Tougher Tests for Illinois Students

Feb 4, 2013

Student achievement tests given to third through eighth graders will be more difficult this year.  The Illinois Standards Achievement Tests are meant to measure learning in areas like language and math.  But the new versions given this spring will require a broader understanding of subjects.  Illinois will also raise the bar for meeting learning standards, which means fewer students are likely to hit the benchmarks. 

State Superintendent Christopher Koch
Credit State Board of Education

While lower test scores could be seen as a negative, State Superintendent Christopher Koch says this change will give a clearer picture of how school kids are performing. 

"They require you to know what students should have known in the prior grade, what students should know when they are going to the next grade, and all of that helps teachers understand what they should be delivering in terms of content and what interventions they should be using with students." -Christopher Koch

The ISAT exams will eventually be replaced by tests more in line with the new learning standards.   In the meantime, these re-worked tests are causing headaches for some districts.  Rochester schools superintendent Tom Bertrand says it puts teachers and administrators in a bad spot:

"We're left to explain it to the 9 year old in the classroom who made adequate yearly progress last year who can't make it this year, no matter how hard they try." -Tom Bertrand

Bertrand wanted the ISAT tests scrapped until new exams are ready in a couple of years.  He says the state is disconnected from what local districts are going through.

Illinois Public Radio's Sean Crawford contributed to this report