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Friday, February 24, 2006

Illinois Lowers Math Cut Score to Secure AYP in 2007

The Illinois State Board of Education just lowered the cut score on the eighth grade ISAT math test to the 38th percentile. The ISAT is used to determine if schools are making AYP in Illinois. This change means that, by definition 62 percent of the students who take the test will meet standards. A student with an IQ in the 38th percentile has a below average IQ, and a student with an ACT math score in the 38th percentile wouldn'’t be able to gain admission many colleges. But evidently the 38th percentile is just fine for 8th graders in Illinois.

In retrospect, it'’s pretty obvious why Illinois didn'’t apply for flexibility in reporting AYP; instead the state lowered the standard. The reason why has to do with meeting AYP in 2007. The percentage of students M/E in math in Illinois has remained at 54.3 over the last 2 years. Next year, the AYP bar will be raised to 55 percent. It appears that rather than try to squeeze the needed 0.7 percent improvement out of schools that Illinois has opted to “adjust” the cut score to insure that 62 percent of its students meet standards. There i’s the wriggle room. Don'’t expect to see a change in 8th grade reading cut scores this year—72.7 percent of students meet/exceed standards there.

Adjusting the ISAT is not that complicated since it’s not a national test. That is why High schools are going to pose a particular problem since they rely heavily on the ACT and WorkKeys to figure AYP. The problem is that the state of Illinois tops out at about 52 percent in math and 59 percent in reading. Tinkering with cut scores on high profile national exams is sure to come under more scrutiny than tinkering with homespun tests like the ISAT.

Of course the business community is in an uproar over this; as are the Republicans—after all no one wants to be perceived as soft on education these days.

According to the SunTimes the move was supported by the educationalists who make up the Illinois Statewide School Management Alliance who contend "that the change will not affect the difficulty of the test questions themselves and therefore would not affect student performance." That's right; the state didn't change the questions on the test, only the number students need to get right to meet standards. Am I the only one that finds this ridiculous?

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