

50.7

Worden

Worden Elementary School

75.6

Monroe

Columbia

Columbia Middle School

63.8

Valmeyer

Valmeyer Elementary School

54.3

Waterloo

Gardner Elementary School

75.6

Clinton

Albers

Albers Elementary School

94.7

Aviston

Aviston Elementary School

91.2

Bartelso

Bartelso Elementary School

88.2

Breese

St. Rose Elementary School

81.3

Breese

Breese Elementary School

72.7

Carlyle

Carlyle Junior High School

70.4

Centralia

Willow Grove Elementary School

50.0

Centralia

North Wamac Grade School

N/A

Damiansville

Damiansville Elementary School

N/A

Germantown

Germantown Elementary School

83.3

Trenton

Wesclin Middle School

76.8

Randolph

Chester

Chester Elementary School

37.5

Coulterville

Coulterville Elementary School

38.5

Evansville

Evansville Attendance Center

75.0

Prairie Du Rocher

Prairie Du Rocher Elementary School

60.0

Red Bud

Red Bud Elementary School

78.3

Sparta

Lincoln Middle School

45.2

Steeleville

Steeleville Elementary School

65.4

At a glance

The following are the percentages of eighth-grade students who met state standards on the 2016 Illinois Science Assessment in schools in the five-county area:

County

City

School

Percentage of students who met standards

St. Clair

Belleville

Signal Hill Elementary School

86.8

Belleville

Central Junior High School

63.5

Belleville

Belle Valley School

58.4

Belleville

West Junior High School

57.9

Belleville

Whiteside Middle School

57.4

Belleville

Emge Junior High School

43.4

Cahokia

Estelle Sauget School of Choice

43.8

Cahokia

8th Grade Academy

19.1

Dupo

Dupo Junior High School

57.4

East St. Louis

Mason/Clark Middle School

30.8

East St. Louis

Lincoln Middle School

18.6

Fairview Heights

Pontiac Junior High School

68.5

Fairview Heights

Grant Middle School

53.3

Freeburg

Freeburg Elementary School

79.1

Lebanon

Lebanon High School

71.9

Lovejoy

Lovejoy Middle School

N/A

Marissa

Marissa Junior and Senior High School

51.1

Mascoutah

Mascoutah Middle School

79.5

Millstadt

Millstadt Consolidated School

77.2

New Athens

New Athens Junior High School

60.9

O’Fallon

Fulton Junior High School

79.9

O’Fallon

Amelia V Carriel Junior High School

77.8

O’Fallon

Joseph Arthur Middle School

27.7

St. Libory

St. Libory Elementary School

N/A

Shiloh

Shiloh Middle School

88.5

Smithton

Smithton Elementary School

82.1

Swansea

Wolf Branch Middle School

76.5

Swansea

High Mount Elementary School

66.7

Madison

Alton

Alton Middle School

55.3

Bethalto

Wilbur Trimpe Middle School

46.6

Collinsville

Collinsville Middle School

53.7

Edwardsville

Liberty Middle School

76.3

Edwardsville

Lincoln Middle School

74.9

Granite City

Coolidge Junior High School

38.4

Highland

Highland Middle School

66.8

Madison

Madison Junior High School

16.3

St. Jacob

Triad Middle School

64.1

Venice

Venice Elementary School

40.0

Wood River

Lewis-Clark Junior High School

52.9

Monroe

Columbia

Columbia Middle School

69.4

Valmeyer

Valmeyer Jr High

56.0

Waterloo

Waterloo Junior High School

79.3

Clinton

Albers

Albers Elementary School

84.6

Aviston

Aviston Elementary School

76.9

Bartelso

Bartelso Elementary School

73.3

Breese

S.t Rose Elementary School

80.0

Breese

Breese Elementary School

69.5

Carlyle

Carlyle Junior High School

50.6

Centralia

Willow Grove Elementary School

72.7

Centralia

North Wamac Grade School

45.5

Damiansville

Damiansville Elementary School

89.5

Germantown

Germantown Elementary School

77.3

Trenton

Wesclin Middle School

62.0

Randolph

Chester

Chester Elementary School

59.1

Coulterville

Coulterville Junior High School

60.0

Evansville

Evansville Attendance Center

69.2

Prairie Du Rocher

Prairie Du Rocher Elementary School

33.3

Red Bud

Red Bud Elementary School

80.6

Sparta

Lincoln Middle School

58.8

Steeleville

Steeleville Elementary School

43.3

At a glance

The following are the percentages of high school students taking a biology course who met state standards on the 2016 Illinois Science Assessment in schools in the five-county area:

County

City

School

Percentage of students who met standards

St. Clair

Belleville

Belleville East High School

46.7

Belleville

Belleville West High School

38.7

Cahokia

Cahokia High School

11.7

Dupo

Dupo High School

8.0

East St. Louis

East St. Louis Senior High School

0.0

Freeburg

Freeburg Community High School

59.6

Lebanon

Lebanon High School

44.0

Lovejoy

Lovejoy Technology Academy

N/A

Marissa

Marissa Junior and Senior High School

25.9

Mascoutah

Mascoutah High School

54.4

New Athens

New Athens High School

36.7

O’Fallon

O’Fallon High School

66.5

Madison

Alton

Alton High School

31.9

Bethalto

Civic Memorial High School

48.9

Collinsville

Collinsville High School

39.1

Edwardsville

Edwardsville High School

62.5

Granite City

Granite City High School

42.9

Highland

Highland High School

56.6

Madison

Madison Senior High School

3.6

Troy

Triad High School

33.3

Wood River

East Alton-Wood River High School

57.7

Monroe

Columbia

Columbia High School

49.7

Valmeyer

Valmeyer High School

58.6

Waterloo

Waterloo High School

45.6

Clinton

Breese

Central Community High School

48.1

Carlyle

Carlyle High School

32.3

Trenton

Wesclin Senior High School

64.5

Randolph

Chester

Chester High School

42.1

Coulterville

Coulterville High School

N/A

Red Bud

Red Bud High School

30.5

Sparta

Sparta High School

15.3

Steeleville

Steeleville High School

53.3

State

40.8

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