Few ‘surprised’ half of elementary students in Illinois can’t read, write at grade level

By Benjamin Yount
Illinois Watchdog

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Nearly half of Illinois’ elementary school students failed to read or write as expected, and the state’s new standardized test highlights those facts.

The Illinois State Board of Education earlier this week released results of the Illinois Standards Achievement Test, which students from third- to eighth-grade must take.

As expected, the results weren’t good.

Just 62 percent of students are performing at grade level. Illinois’ composite ISAT score, the score for all grades in all subjects, was 82 percent in 2012. It fell 20 points this year.

The numbers get worse when breaking down the scores into specific grades and subjects.

No more than 60 percent of students in third through eighth grade could perform grade-level math. In third grade alone, only 55 percent of the students could add or subtract as expected.

Reading scores were equally abysmal — from a low of 58.4 of seventh-graders who could read as expected to a high of 59.8 percent of eighth-graders who could read at grade level.

This is not a surprise,” Illinois State Superintendent of School Christopher Koch said Sept. 11. “We predicted back in the fall that (scores) would drop from the 80s to the 60s.

This doesn’t mean that your child is doing worse, it means the bar has been raised,” Koch added.

He’s right. The scores do not show that students are doing worse. In fact, the scores may show that about half of students in Illinois never could read, write and add as expected.

Allison Maley, public relations director for the Illinois Principals Association, said Illinois’ high school test scores — the Prairie State Achievement Exam — have always hovered around 52 percent at or above grade level.

She said the lower test scores for elementary and middle school students are so much lower because the state made it much tougher to pass the test.

When you and I were in school, maybe an A was 90 to 100,” Maley explained. “Now, an A is back up to 94 to 100. You’re just raising the bar.”

Students soon won’t have to worry about the ISAT, or their scores. Illinois is moving to a new test as the state and rest of the nation embrace Common Core standards.

This is all in anticipation of the new test,” Koch said, “the (Common Core standards) test that is going to require the application of knowledge and skill.”

Contract Benjamin Yount at Ben@IllinoisWatchdog.org and find him on Twitter @BenYount.

Posted Sept. 12, 2013

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