Advance Illinois, a non-profit organization, adds its voice to those critical of the Illinois Standard Achievement Test. “National studies … show the requirements of the Illinois Standard Achievement Test (ISAT) are well below similar tests in other states, and that our standards need to be sharpened and raised,” said the organization in a prepared statement on Nov. 18.

The goal of Advance Illinois is to ensure that the public schools prepare every child to compete in the global economy. Former governor Jim Edgar and former commerce secretary William Daley co-chair the organization. The Bill and Melinda Gates and Joyce foundations, as well as numerous other foundations support the organization.

A report prepared by Advance Illinois says, “Illinois students should be able to rely on two things: First, that reaching proficiency on tests of academic achievement in elementary and middle school signals that they are on track for life after high school. Second, that the high school diplomas they earn means they are prepared for postsecondary education or work. Neither is the case in Illinois.”

The report explains, “National studies show that, while high percentages of students are proficient on the Illinois Standards Achievement Test, far fewer are proficient on national tests, such as the NAEP [National Assessment of Educational Progress] and the ACT.

“One study of Chicago students shows that eighth-graders who meet state standards – who score proficient on the ISAT – still have less than a 10 percent chance of achieving high enough scores – 20 or higher – on the ACT in the 11th grade to demonstrate college or work readiness. …Illinois state tests are among the easiest in the United States,” continues the report.

Mr. Daley said, “Sadly, that means that if your child is reading at what we define as proficiency in Illinois, he or she is not necessarily equipped for life after school. We must apply an impartial and research-driven approach that will focus on bold and measurable solutions for improving public education.”

Advance Illinois plans to consult with state and national experts and to have a “listening tour” across Illinois over the coming months. The organization then plans to make policy recommendations to strengthen the state’s education system.