At the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) meeting on Thursday, January 24th, the ISBE adjusted performance level cut scores for the Illinois Standard Achievement Test (ISAT). Effective for this year's ISAT assessment, the new cut scores raise proficiency levels in reading 13-17 points, and 21-30 points in math (charts below). This change links to Goal 1 of the State Board's Strategic Plan: Every student will demonstrate academic achievement and be prepared for success after high school.
The impetus for this change lies in questions about the rigor of state standards and state assessment raised at the national level. As referenced in the ISBE meeting minutes, "In 2007 the Fordham Institute and the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) issued a report revealing that Illinois proficiency levels in English/Language Arts and Mathematics were below other states and below NWEA proficiency levels." In addition, educators at the high school level have brought to ISBE attention a disconnect between performance on the ISAT and Prairie State (PSAE) Achievement Examination. The change in proficiency scores for ISAT should better align these results with those of the PSAE. As educators in the state look to implementation of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) in 2014-2015, these new ISAT proficiency levels should also better mirror performance on this coming assessment. So, Illinois follows suit with other states like New York and Kentucky, that have already raised performance level scores on statewide tests.
Inevitably, the changes in cut scores will mean that the number of schools statewide not meeting Elementary and Secondary Education Act Adequate Yearly Progress (ESEA AYP) targets will increase. Using Geneva's 2012 8th grade scores as an example (refer to charts below), under previous proficiency levels 2% of students fell below standards in reading. Using the new proficiency levels, that statistic could rise to 15%. In Math, 5% fell below in 2012; under the new proficiency levels 22% could fall below.
As state funding cuts continue, the financial burden for districts trying to meet the needs of all students in light of these ISAT adjustments will compound. Regardless of these conditions, Geneva's standard of high expectations will continue. The numbers reflected in this first year of the change will not reflect a decrease in the excellence of our staff or students. Teachers will strive for constant improvements in classrooms. Students will continue to demonstrate skill mastery. Geneva schools will continue their 'Tradition of Excellence.'