Illinois schools don't test low achievers

Illinois high schools have found a way to look good on the Prairie State exam given to juniors, reports Education Week. Juniors who are behind on credits are defined as sophomores. That means the low achievers don’t take the test. But most move on the next year to 12th grade, where their test scores aren’t counted for federal or state accountability purposes.

Rich East High School has seen state test scores for its 11th-graders improve by a stunning 37 percent during the last two years — a gain so impressive that regional education officials asked the Park Forest school to host a seminar to help others emulate its success.

There’s only one problem: Rich East did not give the Prairie State Achievement Exam to about 40 percent of its juniors last school year. And it excluded the ones furthest behind academically.

A Chicago Tribune analysis found that 20 percent of Illinois sophomores weren’t counted as juniors the following year and didn’t take the Prairie State Exam, which includes ACT questions.

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  1. That should read “some” illinois high schools.

  2. What Mike said.

  3. I’m sure that’s precisely the same attitude taken by the folks who oversaw the Rich East High “miracle”.

  4. In Nevada, we have something like this, as for many years (even back in the 1970’s) we classified grade level in high school based on the number of years one was in school.

    Then in the 2000’s, the school district here started basing class standing on the actual number of credited earned by virtual of passing classes (which makes sense, since you need ‘x’ number credits to actually graduate from high school).

    When this took effect, the local media was all over it, due to the fact that there were suddenly 18 year old 9th graders popping up all over the place.

    Also, since Nevada requires testing to earn a diploma, this also prevented students who were not credit sufficient from taking the exam (if they managed to pass it, they still couldn’t graduate).

    IMO, the use of reclassifying students into lower grades makes sense if they haven’t passed the classes makes sense (i.e. – no social promotion),

  5. Well, there’s a difference between “low achievers” and special ed.

    Some schools are definitely pulling a fast one, but having low/borderline IQ kids take the Prairie State exams and averaging them in is ridiculous. Their skills aren’t anywhere near where the PSAE expects and not for lack of trying.

    As a parent, I would like to see the Explore test given again to these kids to see how far they’ve come in developing at least middle school skills. It would tell me a lot more about the school’s performance than the ACT or the Prairie State ever could.

    Kids with an IQ of 90 and up would probably (be mostly) in regular classes and should be tested for those skills.

    My son had to take the Prairie State and ACT exam even though on his best day he can only read near a 6th/7th grade level. That’s no one’s fault since the school and his parents have made gargantuan efforts just to get him to this point. It was a waste of his time and told me nothing about what skills he may have acquired from his special ed teachers.

    Again, I’m making a distinction between bona fied across the board special ed kids and generic low achievers. In other words, kids in regular classes should all take the test.

  6. Hmmm. Wonder what the odds are that “about 40%” is almost exactly 37%?

  7. Ah, my state put a loophole like this in last year. I fought my super and principal to have ALL kids take the test — mostly out of paranoia that there would be no way to go back to grab the ones exempted and we’d eventually get nailed on it. We went back and forth for a few months, but eventually they relented and every single kid sat for it — a real credit to them since we were in the dreaded 3rd year of not making AYP. We still blew it out, the AYP clock starts again, all is well.

    Susan, that’s just common sense — can’t have that anywhere NEAR accountability talk.


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