Like many school districts in Illinois, Elmhurst Unit District 205's School Report Card, which shows student and school growth year over year and provides accountability to the federal No Child Left Behind law, saw a drop in scores from 2012. That is due to the fact that the Illinois State Board of Education changed the way standardized tests are graded. The ISBE raised expectations—or "cut scores"—for ISAT exams, which are given to third- through eighth-grade students.
The drops were not unexpected, as Elmhurst Patch reported in February.
The State Board raised expectations on math and reading proficiency on the ISATs to align with the Common Core Learning Standards. The scope of Common Core is broad, but in a nutshell, the uniform national standards were created to ensure students are prepared for college and career.
Common Core is not mandated by the federal government but states that do not adopt Common Core standards will not be eligible for education funding. More information about Common Core can be found on the ISBE website here and also here.
The ISBE has not yet adopted new science standards, so it has not raised performance expectations for the science portion of the ISATs, administered to fourth- and seventh-graders only.
Under the new cut scores, 83 percent of District 205 students met or exceeded standards on the Illinois Standards Achievement Test in 2013, while an average of 59 percent met that same benchmark statewide, according to the Illinois State Report Card website. Last year, under the old cut scores, 95 percent of Elmhurst students met or exceeded standards, with 83 percent meeting or exceeding standards statewide.
Because of the new cut scores, the number of schools meeting or exceeding standards dropped throughout the state nearly 20 percentage points on average, from about 82 percent last year to 62 percent this year.
The scoring on the Prairie State Achievement Exam, which is given to 11th-graders, did not change this year. The state composite score increased from 51 percent to 53 percent meets and exceeds, according to the ISBE. In District 205, the composite score rose from 74 percent in 2012 to 76 percent in 2013.
Elmhurst District 205 Superintendent David Pruneau, in a Talk 205 message to parents on Wednesday, said the way public schools are measured in Illinois is flawed.
The Federal No Child Left Behind law is punitive, Pruneau said, and Illinois is one of only seven states nationwide still required to measure the status of its school districts under this system. All other states have been granted NCLB waivers from the U.S. Department of Education, he said. Illinois has applied for exemption more than once.
Also, 100 percent of students in Illinois school districts must meet or exceed state standards in reading and math next year under NCLB requirements.
Schools in Elmhurst District 205 have traditionally received some of the highest scores in the state, Pruneau said. In fact, according to a Chicago Sun-Times report released Thursday, five Elmhurst District 205 schools are ranked among the Top 50 in the state. But, Pruneau said, there is a real possibility that no District 205 schools will make the "unrealistic federal standard" of 100 percent meets and exceeds next year.
Of the schools ranked in the annual report card, 600 passed while 3,169 were "deemed failures," according to a Daily Herald analysis of the State Report Card.
But the state report card also is more comprehensive than in year's past.
A new metric, “Ready for College Coursework,” refers to the percent of students at each high school who earned a combined score of at least a 21 on the ACT college admission test. Statewide, 45.7 percent of Illinois public school students from the graduating class of 2013 posted at least a 21 on the ACT. At York High School, 74 percent of students were classified as "ready for college coursework."
Also included this year is the Illinois 5 Essentials Survey, the first statewide education survey of teachers and students, Pruneau said.
"Its goal is to provide information about school climate and learning conditions and help drive school improvement," he said. "Responses to this anonymous online survey, administered last spring to all teachers and sixth- through 12th-grade students, are being shared with school districts through the Report Card."
Last fall, District 205 initiated its own comprehensive nationally normed survey through Harris Interactive that provided satisfaction levels of students, staff and parents. Those results were shared with the community last year. Due to the strong response rate received on this comprehensive Harris survey, district response rates to the 5Essentials Survey that followed in the spring were "not significant," Pruneau said.
The state also added a page to the Report Card called Student Academic Growth, which is designed to report school and district growth based on student performance on the Illinois Standards Achievement Test in 2012 and 2013.
From Pruneau's message to parents:
"The Value Table model compares students’ achievement levels (based on state assessment scores) from one year to the next and then assigns a numerical value from 0 to 200 to that change. The growth scores of all students in the school or district are averaged to determine a total growth value for reading and math.
"This growth model is supposed to track progress over the past two years. However, the growth model in the Report Card compares a student’s score on the 2012 Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) with his score on the 2013 ISAT, which had 30% of its questions aligned to the new and more rigorous Common Core standards. In addition, the Report Card compares how a student performed on a test for one grade level with how he or she performed on the test for a different grade level."
This is the last year that ISATs will be administered in grades 3-8, he added.
The report card is available in three formats. The version that is most similar to previous ISBE Report Cards is posted on the District 205 website.
The Online Report Card, with an interactive tool for exploring school performance data and detailed descriptions of each metric, and the At-a-Glance Report Card, which summarizes the data in a two-page snapshot, are available at the Illinois State Report Card website.