CPS Test Scores Plunge as Reality Intrudes

Chicago Tribune, July 17, 2013

Chicago Public Schools officials revealed Tuesday that only 52.5 percent of the district’s elementary students met or exceeded state academic standards in the last school year. That’s a nearly 22-percentage-point plunge from a year earlier.

Students didn’t suddenly get less intelligent. They were not doing as well in the past as everyone was led to believe. The state had dumbed down the tests and lowered cut scores to avoid sanctions from the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Educators fed parents an illusion that the vast majority of Illinois elementary students—more than 8 out of 10 last year—were performing well. {snip}

This isn’t exactly news. We’ve been talking about this for several years. The state finally moved last year to toughen the Illinois Standards Achievement Test in anticipation of meeting new national standards known as the common core curriculum.

Chicago has now reported its results, the first indication of how much inflation was going on with the ISAT.

We don’t know yet how big the drop will be across the state, but you can count on shock from Zion to Cairo. {snip}

The results will be ugly. Thousands of students statewide who were rated as meeting standards in 2012 will not make the cut in 2013. Teachers, principals and ISBE officials are bracing for a torrent of angry, confused and disappointed parents.

This is a long overdue dose of reality. {snip}

CPS officials say that there has been steady annual academic improvement over the past decade, even taking into account the state’s test gimmickry. CPS recalibrated old scores based on the new threshold. By that measure, only 23.4 percent of students met state standards in 2001. That has risen to 52.5 percent in 2013.

Yes, as poorly as everyone thought Chicago schools were performing a decade ago, the reality was much worse.

The current results show the achievement gap between minority and white students remains wide, and in some cases even wider than in past years.


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