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ISAT Scoring Changes: Fewer Crystal Lake, Cary Students Likely to Meet, Exceed Standards

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 son or daughter drops from "exceeds standards" to "meets standards" or from "meets" to "below" standards in the upcoming Illinois Standard Achievement Tests.

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

In recent weeks, elementary school children throughout the area took the ISATs. The higher expectations of the new ISAT cut scores will mean fewer students are expected to meet or exceed standards.

Statewide, 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

In 2011-2012, 91.2 percent of District 47 students met or exceeded standards on the ISAT, according to the Illinois State Board of Education website. 

"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. 

The drop in a student's test score "should not be seen as a decrease in student ability, but rather reflects the new, higher standards with which all educators and students are being held accountable," according to a letter from Assistant Superintendent Rachel Kinder posted on Chicago Tribune

While the initial decline may be discouraging, the "new, higher standards will better inform our teachers and schools, helping to identify those students who need proper supports to reach College and Career Readiness," according to a district board document

In 2010, Illinois became one of 45 states and the District of Columbia to adopt Common Core Standards for public education. 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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