Students in grades 3-8 to take Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) next month under new performance levels

Staff Writer
Aledo Times Record

Students in grades 3-8 will be taking the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) next month under new, more rigorous performance levels approved by the Illinois State Board of Education earlier this year. Additionally, about 20 percent of this year’s test questions were written to the Common Core Learning Standards as the state prepares for complete alignment with the standards and a new assessment system in 2014-15.

“Illinois is demonstrating considerable improvements to education,” said State Superintendent of Education Christopher A. Koch. “As part of many new initiatives, we’ve raised performance level expectations on the ISATs so we can obtain a more accurate picture of where students stand against college and career readiness. I fully expect that students and teachers will rise to these new expectations as they have done in the past.”

State Superintendent Koch noted that Illinois went through a similar transition more than a decade ago when it became one of the first states to require all 11th graders to take the ACT as part of the Prairie State Achievement Exam (PSAE). When expanding the pool beyond prepared college-bound students, the state composite score initially dropped but it has increased incrementally over time. For the last several years, Illinois has posted the highest composite ACT score among those states that require all graduates take the test. Last year’s state composite for 2012 graduates was 20.9.

 The ISATs, used as part of the state and federal accountability system, assess students in math, reading and science each spring but have not proven to be a strong indicator of college and career readiness. Educators have observed a disconnect between the higher scores of the ISAT results, at 82 percent of students meeting or exceeding standards statewide last year, and the lower scores of the PSAE, given to all 11th graders, at 51 percent statewide last year.

By raising the cut scores, the performance outcomes will better align with the more rigorous and robust standards of the Common Core being implemented in schools across the state and provide more accurate information about students’ progress toward success after high school graduation.

The higher expectations of the new ISAT cut scores will cause an initial 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. 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. This drop is a result of raising expectations, not a reflection of student or teacher performance.

The move to include 20 percent of items written to Common Core Learning Standards will help pave the way for 2014-15 when the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) is expected to debut and be completely aligned to the Common Core Standards. The Illinois State Board of Education adopted the Common Core in 2010, replacing the Illinois Learning Standards that were developed in 1997. The Common Core standards are higher, fewer and deeper than the previous standards and establish year-by-year guidelines outlining the skills and content our students must master at each grade level to continue on the path to college or training programs to join the workforce. To learn more about the standards or read them, visit

The 2013 ISATs testing window is from March 4 to March 15. Students in grades 3-8 are tested in math and reading. Students in 4th and 7th grade are also tested in science. The State Board is expected to consider new science standards, called Next Generation Science Standards, during the summer 2013 and assessments will later be aligned to those new standards.

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