In all but one standard, School District 308 high school juniors exceeded the state average for the SAT during the first year that the test was required by the state.
That information was included in the state’s annual report cards for school districts, issued last week. The report cards contain everything from a demographic breakdown of students to the amount of time that students spend on a core subject during the school day. These numbers, in most cases, are covered as far back as the 2013-14 school year, and are also shown in relation to state averages.
Test scores, a point of interest to parents and community members, were presented on the report card, including the newly implemented SAT, which replaced the ACT as a state test in the 2016-17 school year. The SAT is taken by high school juniors every spring.
The district report card evaluates the success of students, based off of four standards of measurement: Partially Meets Standards, Approaching Standards, Meets Standards, and Exceeds Standards.
The standards are determined by the Illinois State Board of Education’s Learning Standards, which define what all public school students in Illinois should know and be able to do in the seven core areas of elementary and secondary education.
Dr. Lisa Smith, associate superintendent for educational services for District 308, said the grading standards for the ISBE differ from the benchmarks set by the College Board, as the College Board’s three standards are set to determine a student’s success in their first-semester college classes.
The ISBE’s standards, which must be followed by federal law, are set to reduce the possibility of needing remedial courses in college, and serve as a barometer of success for a school and district.
By the metrics set by the ISBE: 18 percent of students who took the SAT were considered to partially meet state standards, 35 percent of students were marked as approaching standards, while 36 percent met standards, and 12 percent exceeded standards.
District 308 was higher than the state average in all categories except for students who approached state standards, where the percentages were the same.
Smith called the material “new information for school districts,” having aligned the SAT to the state standards.
“This is new learning for districts,” Smith said. “This is a new way to look at the SAT from the state lens... what we look like when aligned with the state standards.”
Smith declined to discuss the specific results from the 2017 SAT results, citing an upcoming presentation on the matter at the District 308 Board of Education’s meeting on Monday, Nov. 13, at Oswego East High School.
“I think you’re going to hear a lot of conversations from school districts as we seek to better understand the difference between a Level Three and a Level Four.”
The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test is taken by students in third through eighth grades. While the PARCC test still measures student performance levels by the Illinois Learning Standards, the scores are broken down differently.
To account for a student’s testing ability, the student’s raw score, or actual points earned on test items, is adjusted to account for differences among the various forms and administrations of the PARCC test, creating the scale score. The overall scale scores for English language arts and mathematics determining a student’s performance level in one of five categories: did not yet meet expectations, partially met expectations, approached expectations, met expectations, and exceeded expectations.
In 2017: 8 percent of District 308 students did not meet expectations, 17 percent partially met expectations, 30 percent approached expectations, 40 percent met expectations, and 7 percent exceeded expectations. Students who have met or exceeded expectations are considered to be “on track” for the next grade, and ready for college and a career.
Smith said that the district was “pleased” with the 47 total percent of students who met or exceeded standards, but that the district would use the results to “dig deeper” to examine the results and determine which students need help for the next year’s tests, and which standards the curriculum may need to be more aligned to.
“The data is helpful in that it helps you understand how tight we are to the expected standards,” Smith said.
With roughly half of students meeting or exceeding standards, it shows that the curriculum is tight to the test standards, but that with 30 percent approaching, “It means that we have some students in the middle where we need to pull their specific profiles...what is that group not mastering, and how are we responding to it?” Smith said.
These test results also factor into determining the achievement gap between students in different demographic groups, something that the district takes into account when determining teaching strategies.
However, Smith and Jennifer Volpe, executive director of special education for District 308, caution parents to look at their own student’s achievements based on their individualized education plan (IEP), instead of the numbers as a whole. The 2017 report showed a 38 percent achievement gap between students with and without IEPs, down from 44 percent in 2015.
“For parents of students with IEPs, what they should focus on, is the growth of their particular student,” Volpe said. “As we all know, when we look at one test, it’s kind of a one shot of ‘On this given day, how did this student perform?’”
The district examines multiple sources of data to get a “holistic picture” of how students perform on different types of assessments given in different ways, Volpe said.
Volpe added that district assessments and progress monitoring tools with more district oversight in creating IEPs for students, as opposed to state tests that don’t accurately show a student’s growth.
“Each students have individual needs that must be met in their program,” Smith said. “Much more important than how they might perform on the PARCC test, is how they are performing throughout the year, and how they are improving over time.”