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Schools in D-200, statewide see drop in ISAT scores due to new testing standards

Published: Friday, Nov. 1, 2013 6:27 p.m. CDT

WHEATON – Community Unit School District 200 student scores on the Illinois Standard Achievement Test (ISAT) declined significantly compared to last year.

Statewide, the number of students who met or exceeded the standards of ISAT, a statewide standardized test administered to third through eighth graders, dropped.

D-200 was no exception.

Some schools lost more than 20 percentage points, and no elementary or middle schools improved compared to last year.

But this drop wasn't academic in nature, said Faith Dahlquist, D-200's assistant superintendent for educational services. Instead, the results were affected by a higher benchmark of what constitutes a "meets or exceeds" score.

The change is similar to a teacher who alters their grading scale on a test, she said. The teacher's students may receive a different letter grade for the same percentage of correct answers they got before.

According to data from the Illinois State Board of Education, if the new standards from this year's test were applied to last year's results, the number of D-200 students who met or exceeded expectations increased one point, to 75 percent.

The drop-off at some schools in the district was far more dramatic than at others.

Longfellow Elementary School in Wheaton experienced a marginal drop, from 95.1 percent of students meeting standards last year to 90.8 percent. In contrast, Clifford Johnson Elementary School dropped from 81.5 percent to 55.1 percent.

"For schools that didn't have much of a change, their scores were more at the upper ends already," Dahlquist said. "And for the others that were impacted greatly, they had students hovering right at 'meets,' but the 'meets' bar changed."

That disparity comes largely from the challenges presented to children who are from low-income families or are learning English as a second language, Dahlquist said.

"Those students tend to have lower 'meets' scores and are just hovering at that level," she said.

District studies have shown that such students improve on test scores the longer they remain in the district, but that their overall test scores are lower than other D-200 students.

Previously, student performance on standardized tests through eighth grade was much higher than on high school level tests in the district, Dahlquist said, due to the differing 'meets' standards on the tests.

The higher standards were only applied to the ISAT test.

Wheaton Warrenville South and Wheaton North high schools increased three percent and decreased 0.9 percent on state standardized tests compared to last year, respectively.

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Percentage of students who met or exceeded expectations in the district• 2012: 74 percent• 2013: 75 percent

Percentage of students who met or exceeded expectations statewide• 59 percent both years

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Meets or exceeds expectations on state tests in the district

Top five (2013 percentage compared to 2012 percentage)• Longfellow Elementary - 90.8 / 95.1• Wiesbrook Elementary - 86.2 / 96.1• Whittier Elementary - 84.9 / 94.4• Emerson Elementary - 83.2 / 94.3• Madison Elementary - 82.5 / 93.8

Bottom five (2013 percentage compared to 2012 percentage)• Clifford Johnson Elementary - 55.1 / 81.5• Hawthorne Elementary - 66.3 / 76.2• Carl Sandburg Elementary - 65.9 / 89.8• Hubble Middle School - 70.3 / 90.2• Wheaton Warrenville South - 71 / 68.1

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Biggest district changes after new scoring system

• Lincoln Elementary – down 29 points• Carl Sandburg Elementary – down 29 points• Clifford Johnson Elementary – down 26 points• Hubble Middle – down 20 points• Madison Elementary and Monroe Middle – down 18 points

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Notable numbers

• 73 percent of high school students met or exceeded expectations on the Prairie State Achievement Examination, up two points from last year• D-200 graduation rate was 92 percent, down from 100 percent in 2009• Attendance has remained constant at 95 percent since 2009• D-200 has an average class size of 23, compared to 21 statewide• Instructional spending on students has risen $200 since last year

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