ISATs on the Way Out, New Assessment Tests Coming
The annual statewide tests will be replaced with shorter, more frequent assessment exams by 2014, Board of Education learns.
The Illinois State Board of Education will discontinue the Illinois State Achievement Exam and the Prairie State Achievement Exam within the next three years, School District 304 Board of Education members announced Monday.
Instead, students will take three or four smaller standardized tests each year to assess their academic progress throughout the school year, said Patty O'Neill, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.
"I see us administering (tests at) three different assessment points, with a cumulative point at the end of the year," she said, adding that IBSE officials are still developing the replacement tests.
The change comes as part of an update of Illinois' common core standards for all students in kindergarten through 12th grade. The current standards, which date back to 1997, have proven inadequate to prepare students for college or the workplace, O'Neill said.
"Many of our students are required to take non-credit courses in math and English when they start college. This is unacceptable. It has to change," she said.
The new English and language arts standards will increase the amount of writing instruction, particularly in high schools, and will shift the reading emphasis from literature to informational text.
"Informational material is the majority of what students will use as they move out of academics and into the workplace," O'Neill said.
Math standards will be split into content standards—how well students understand mathematical processes; and practice standards—how well students can apply those processes to solve problems. At each grade level, students will work on developing abstract reasoning skills. Primary-grade students will concentrate on arithmetic, while students in fifth through seventh grades will focus on geometry. The new standards call for students to be ready for algebra by the end of seventh grade.
The ISBE is expected to release its new science standards next month, O'Neill said. Officials are developing standards in social studies and have begun to discuss standards in fine arts, she added. Residents can keep abreast of the changes by visiting the ISBE's standards website, and clicking the links to individual subject standards on the menu located at the right edge of the page.
Board member Kelly Nowak said the revised testing format has merits.
"I like the idea of assessments not being tied to a high-stakes test once a year," she said.