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Welcome Back from the State Superintendent of Education
I hope that you enjoyed summer with your families and that you are excited to begin a new school year. I am writing to update you on several initiatives that we believe will better prepare our more than 2 million Illinois public school students to succeed today and ultimately become contributing citizens in the 21st century global economy.
A few years ago, a group of governors and state school chiefs, including myself, began a grassroots effort to develop a common set of more rigorous learning standards for students in grades K-12, whether they lived in Illinois or Idaho. These new Common Core Learning Standards have been adopted by more than 40 states and set clear expectations for what we want our students to know and be able to do in math and English language arts.
Since the State Board of Education adopted these standards in June 2010, our nearly 4,000 schools in Illinois have been developing and revising curriculum and preparing lessons and instructional materials to meet these higher, internationally benchmarked standards. Instruction will go deeper into the core foundational concepts, and students must show not only acquired knowledge but the application of that knowledge in real-world situations.
With these higher standards also comes the need to ensure students are performing at a higher level. Just as we raised the bar in 2010 by adopting more rigorous learning standards, we also raised the bar on the state’s annual standardized achievement tests (also known as ISATs) for students in grades 3-8 by increasing the performance expectations on the 2013 test.
By raising performance expectations on the ISATs, we are seeing a drop in the 2013 test scores for elementary students and schools. This does not mean that students know less or that teachers don’t provide good instruction, but it does give us an earlier indication of where students perform in terms of college and career readiness.
Before this adjustment, the ISAT was not a good measure of college and career readiness; that important information wasn’t generated until students took a test in 11th grade called the Prairie State Achievement Exam (also known as the PSAE), which includes the ACT. This is far too late to know that a student will not be prepared for success after high school. We have observed this disconnect when comparing ISAT scores, which showed 82 percent of elementary students met or exceeded standards in 2012, with our PSAE scores, which showed only 51 percent of 11th graders met or exceeded standards that same year. Students did not fall behind when they left grade school, but they faced a higher bar. This year, all students, in grades 3-12, are being measured against the same bar.
We know that it’s not easy to suddenly see a drop in your student’s or school’s scores but we also know our state has great teachers and leaders who are working hard every day to prepare your children for these new, higher expectations for learning. Several other states are taking similar measures, given the implementation of new learning standards.
In the spring of 2014, elementary students will once again take the ISATs, with questions written to the Common Core. Then, in 2014-15, Illinois is preparing to distribute new online assessments that are being specifically developed to align with the Common Core. The new tests will demand students show more critical thinking, problem-solving and excellent writing skills. Students will be assessed at least twice within a year’s time span in order to better gauge progress and help their teachers identify specific areas of need and provide appropriate interventions to support student success.
As we change the way we assess students, we are also improving the way we report those results to you. This year, Illinois will debut a simplified, more consumer-friendly 2013 school and district report card that offers facts such as extracurricular activities and school honors to showcase the unique qualities of our schools. We hope that the redesigned report card for schools, districts and the state will better inform and support community-wide discussions about educational opportunities in your local schools.
Finally, as part of our efforts to offer more comprehensive school information, we will release the results this fall from our first statewide survey of school climate and learning conditions, called the Illinois 5Essentials. Sixth- through twelfth-grade students and all teachers in the state were invited to take this survey last spring. I am pleased that 93 percent of Illinois districts participated, with 87 percent receiving enough responses to generate a report based on students, teachers or both. A summary of the survey findings will also be included on the 2013 school report card.
If you have any questions about any of these initiatives, we encourage you to talk with your local teachers and school leaders. Thank you for all you do to support your child(ren) and their educational journey. Have a great school year!
Christopher A. Koch, Ed.D.
State Superintendent of Education
New ISAT Performance Cut Scores
Fact Sheet: New ISAT Performance Level Cut Scores
Division of Public Information, Illinois State Board of Education
Our students deserve a well-rounded, world-class education that is relevant to the demands of an increasingly competitive global marketplace. Under new learning standards the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) approved in 2010, Illinois schools are in the process of realigning not only what they are teaching students but how they teach core content. It’s an exciting time in education as school teams and statewide organizations work together to ensure that each student leaves high school equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary to pursue higher education or enter the work force.
Schools are now implementing curricula and instructional approaches that meet the Common Core State Standards, essentially guidelines outlining the content and abilities students must master and demonstrate at each grade level to continue on the path to college and career readiness. The Common Core standards are higher, fewer and deeper and ensure that students not only acquire knowledge but can apply it in real-world terms.
State tests must now align with these more rigorous standards. In January 2013, ISBE raised the performance level cut scores of the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) for math and English language arts. The ISAT, given to third through eighth grade students each spring, is part of the state and federal accountability system. The higher cut scores will give administrators, teachers and parents a better picture of students’ progress toward college and career readiness.
The State Board, working with an expert advisory committee, looked at the necessary college and career readiness scores of 11th-graders and then set scores for each elementary grade level accordingly. In short, it worked back from the high school readiness scores and set grade-level appropriate scores to ensure that elementary students will be on track for college and career readiness. This means that students will be measured against college and career readiness benchmarks earlier – starting in third grade – to ensure they’re on track to succeed in high school and beyond rather than waiting for the 11th grade Prairie State Achievement Exam (PSAE) to yield this information.
As anticipated, the higher performance level cut scores for the ISAT resulted in a sharp drop in the number of students whose 2013 ISAT scores met or exceeded standards. Districts now have those scores and will release them to families and their communities this fall while ISBE will release all scores by Oct. 31, per the timeline provided in state statute.
An earlier ISBE analysis of the new levels against past scores prepared districts for the decline in scores. According to the 2012 ISAT results, 79 percent of all third through eighth grade students scored proficient in reading and 86 percent of students scored proficient in mathematics. When using the new cut scores to analyze the ISAT data collected in spring 2012, the percentage of students who would have met or exceeded standards dropped to 60 percent for both reading and mathematics.
This change in performance levels does not mean that our students know less or are less capable than they were in previous years. It also is not a reflection on teacher performance. Instead, ISBE is raising the bar on what students must achieve in order to be ready for success in college and career.
Prior to raising the cut scores, the ISAT did not align to the new standards of the Common Core. As a result, a disconnect emerged between students’ ISAT scores and their performance on the PSAE, which is given to all 11th graders. Last year, 82 percent of students met or exceeded standards on the ISAT statewide, while only 51 percent met or exceeded standards on the PSAE. The PSAE includes the ACT, which is the gold standard for college and career readiness. The higher cut scores now align the ISAT with the greater expectations of the PSAE and provide a more accurate indication of whether a student is on track for post-secondary success.
Local districts will receive college- and career-ready guidance to provide the appropriate supports and interventions for struggling students at an earlier point in their academic career. The higher performance expectations also pave the way for a new assessment to replace the ISAT during the 2014-15 school year.
The new assessment system will be administered online at least twice a year and will be completely aligned to the Common Core State Standards. Teachers, parents and students will receive better and more timely information regarding students’ strengths and areas that need improvement.
ISBE is also considering a final version of new science standards, called the Next Generation Science Standards, which are internationally benchmarked and will change how science and engineering are taught. Similar to the changes with the Common Core standards, these standards will require changes to curricula and instructional practices and will ultimately also be aligned with a new assessment. In the interim, the performance expectations for the science portion of the ISAT will remain the same.
The raised performance expectations are among several initiatives under way in Illinois and throughout the United States. Our state is among more than 40 that have formally adopted the Common Core State Standards for college and career readiness and have also changed their performance expectations in recent years, including New York, Michigan, Tennessee, Massachusetts and Kansas.
This fall, ISBE will also introduce a new, simplified and more consumer-friendly report card that will provide a more robust picture of individual schools, with details on school extracurricular activities, awards and recognitions, special programs and advanced courses and community partnerships. Included in the report card will be summary information from the 5Essentials, the first statewide educator and student survey about each school’s learning conditions and climate.
Illinois State Board of Education: http://www.isbe.net/assessment/htmls/isat-cut-scores13.htm
Common Core IL:
Common Core State Standards Initiative:
Additional fact sheets provided by the ISBE Division of Public Information will be released throughout 2013.
Mon, Apr 14 2014 - Fri, Apr 18 2014
Spring Break -- Schools are closed
Mon, Apr 21 2014 - Fri, Apr 25 2014
Jump Rope for Heart
Tue, Apr 22 2014 10:00 - 12:00
Earth Day movie (1st - 8th grades)
Wed, Apr 23 2014 9:00 - 10:00
Tour (Main Bldg.)
Thu, Apr 24 2014
Picture Retakes (K - 7th Grades)
Fri, Apr 25 2014
Leader of the Month Lunch
Fri, Apr 25 2014
The South Loop Elementary Green Team hosts special events to keep our school green and provides green tips for our families.