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ISAT Scoring Will Change—Local Expectations Remain High

Arbitrary "cut" scores are changing to align ISAT scores with ACT and PARCC assessments. That means students' and schools' performance grades are likely to drop in the categories of English and math.

Don't be surprised if your Lake Forest elementary or middle school child drops from "exceeds standards" to "meets standards" or from "meets" to "below" standards in the upcoming Illinois Standard Achievement Tests (ISAT).

The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) last month approved new cut scores that will help align the ISAT results with those of the Prairie State Achievement Exam (PSAE) — colloquially called the ACT test — given to 11th graders, and establish a foundation for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) exam set to debut in the 2014-15 school year.

The higher expectations of the new ISAT cut scores will cause a downward shift in the number of students who meet or exceed standards. According to the 2012 ISAT results, 79 percent of all grade 3 through 8 students scored proficient in reading and 86 percent of students scored proficient in mathematics, according to an ISBE press release

"These higher expectations will result in a significant reduction in the number of students who meet and exceed standards," said Illinois Superintendent of Schools Chris Koch in a statement. 

Standards in the Lake Forest and Lake Bluff Schools have always been high and Lake Forest School District 67 Assistant Superintendent Julie Cooley does not expect that to change. She sees little reason for concern among local students and parents.

“The Illinois Board of Education has determined that the current expectations for students in grades 3-8 are too low and do not give an accurate picture of a student’s ability to succeed in college and the workforce," Cooley said. "These higher standards will cause the number of students who meet and exceed standards in all Illinois districts to be reduced. The expectations and results in Lake Forest have always been rigorous. Even in light of the new standards, our students will continue to be among the highest performing in the state.”

Last year, 96 percent of Lake Forest’s elementary and middle school students exceeded or met state standards, according to Coolie. She expects it to drop to 85 percent under the new standards.

Expectations are no less lofty in Lake Bluff, according to District 65 Superintendent Jean Sophie. “Lake Bluff 65 students achieve at high levels," she said. "We continue to raise expectations and strive for our students to not only meet the common core standard, but exceed state and national expectations to meet our goal of being world class learners.”

In 2010, Illinois became one of 45 states and the District of Columbia to adopt Common Core Standards for public education. The standards are more rigorous and robust than the Illinois Learning Standards previously in place, and are intended to better prepare students for success in college and careers within our increasingly global economy, as well as to compete with peers around the state, the country and the world for the jobs of tomorrow, according to District 58 officials.

The Common Core Standards are set up as year-by-year guidelines outlining the skills and content students must minimally master at each grade level. 

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. The drop is a result of raising expectations, not a reflection of student or teacher performance, according to the ISBE release.

“Raising expectations is never easy, and the anticipated drop in students’ scores will be significant,” Koch said in the ISBE release. “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. I am confident that our students will rise to the challenge and show continued progress under the new performance levels.” 

Editor's note: Patch editor Amanda Luevano contributed to this report.

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Nancy J. Thorner February 21, 2013 at 02:59 PM
The essence of Common Core as explained by The Phyllis Schlafly Report: http://www.eagleforum.org/publications/column/obama-core-is-another-power-grab.html "The Obama Administration has latched onto a new national education curriculum called Common Core that was launched by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers in 2009. Those organizations have very official names as though they are government agencies, but they are actually private groups financed by foundations such as Gates and various corporations. Their plan is to induce all elementary and secondary schools to accept a comprehensive national education system that will enforce a national curriculum. National standards will be locked in by the tests students must take called assessments, which in turn are tied to teacher evaluation. The standards instruct the teachers what to teach so their pupils can pass the tests and teachers can get positive evaluations. The process bypasses parents and state and local school boards and will fundamentally transform education by dictating what every child will learn and not learn. Common Core, on the other hand, requires all states to adopt the same federally endorsed standards. This will be achieved by carrot-and-stick methodology. The carrot is the offer of federal money if the states first adopt the Common Core standards. The stick is the threat to withhold federal funds from states that don't obey."

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