School District 65 students showed slight gains on the 2009 Illinois Standard Achievement Tests (ISATs), according to results reported to the School Board at its Aug. 17 meeting. On a combined basis, the percent of students who met or exceeded standards in reading and math on the 2009 ISATs was 87.8%, up from 87.1% in the previous year. Statewide results are not yet available for a comparative analysis.

Superintendent Hardy Murphy said, “The District is still maintaining a very strong achievement profile. I think it’s important to thank our principals and teachers for that.” He added, “We’ve got some glitches in it and we know we have some challenges there, but I would argue there are many districts out there that would be envious of this kind of achievement profile.”

Paul Brinson, director of information services, said there has been strong improvement since 2003, but added that the performance profile is “beginning to level out.” For some groups it is “because they are topping out” at 97% or 98%, he said. For some of the other groups of students, “that leveling out suggests to me that we’re dealing with the effects, if you will, of individual differences, kids who are special ed[ucation], and LEP [limited english proficient], and low-income …”

Administrators said effective differentiated instruction and tailored interventions were important to improve the achievement level of students who were not meeting standards.

Reading Scores

On a combined basis, the percentage of District 65 students who met or exceeded standards in reading on the 2009 ISATs was 85%, up from 84% in the previous year. There was 7-point increase at the third-grade level, a 6-point increase for eighth grade, a 1-point increase for fifth grade, and slight declines at the remaining grade levels.

On the 2009 ISATs, the percentage of the District’s students that met or exceeded State standards in reading, by subgoup were as follows: African-American – 75%, up 1 point over the previous year; Hispanic – 69%, up 1 point; Asian – 92%, up 1 point; white – 97%, same; students with an Individual Education Program (IEP) – 52%, up 1 point; Limited English Proficient (LEP) – 42%, down 7 points; low-income – 71%, up 1 point.Between 1999 and 2003, students’ progress on the ISATs in reading was generally flat, but between 2003 and 2009 there have been substantial gains. A substantial jump occurred in 2006, when the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) made changes to the test. On a combined basis, the percentage of students meeting or exceeding standards in reading increased from 79% in 2006 to 85% in 2009.

During that period, African-American students and IEP students had the biggest increases. The percentage increases between 2006 and 2009 for these subgroups are as follows: African-American – from 64% to 75%; IEP from 44% to 52%.

The percentage of LEP students meeting or exceeding standards in reading dropped from 64% in 2006 to 42% in 2009. Beginning in 2008, LEP students were required to take the ISATs, rather than the IMAGE test, which had been given to students who were enrolled in a transitional bilingual program for less than three years and who lacked English proficiency.

The accompanying table shows the percentage of students, by subgroup, who met or exceeded standards in reading on 2003-2009 ISATs.

Math Scores
On the 2009 ISATs, 91% of the District’s students met or exceeded standards in math, up from 90% in the previous year. The increase is due to a 7-percentage-point gain at the eighth-grade level. There were 1 or 2 percentage-point declines at every other grade level.

On the 2009 ISATs, the percentage of the District’s students that met or exceeded State standards in math, by subgroup, were as follows: African-American – 82%, the same as last year; Hispanic – 85%, up 1 point; Asian – 95%, down 1 point; white – 98%, same; IEP – 64%, same; LEP – 72%, down 7 points; and low-income – 82%, same.

There have been substantial increases in the percentage of students meeting or exceeding state standards in math beween 2003 and 2009, with the biggest jump occurring in 2006 when ISBE changed the tests. On a combined basis, the percentage of students meeting or exceeding standards in math increased from 79% on the 2006 ISATs to 85% on the 2009 ISATs.

During that period, African-American, Hispanic, IEP, and low-income students had the biggest increases. The percentage increases between 2006 and 2009 for those subgroups are as follows: African-American – from 77% to 82%; Hispanic – 80% to 85%; IEP – 58% to 64%; low-income – 75% to 81%.

The accompanying table shows the percentage of students who met or exceeded standards in math on the 2003-2009 ISATs.

Students Exceeding Standards

The percentage of District 65 students who “exceed” state standards has likewise increased over time. On a combined basis, the percentage of students in the “exceeds” category increased in reading from 32% on the 2006 ISATs to 40% on the 2009 ISATs. In math the increase went from 44% on the 2006 ISATs to 48% on the 2009 ISATs.

Board member Katie Bailey noted that the percentage of students in the “exceeds” category was higher for third-graders than eighth-graders. On the 2009 ISATs, 42% of the District’s third-graders exceeded standards in reading; 22% of the District’s eighth-graders exceeded standards in reading.

Mr. Brinson said this was a pattern that existed at the District over time, and he added it was a pattern on a Statewide basis.

Ms. Bailey asked the adminstration to provide data showing the percentage of students exceeding standards by grade level and by year, so the Board could review trends of students in the exceeds category.

Comparison to National Norms

Mr. Brinson said the ISATs contain a subset of 30 questions from the Stanford 10, which allows a comparison of District 65 students to other students in the nation. He said 81% of the District’s students are at or above the 50th percentile rank nationally in reading and 84% in math. He said 58% of the District’s students are at or above the 75th percentile rank nationally in reading and 67% in math.

For subgroups, the District reports that, on the subset of Sanford 10 questions on the 2009 ISATs, about 95% of white students, 68% of African-American students, and 62% of Hispanic students in the District are at or above the 50th percentile rank nationally in reading.

Board member Tracy Quattrocki said since the national norm data is being used to “double check some the gains we’ve made on the ISATs,” it would be helpful to have that data by grade level and by year. Mr. Brinson said he would provide it for the periods available.

The most recent data (2007-08) available for the EXPLORE test, which is given by School District 202 to eighth-graders, reported that 94% of white students, 49% of African-American students and 58% of Hispanic students were above the 50th percentile rank nationally in reading for that test. While there is a mismatch in years, the District’s normative results on the EXPLORE are lower than on the ISATs, particularly for African-American students where there is a 19 point difference.

Meeting AYP/School Data

On the 2009 ISATs, 70% of the District’s students in each subgroup (i.e. white, black, Hispanic, Asian, LEP, IEP and low-income) were required to meet or exceed standards on the ISATs to make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) under the No Child Left Behind Act. The District failed to meet AYP in both reading and math for IEP students, and failed to meet AYP in reading for LEP students, but met AYP in all other categories.

Mr. Brinson reported that four schools failed to meet AYP: Dewey failed to meet AYP in reading for low-income students; Washington failed to meet AYP in reading for LEP students; Haven failed to meet AYP in reading for IEP students; and Chute failed to meet AYP in math for IEP students.

Test results at the District’s schools vary. For example, at Willard and Dr. Bessie Rhodes 95% of the students met or exceeded standards on the ISATs; at Oakton, the percentage was 80% (a 7 point gain over last year). For African-American students, 94% met or exceeded standards in reading at Bessie Rhodes; at Kingsley the percentage was 73%.

Challenges Ahead

When asked what challenges lie ahead, Mr. Brinson said, performance is “beginning to level out.” He said some groups are topping at 97% or 98%. “For some of the other groups of students, that leveling out suggests to me that we’re dealing with the effects, if you will, of individual differences, kids who are special ed, and LEP, and low-income … where teachers and principals are going to need to take a more individualized look at those students’ needs because they’re typically more complex and confounded.

“We’re getting return on our curriculum as we know it, and now the whole issue of individualized planning, response to intervention, all of this you’ve been hearing about the last few years, is going to become critical to getting us up to 85 to 95% for those other populations.”

Assistant Superintendent Susan Schultz agreed with Mr. Brinson and said, “We are definitely at the hard part now. ” She said, “We have to go down and look at our individual students and how we’re responding to the needs of those students, and that’s part of RTI, but also our differentiated instruction approach is really getting at individualizing for those students who are not meeting standards.”

Dr. Murphy also referred to differentiated instruction and response to intervention as key parts of the District’s instructional program. He added that the initiatives undertaken by the District “will help us maintain this very high level of achievement that we’re seeing in the District and perhaps reach those who are not achieving at high levels but who need individual interventions crafted for them.”

Board president Keith Terry said the Board would continue its discussion on student achievement on Oct. 5. It is anticipated the administration will provide the Board information at that meeting concerning other tests the District gives to students, as well as provide additional breakdowns of information concerning students in the exceeds category on the ISATs and normative data by grade level and year.

Percentage of D65 Students
Meeting/Exceeding Standards
On 2003-09 ISATs

Reading       2003   2004   2005   2006   2007   2008   2009

Black            

43          51          51       64         69         74         75

Hispanic        46        47          49         70         78         68         69

Asian            79        83          88          91        93         91          92

White            89       92          94          95        97          97          97

IEP               25       30           37         44        49           51         52

LEP              31       35          33          64        71          49          42

Math          2003  2004   2005   2006   2007   2008    2009

Black          51         57         61         77       81         82           82

Hispanic      60         61        58          80        83         84          85

Asian           93         90        92          96         95         96          95

White           92        93         94         98         98         98         99

IEP             33        37          45           58         63          64         64

LEP            41        45          41           68         72         77          72

 

 

Composite Scores of D65 8th-Graders on the EXPLORE test

While School District 65 eighth-graders have made substantial gains when measured by the ISATs, they have made virtually no progress when measured by the EXPLORE test, which is part of the ACT family of tests and is designed to be given to eighth- or ninth-graders. The State Board of Education has recently launched a program under which it encourages school districts to administer the EXPLORE test. The table below gives the composite scores for District 65 eighth-graders on the EXPLORE test, which is given by School District 202 and used, as one of a number of tests and measures, to assess incoming freshmen. EXPLORE’s benchmark for college readiness is 16.5.

                 2002    2003    2004    2005    2006    2007    2008   

Black       

14.1      13.3      13.6     14.0       14.2      14.1      14.2    

Hispanic   14.5      14.7      14.9     14.2        14.9      14.8      14.4   

White       19.5       19.5      19.4     19.3        19.4      19.5      19.4  

Studies Questioning ISATs

A number of changes were made to the 2006 ISATs, that some critics say are responsible for or contribute to the higher scores. A study, “”The Proficiency Illusion”” (October 2007) conducted by the Northwest Education Association and the Fordham Institute, concluded that about 80 percent of the dramatic increases on the 2006 ISATs were due to changes made to the test, rather than to improvement in student achievement.

A recent research report, “”From High School to the Future: The Pathway to 20″” (October 2008), prepared by researchers with the Consortium on Chicago School Research at the University of Chicago concluded that the ISATs set low “”cut scores”” to determine whether a student met standards. “”Students who just meet the state standard … have virtually no chance of getting to 20 on the ACT,”” concludes the report. “”The average ACT score for students who ‘meet standards’ is 17.5 … and a very small portion of them reach 20.”” According to the report, students who barely make their way into the “”Exceeds category”” on the eighth-grade ISATs have a 62 percent chance of reaching 20 on the ACT. The benchmark for college readiness on the ACT is 21.25.

The report says, “” Students, their parents and their schools are being told that they meet state standards for eighth grade achievement; yet they have virtually no chance of reaching a score of 20 on the ACT, which we note is an admittedly low bar.””

In June 2009 Advance Illinois, an education-reform group co-chaired by former Governor Jim Edgar and former Secretary of Commerce William Daley, issued a report, We Can Do Better: Advancing Public Education in Illinois. The report noted that while 81% of Illinois students met standards on the ISATs, only 30% were ranked proficient on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (the nation’s report card). The report says the ISATs are based on “”flawed standards and low expectations.””