Statewide ISAT Scores Plummet After Bar is Raised: Only 4th-graders notch passing rate above 60 percent

October 2, 2013, by , Posted in News, 0 Comment

State exam scores plunged to record lows across most grades after the state raised the bar for passing the spring 2013 exams for third- through eighth-graders, according to results released Tuesday.

Overall, math scores took the biggest hit on the Illinois Standards Achievement Tests, which were given in March. The steepest drop was for third-graders taking the math test, state officials reported. Only 54.9 percent of them passed, compared with 87.7 percent the year before.

The percentage of students passing reading and math tests in each of the other grades fell to about 59 percent, compared with the mid-to-high 70s and 80s in prior years.

Only one grade, fourth, posted a passing rate above 60 percent — 60.2 percent on the math exam, according to results released by the Illinois State Board of Education.

The Tribune reported the big drops in scores in a story last week, based on information from local school districts.

In a morning call with news reporters, State School Superintendent Christopher Koch stressed that the declines were expected because the state pushed up the scores required to pass each of the grade school exams in reading and math. The threshold to pass or “meet standards” varies by test and grade and is based on the number of correct answers that correspond to a particular score.

After the scores required to pass were boosted by 13 to 30 points, thousands more students flunked.

“The new expectations do not mean that our students know less or are less capable than they were in previous years,” Koch said.

Raising the bar to pass the grade school exams better prepares students for high schooland keeps them on track for college, careers and daily life, he said.

State officials said students have steadily improved their performance on most reading and math exams. That is based on an analysis that converts test results from prior years — applying the new passing requirements — so they can be compared with the 2013 exam results.

Science exams for fourth- and seventh-graders were not affected by the new passing requirements. Fourth-graders improved their performance, with 81 percent of students passing, up from 79.8 the year before.

The state board also released statewide passing rates for 11th-graders who take the Prairie State Achievement Examinations, showing about half of juniors passed in 2013. Passing requirements stayed the same for the Prairie State.

The 11th-graders posted the largest gains in reading, with 54.8 percent of students passing, compared with 50.7 percent the year before. The passing rate in math was 51.8 percent, compared with 51.6 percent the year before.

In science, performance dropped to a 49.3 percent passing rate, compared with 51.7 percent the year before.

ISAT scores for local school districts are not made public by the state until the end of October, though districts may release them earlier. Districts distribute schoolchildren’s individual score reports; the date for issuing those results varies by district.

The state is moving to a new online testing system scheduled for 2014-15; the ISAT exam, which debuted in 1999, will be shelved.

In the spring of 2014, students will take the last but more rigorous ISAT, with questions based on a new and more difficult standards for what they need to know.

Leave a Comment