A recent study published by the Consortium on Chicago School Research (CCSR) at the University of Chicago further demonstrates that the new cut scores to “meet standards” on the Illinois Standard Achievement Test (ISAT) are far below the scores needed to align them with ACT’s college readiness benchmarks. See “Middle School Indicators of Readiness in Chicago Public Schools” (Nov. 2014)(the CCSR Report).

The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) adopted the new ISAT cut scores in January 2013, saying they provided a “more accurate” indicator of whether a student was on track to college and career readiness. ISBE subsequently represented in report cards that the new ISAT cut scores “align with college and career ready expectations.”

In previous articles, the RoundTable presented data showing that eighth-graders who score right at the new ISAT cut score to “meet standards” have less than a 10% chance of meeting ACT’s college readiness benchmarks in 11th grade. See, “The ISAT Cut Score Fiasco: ISBE Lowballs New Cut Scores, Where’s the Accountability,” available at evanstonroundtable.com.

CCSR’s Report found that students who just “meet standards” on the ISATs as eighth-graders have less than a 12% chance of meeting ACT’s college readiness benchmarks on the PLAN test as tenth-graders.

Linking ISAT Scores to PLAN

Until this year, the PLAN test was a part of ACT’s family of tests, and it contained tests in reading, math, English and science that were given to tenth-graders. The ACT set college readiness benchmarks for each subject tested as part of the PLAN test. The composite benchmark score that indicates being on track to college readiness on the PLAN test in tenth grade is 18.

As part of its study, CCSR determined the percentage of eighth-graders in Chicago Public Schools who obtained a scale score between 266 and 270 in math on the ISATs, and who went on to obtain a composite score of 18 or higher on PLAN as tenth-graders. The new ISAT score to “meet standards” in math for eighth-graders is 267, and it falls within that range of scores.

CCSR found that only about 12% of the eighth-graders who scored between 266 and 270 in math on the ISATs went on to obtain a composite score of 18 or higher on PLAN in tenth grade. See CCSR Report, Fig. 30.

CCSR made a similar analysis of eighth-graders who scored between 246 and 250 in reading on the ISATs. The new ISAT cut score for reading on the ISATs is 248, and it falls within that range of scores.

CCSR found that only about 12% of eighth-graders who scored between 246 and 250 in reading on the ISATs went on to obtain a composite score of 18 or higher on PLAN in tenth grade. See CCSR Report, Fig. 30

In other words, eighth-graders who score right at the new “meet standards” scores for math and reading on the ISATs have only about a 12% chance of achieving a college readiness score on the PLAN tests in tenth grade.

CCSR notes that because these percentages are only based on students who took the PLAN test in tenth grade, they do not take into account students who dropped out of school between eighth and tenth grades. CCSR’s Report, page 67, says the percentages “are somewhat biased upward – they would be lower if all students who took the eighth-grade ISAT were tested on the PLAN in tenth grade.”

Thus, the likelihood of being on track to college readiness in tenth grade is actually less than 12%.

Does ISBE have any accountability in setting benchmarks for college readiness?