The Policy Shop: How to fix Illinois public schools’ falling test scores

The Policy Shop: How to fix Illinois public schools’ falling test scores

This edition of The Policy Shop comes to you from Policy Analyst Hannah Max.

Thousands of high schoolers are gearing up to take the SAT next month. Year after year, SAT scores have dropped for high school students in Illinois and Chicago.

The first year Illinois used the SAT rather than the ACT to measure high school students’ academic progress was 2017. Since then, average SAT scores statewide have decreased each year. Illinois’ statewide average SAT scores declined by 10 points in reading and 13 points in math from 2021 to 2022.

Declining SAT scores are a red flag when we look at how our kids are doing academically. Tests are an important way we can measure student performance overall and understand how outcomes are changing for the kids in our schools over time. An examination of SAT data shows kids are doing worse now than they were before the pandemic.

How did we get here? Illinois requires all high school juniors to take the SAT to graduate from high school. This requirement was put into place in 2017. Even prior to the pandemic, SAT scores in Illinois were on the decline.

Where are we now? Among Illinois’ 20 largest school districts in 2022, only nine beat the state average in reading and 10 in math.

Students in Chicago Public Schools scored below the statewide average on the SAT in 2022. Reading scores dropped 8.2 points since 2019 and math scores dropped by 23.6 points.

Illinois 11th grade students scored on average 486.4 on the reading portion of the SAT and 473.8 on math in spring 2022. This marked a nearly 10- and 13-point drop in reading and math since the previous academic year, and an 11- and 23-point drop since 2019, the last test year prior to the pandemic.

The largest drop in reading came from Aurora East Unit School District 131, which experienced a 23-point drop since 2019. As for math, Wheeling-Elk Grove Township High School District 214 took the biggest hit with a drop of over 33 points.

See how your school district fared here.

What to do? The consolidated election on April 4, 2023, will give voters a chance to elect their local school board members, who make important decisions regarding the quality of education such as:

Keeping kids in school. Illinois students have been harmed by teacher strikes and school closures during the past several years.

Keeping parents in the know. The best learning environment is a partnership between teachers and families. To create that, parents need to understand what their children are learning in the classroom so they can support their students’ educations.

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