Chicago Tribune calls for honesty in college-readiness standards
The Chicago Tribune is calling on the state to be honest about how well its students are performing academically: “Illinois has a track record of massaging its school performance numbers to mask reality and make everybody feel good. Last year, 849 schools could boast that 90 percent or more of their students passed statewide reading...
The Chicago Tribune is calling on the state to be honest about how well its students are performing academically:
“Illinois has a track record of massaging its school performance numbers to mask reality and make everybody feel good. Last year, 849 schools could boast that 90 percent or more of their students passed statewide reading and math exams. In 2013, only 58 schools met that benchmark. Kids didn’t get dumber. The state owned up to a history of fudging the results and recalibrated its standards to be a more accurate gauge of whether students are on track to graduate from high school.”
Illinois ranks 41st in reading and 45th in math when it comes to the rigor of its standards. The Illinois State Board of Education, or ISBE, even admitted that current testing standards do not set a high bar in a recent letter to the U.S. Department of Education to exempt Illinois districts and schools from complying with federal standards.
More students are considered college-ready under state standards than ACT standards. State standards for college-readiness have been relaxed over the years to allow districts and schools to escape penalties associated with the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
The result: a 21 percent difference between the percentage of students the state says are college-ready and the ACT says are college-ready.
To be considered college-ready by the ACT, a student has to score well enough on math, English, science and reading tests, so that he or she has a reasonable change of earning a B or C in a freshman college class in the same subject. The state, on the other hand, only requires that students perform at grade-level with their peers – a much lower threshold.
Some schools have a wider gap than the state. Grant Community High School in Fox Lake, Ill., for example, saw an almost 25 percentage point drop in the percentage of students that were considered college-ready after its students took the ACT.
Even high-performing schools show differences when the two benchmarks are used. According to the state, 87.4 percent of students at Lake Forest High School are college-ready. But, according to the ACT, only 59.6 percent of students have met that standard.
But simply asking for the same people who were in charge of the cover up to now commit to transparency is not enough. ISBE, district superintendents, local administrators and union bosses have had years to come clean – it is only because they’ve been caught that they are now changing their tune.
Instead, the state should leave this responsibility to parents by providing them with the resources to choose the best school for their children. They are the only people willing to devote the time and effort necessary to make sure that the school they choose for their child is representing itself accurately and is the right fit.