Testing in Illinois: An Overview
A GreatSchools guide to standardized tests
By GreatSchools Staff
Although test results are only one measure of student achievement, they have become increasingly important in assessing student learning. In 2009-2010 Illinois used two standards-based tests-the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT, pronounced EYE-sat) and the Prairie State Achievement Examination (PSAE)-to measure how well students are meeting the state's grade-level expectations.
The ISAT is given in grades 3 through 8 in reading and math, and in grades 4 and 7 in science. Schools also have the option to administer ISAT tests in physical development, health and fine arts.
The PSAE is administered to students in grade 11 in reading, math and science. The PSAE also includes an ACT assessment, which can be used for college admissions, and a WorkKeys portion that measures math and reading skills that employers believe are critical to job success.
How are the tests scored?
PSAE and ISAT results show the level of proficiency a student demonstrates in each of the subject areas tested. Students are rated at one of four levels: academic warning, below standards, meets standards and exceeds standards. The goal is for all students to score at or above the meets standards level.
Which results are included on GreatSchools profiles?
For each subject, the combined percentage of students scoring at and above the meets standard level is displayed.
GreatSchools also displays subgroup results to show how different groups of students are scoring in comparison to the overall student population in a given grade and subject. The subgroups are identified by the Illinois State Board of Education; if there are a small number of students in a particular group in a school, data is not reported for that group.
Why do the tests matter?
Illinois test results provide an indication of whether students are making progress toward mastery of state content standards. Although Illinois schools do not use test results alone to make decisions regarding grade-level promotion or retention, low scores may suggest the need for additional assistance. In addition, high school transcripts include PSAE scores and show which students earned Prairie State Achievement Awards for excellent performance on the test.
It is important to be aware of both your child's score on the assessments and the overall score for her school. If your child scores below the standards, contact her teacher to discuss getting additional assistance, and to find out how you can support your child's learning at home.
If the school's overall scores are low, ask what steps the school is taking to raise achievement levels for all students, and what you can do to help. Because Illinois test results help determine whether a given school will receive financial rewards or penalties from the state, your child may be eligible to receive federal and/or state money for tutoring or to transfer to another school.
A few parting words
Test results don't tell you everything about the quality of a particular school, although they can be an indicator of what's happening in the classroom. Always look at more than one measure when judging school performance and visit in person before making any final assessment.
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