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Tougher tests cause scores to fall statewide and in Downers Grove District 58

District 58 students still far outpace state average

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2013 10:27 a.m. CDT

DOWNERS GROVE – Illinois grade schoolers’ test scores fell dramatically this year as the state increased the difficulty of the Illinois State Achievement Test and raised benchmarks that determine which students meet or exceed state standards.

The same was true in Downers Grove, as the percentage meeting or exceeding the benchmark fell from 93.1 percent last year to 77.7 percent in 2013. But those scores still place District 58’s students well above their peers statewide, where the percentage meeting or exceeding fell from 82.5 percent last year to 58.8 percent in 2013.

The new, more difficult test incorporates the Common Core learning standards, a more rigorous approach to math and reading instruction. District 58 is currently in the process of incorporating Common Core standards in math and reading into its curriculum. Next year the ISAT will be based entirely on the Common Core State Standards.

“Our students are more and more prepared for the Common Core standards and increased rigor,” District 58 Superintendent Kari Cremascoli said. “I think we, as a district, are very proud of our students’ success. They are continuing to exhibit strong academic improvement.”

The best elementary school scores in District 58 came from Pierce Downer school, where 87.9 percent of students met or exceeded the benchmark, down from 96.6 percent last year. The lowest were recorded by El Sierra Elementary, at 69.7 percent, down from 90.6 percent in 2012.

Herrick and O’Neill middle schools had 75.2 and 72.3 percent of students who met or exceeded, respectfully. That’s down from 92.9 percentage for both schools in 2012.

Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Matt Rich said the addition of Common Core questions to the ISAT does allow the district to compare its progress in Common Core against the state on a subject-by-subject and grade-by-grade basis.

However only 20 percent of the test’s questions were Common Core this year, a small sample size.

“What we will be doing is looking at where we have gaps and targeting those gap areas,” he said.

Cremascoli pointed to the state’s new growth metric as a sign of local students’ success, as it shows District 58 students improving at a better clip than those statewide.

She said with the continuing changes in ISAT benchmarks and test content, the district has begun to consider the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test as a more reliable measure of student progress and performance. District 58 administers the MAP test three times a year, providing a more in-depth and consistent look at how students are learning.

By eighth grade, District 58 students are outperforming the national 11th grade average in reading, mathematics and language usage on the MAP test, she said.

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