On Oct. 18, District 65 administrators presented to the School Board two charts titled “College Readiness” that we believe overstate the percent of students on track to college readiness.
The charts showed the percent of District 65 eighth-graders at or above the 50th and 60th national percentile ranks. (Achievement Report, pages 47 and 48.) In presenting this data, Paul Brinson, chief information officer for the District, said, “As part of the information that came from Paul Zavitkovsky, he came up with the idea that the 60th percentile, or the sixth stanine, represents the basket in which students are likely to be college ready – on the route as they come out of eighth-grade.”
In response to questioning by one Board member, Mr. Brinson acknowledged that the “national percentiles” reported on the charts were generated by an abbreviated version of the Stanford Achievement Test, tenth edition, that is embedded in the ISATs (the ISAT-SAT10); they do not represent “Illinois percentiles.”
The ISAT-SAT10 is an abbreviated version of the full-length SAT-10. A student’s score on the abbreviated version is extrapolated to a score for the full-length version of the test, and a national percentile is then obtained from a 2002 norms table, that was developed through a sample.
In presenting his reports, Paul Zavitkovsky, of the Urban Education Leadership Program at the University of Illinois-Chicago, was careful to say that the benchmarks he identified for college readiness were the 60th “Illinois percentile” in reading and the 68th “Illinois percentile” in math. Illinois percentiles are based on how Illinois students did in relation to all other Illinois students taking the same ISAT test. Mr. Zavitkovsky also presented data showing that the ISAT-SAT10 generates percentiles that are typically 15-25 points higher than Illinois percentiles (and 15-25 points higher than national percentiles generated by the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) and the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) tests).
Because the ISAT-SAT10 generates percentiles that are typically 15-25 points higher than Illinois percentiles, we think it is not appropriate to superimpose ISAT-SAT10 percentiles into a benchmark for college readiness based on the 60th Illinois percentile for reading and the 68th Illinois percentile for math. Doing so will obviously overstate the percent of students who are on track to college readiness.
The amount of the overstatement is demonstrated by charts that Mr. Brinson himself presented. Using the percent of African American eighth-graders who are at or above the 60th ISAT-SAT10 percentile, gives a misleading impression that about 58% of African American students are on track for college readiness in reading. Using the 60th Illinois percentile – which is the benchmark identified by Mr. Zavitkovsky for reading, 29% of African American eighth-graders are on track for college readiness in reading. In this example, using the percent of students above the 60th ISAT-SAT10 percentile, rather than the 60th Illinois percentile, overstates the percent of students who were on track by 100%.
Simply put, Mr. Zavitkovsky’s benchmark is “x” estimates college readiness. The District’s charts on pages 47 and 48 use “y” instead. We do not believe the charts belong on a page or section of the report addressing “college readiness.”
The RoundTable asked District 65 administrators on Oct. 19 and 21 if there was any evidence that supports using the 50th or the 60th percentiles generated by the ISAT-SAT10 as benchmarks or indicators of college readiness. At the time this paper went to press, the RoundTable received no response.