JOLIET – The final Illinois Standard Achievement Test taken by Joliet grade school students yielded mixed results, which administrators attribute to more challenging Common Core curriculum standards.
The number of third- through eighth-graders who met or exceeded Illinois standards in reading dropped almost 4 percent from last year, to 42.9 percent, according to a report presented Wednesday to the District 86 school board.
However, the number of students who met standards in math was 52.9 percent – the same as 2013. Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Elizabeth Yacobi sees this as encouraging, since the 2014 ISATs were aligned to more rigorous Common Core state standards.
In January 2013, ISAT cut scores for meeting standards were increased by the Illinois State Board of Education. But the test material on the 2013 exams was not entirely aligned with the new curriculum expectations.
“In looking at the rigor of what is being asked, and knowing that assessment standards are different, there will be variables,” Yacobi said. “But this helps us look at our curriculum and refine its strengths and tweak [where needed].”
Compared to the state average in achievement growth values, which measures individual student improvement in performance annually, District 86 students were slightly lower in reading and slightly higher in math.
Growth values are scored from 0 to 200. District 86 received a score of 100, compared to 102 for the state, in reading and a score of 103, compared to 101 for the state, in math.
According to Yacobi’s report, the following schools showed growth of 6 to 12 percent in math: Forest Park Individual Education; Lynne Thigpen Elementary; Pershing Elementary; and Woodland Elementary.
Meanwhile, growth of up to 5 percent in math occurred at Carl Sandburg Elementary; A.O. Marshall; Dirksen Junior High School; Eisenhower Academy; Farragut Elementary; M.J. Cunningham Elementary; and Sator Sanchez Elementary.
Superintendent Charles Coleman said he was happy with the growth levels and is “confident that the teachers, curriculum department and principals will continue to dig deep to come up with strategies to meet the needs of the students that have not experienced the success we would want for them.”
Yacobi said the district has “a laser-like focus on Common Core,” as teachers prepare students for the new computer-based standardized tests created by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. Those will be administered for the first time this year.
PARCC is a consortium of 12 states, including Illinois, and the District of Columbia, working on assessments based directly on CCSS. PARCC assessments will be administered twice in the last quarter of the school year.
Part of the district’s plans to prepare for PARCC are new district benchmark assessments – common assessments – which will have PARCC aligned reading passages and math problems, Yacobi said.
Reading assessments will be taken in October, February and May, while math assessments will be taken quarterly.
Common assessments will replace Discovery Education Assessments, which previously cut into regular school learning time since they took weeks throughout the year to administer.
The new assessments will take about two class sessions, and will be used throughout the year “to inform teachers on instruction and curriculum and how to help our students,” Yacobi said.