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TESTS 2.1 ACT Scores

Heather Momyer/MEDILL

CPS data shows changes in ACT scores from 2001 to 2012 that indicate a widening achievement gap between white students and black and Latino students in CPS schools.

Illinois and CPS raise the bar even higher on standardized tests

by Heather Momyer
Nov 29, 2012


Heather Momyer/MEDILL

According to data on the CPS Assessments website, large numbers of students did not meet or exceed the reading standards on the ISAT in 2001. By 2012, test scores jumped.


Heather Momyer/MEDILL

Math scores were also low with many CPS students failing to meet state standards in 2001. By 2012, CPS students showed tremendous improvement.

Illinois standardized tests for public-school students are undergoing changes as the state adopts the new common core curriculum. These changes involve new tests and higher standards. Meanwhile, Chicago Public School officials say the achievement gap among black and Latino students is widening.

On the chopping block is the Illinois Standard Achievement Test. The ISAT is a state-mandated test measuring reading and math skills in grades three through eight and science skills in grades four through seven.

Between 2001 and 2012, students showed tremendous growth in ISAT scores. Students, no matter their gender or race, showed improvement, though white students were among the highest scorers.

The 2012 difference in scores between white students and black students is significant, but so is the difference in improvement. Black students’ reading scores improved by 50 percent and math scores improved by 63 percent since 2001.

White students also showed substantial improvement in ISAT scores. Reading results and math scores rose about 30 percent.

None of these scores reflect English-language learners.

The results seem comparable with what has happened on a state level.

“We have noticed an overall narrowing of the achievement gap over time,” said Amanda Simhauser, spokeswoman for the Illinois State Board of Education.

Between 2006 and 2011 black students’ ISAT scores rose more than 13 percent, she said.

However, while it may seem that the difference in tests scores is slowly decreasing among black, Latino and white students in their elementary and middle-school years, by high-school, the gap in test scores increases.

In 11th grade, students take the ACT, one of the primary tests for college admissions. Overall test scores have gone up more than 4 percent since 2001, but the progress made by black students was closer to a 2 percent increase.

In 2012, the average black student's score was 15.8. That’s 30 percent lower than the average white student's score. In 2001, the difference was 20 percent.

CPS spokeswoman Marielle Sainvilus said the widening gap among students is cause for concern. School officials are considering potential school closures, charter schools, and other education changes.

It is important to use all available resources to close that gap, Sainvilus said.

The ISAT will be replaced with the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test, which is supported by the U.S. Department of Education’s Race to the Top program.

The new assessments will be “more focused on critical thinking” and “students will have to score higher to meet or exceed standards,” Simhauser said.