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

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.

ACT data: 31 percent of state’s Class of ’12 not college-ready

Almost a third of Illinois’ high school Class of 2012 scored too low on the ACT college-entrance exam to be considered ready for key college classes, according to data released Wednesday.

The complete article can be viewed at:,0,989907.story

Hispanic surge drives record U.S. college enrollment

A rise in the number of minorities, especially Hispanics, has offset the sharp decline of whites attending U.S. colleges and universities, according to a new study.

Using the latest Census data, researchers at the Pew Hispanic Center found that college enrollment among Hispanic young adults alone jumped 24 percent in 2010.

That rise means Hispanics, who have been the largest U.S. minority group since the 2000 U.S. Census, now represent the largest minority group on college campuses, outnumbering blacks for the first time ever.

This represents a historic change, since Hispanics have not traditionally been very good about enrolling in finishing high school, let alone college. Experts say it’s only a matter of time until Hispanics replace African Americans as the number one minority on college campuses.


The argument for year-around schooling

As summer wraps up and schools begins a new academic year, some are wondering about the achievment gap caused by three months of no classroom instruction. Research suggests that many who make academic progress in subjects like math and science can easily see a loss of knowledge when they do not engage in the subject material for an extended period of time.

Schools in other parts of the country, however, are operating on year-round schedules that shorten the traditional summer vacation while adding breaks through the year. This averages 180 days of instruction, according to the U.S. Department of Education, and seeks to stem the learning loss. In fact, more than 2 million students in 3,000 schools in 46 states attended school year-round in 2006-2007.

Some proponents, like President Barack Obama, urge longer school years to help American students compete with students around the globe, some of whom attend school up to 25 or 30 percent longer than American students, according to Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

View an in-depth analysis of year-round schooling at


New study says Illinois students not prepared for college

According to the Chicago Tribune, the class of 2011 earned the highest average ACT score in the past decade, but it still falls behind the national average and leaves most high school graduates unprepared for the challenges of college.

“Results of the ACT college entrance exam offered a sobering portrait of students ending their high school years, with only a quarter of graduates who took the test nationwide posting scores high enough to be considered college-ready in all main academic areas.

Illinois fared worse, with just 23 percent of test-takers meeting all college-ready benchmarks in English, reading, math and science.”

The 23 percent is unchanged from last year, and suggests that the state and local school districts are not doing enough to prepare students for the ACT. This leaves it up to the students, the parents, and companies like Grace Tutoring to help fill the gaps.

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