Last week, the District 65 School Board took a major step forward in putting the focus on college readiness. The Board decided that the District will consistently measure and monitor the percent of students who are on track to college readiness.
The Board also decided the District will measure and monitor the percent of students who are at and above the 50th percentile. The 50th percentile is often used as an indicator of performing at grade level.
Each of these benchmarks sets higher expectations, and requires much higher levels of knowledge and ability than the “meets standards” benchmarks of the Illinois Standard Achievement Test (ISATs).
Board members also made clear they wanted to incorporate their decision into a Board goal. We strongly support that momentum and urge that the tests to be used in measuring whether students are on track to college readiness and are at or above the 50th percentile be nailed down in that goal.
This year, to measure the percent of students on track to college readiness the District used the benchmarks identified by ACT for the EXPLORE test and the benchmarks identified by Paul Zavitkovsky of the Urban Education Leadership Program at the University of Illinois-Chicago. The Board has already decided that the benchmarks identified by Mr. Zavitkovsky will be used. We think the EXPLORE test should be used as well. These two measures should be incorporated into the goal.
This year, the District presented data showing the percent of students scoring at and above the 50th national percentile using the abbreviated version of the SAT-10 that is embedded in the ISAT. In light of questions raised about that test, we urge that the District also report the percent of students, by ethnicity, scoring at or above the 50th national percentile using the Measures of Academic Progress Test (MAP). The MAP test is already being administered by District 65, and it is one of the tests used to evaluate teachers.
The Board already decided on Oct. 18 that the District will report the percent of District 65 students scoring at or above the 50th Illinois percentile – the percent of students scoring at or above the average ISAT scale score of all students taking the same ISAT test. This and the other tests to be used should be nailed down in the Board’s goal.
Comments made by administrators and members of the Board at its Oct. 18 meeting focused on two additional points: 1) the need to report test results for African American students by economic status; and 2) the need to determine where student groups need to be at earlier grade levels to be on track to college readiness at eighth-grade and to monitor progress at those points. The Board’s goal should incorporate language to address both of these important issues.
We recognize that administrators, teachers, and staff are working hard to improve achievement of all students, and are doing so in a challenging environment. We also recognize that District 65 has made good progress over time in improving achievement of all students, and that there has been a sharp incline in the achievement of African American students who are not from low-income households. We also recognize the District has initiated many programs to improve instruction in the classroom and to engage parents as partners in the education process.
Achieving college and career readiness for all children in our community is a vision that, we think, will require more than just what can be accomplished in the classroom. It will likely require a coordination of efforts from parents, early childhood providers, community organizations, churches and others. Making it a focus at District 65 is an important first step.
We hope both School Boards and administrators will take a leadership role in finding creative ways to work together and to harness the many resources available in our community to ensure that all students are prepared for college or careers when they graduate from our schools. We hope parents, early childhood providers, community organizations, churches and others will join in this important effort.