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Illinois School Chief Blasts Test Scores

SPRINGFIELD - Scores for the Illinois State Achievement Test, released Wednesday by the State Board of Education, are "not acceptable," according to State Superintendent of Education Robert Schiller.

ISAT reading scores for third- and fifth-graders over the last five years have not increased, and they decreased for eighth graders. The scores for fourth- and seventh-grade test scores in science and social sciences only slightly increased. And there's been little improvement over three years in all subjects tested in the Prairie State Achievement Exam given to 11th-graders.

"I am not at all pleased" that reading scores have not increased, Schiller said at a press conference at the Statehouse Wednesday.

The No Child Left Behind law, a federal law, requires schools that receive federal money to show improvement on test scores every year. If they fail to improve over two consecutive years, the law dictates they offer students the choice to transfer to another school within the same district.

Schiller did not reveal individual school test scores. The scores were released to schools Wednesday, but will not be made public until later this summer.

Schiller did say, though, that 627 schools of 4,212 across the state failed to meet the state's standards and are going to be given a notice that they may have to offer a choice to its students this fall.

In Springfield, Harvard Park Elementary School's test scores were so low last year it was already required by the No Child Left Behind law to give its students the choice to transfer elsewhere. Others who were put on the state's academic watch list last December were: Graham, McClernand, Wanless, Feitshans-Edison and Enos elementary schools.

Schiller said the Prairie State results showed "troubling trends." Scores across most subjects - reading, writing, science and math - were flat, he said.

There were some improvements in the testing results, though. Schiller said math scores over the last five years showed a steady increase for all grade levels.

And the achievement gap between high and low income students, as well as Caucasian and minority students narrowed significantly.

"(The achievement gap) is still not acceptable, but it's certainly narrowing," Schiller said.

Schiller said it is up to the local school districts to improve their testing results.

At the state level, he said, they create the learning standards and teaching models, but it is up to the individual districts to teach to these standards. He said some school districts use textbooks that are not aligned with the state's standards.

"Clearly there is a disconnect from the expectation of the state to the classroom," Schiller said. "What we're finding is fewer and fewer students are mastering what we expect of them."

The ISAT is given around the state to every elementary school each spring. Third, fifth and eighth graders are tested for reading, writing and mathematics. Fourth and seventh graders are tested for science and social sciences.

The Prairie State Achievement Exam is given to every eleventh grader in Illinois and tests them in every subject.

— Leah Friedman
School chief blasts test scores
Copley News Service
August 3, 2003


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