Preliminary results of statewide exams show fewer Illinois juniors meeting or exceeding expectations on the SAT college entrance exam this year than in 2017, when the test was implemented statewide.
At the same time, scores for elementary and middle-school students have flatlined, according to data presented at the Illinois State Board of Education on Wednesday.
State officials partly blamed a crippling teacher shortage. The state board spent a big chunk of a two-day fall retreat discussing the findings of a new report called Teach Illinois, which makes recommendations on how to grapple with shortages faced by Chicago as well as rural districts.
Board member Susie Morrison, who’s from Carlinville and is a former principal and state deputy superintendent, also expressed concerns about unequal access to challenging courses across districts.
“I think we need to have a conversation about what we can do to support local schools and districts,” she said. “This flatline of data is not particularly good news for us.”
Rae Clementz, the state’s director of assessments and accountability who presented the test score data Wednesday, said it is only the second year that the state has administered the SAT. She cautioned the board about reading too much into the 2018 results.
The state began administering the SAT to all 11th-grade public school students in the 2016-2017 school year. Illinois’ benchmark score is 540 on English Language Arts and 540 on math, which is higher than college readiness standard set by the College Board, which administers the SAT, of 480 and 530, respectively.
She said the state board has focused on widening access to advanced coursework and test preparation. Starting this school year, the state will begin to administer the pre-SAT standardized test, the PSAT, to all ninth- and 10th-graders.
On the SAT, 36.8 percent of students met or exceeded baseline scores in English and language arts. Broken down by ethnicity, 13.8 percent of black students, 22.2 percent of Hispanic students, and 48.6 percent of white students met state standards represented by the baseline. In comparison, only 1.4 percent of English language learners and 7.5 percent of special education students met the standards.
Scores were lower in math: 34.2 percent of students statewide met or exceeded baseline scores (see chart).
Narrowing the gap in test scores among subgroups, such as English language learners compared with the general student population, is an important measure of how well schools are doing in educating all children, including those who live in poverty or aren’t native English speakers.
Clementz also presented statewide results on the PARCC, a national assessment that is used to gauge if children are learning on grade level, and the Illinois Science Achievement Test. On the PARCC, student achievement across the board generally remained flat. Some wide gaps in scores that had been observed by race closed slightly.
Across four years of data, gaps in test scores for English language arts narrowed more than gaps in math. The PARCC assessment is administered to all third- to eighth-grade students in the state.
Slightly more than half, or 52.6 percent, of Illinois students met or exceeded state standards on the state science test. Only students in fifth and eighth grades, plus high school first-year biology students, take those tests.
Last year, the state adopted a new funding model that takes into account factors such as student poverty and community wealth. It allocates funds to districts under a formula intended to compensate for wide variations in property tax revenues, which fund schools. Some communities have that wealth and others don’t. It’s too early to know how that funding formula overhaul will impact scores.
District- and school-level test score data will be released in the state school report card in late October.