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November 20, 2009

ISAT Pilot

Earlier this week, the message below was sent out via the superintendentís bulletin:

ISAT Science and Math Item Presentation Pilot

In December there will be a special pilot looking at the impact of different presentation accommodations on ISAT science and math item performance. Schools selected for participation will be receiving notification within the next week. Students in grades 3 and 5 will be taking one approximately 55 minute math session. Students in grade 8 will be taking both a math and science session. Materials should arrive the week of Nov. 30th. In the notification letters, the groups of students who should be assessed will be identified. Participation of students with disabilities and students identified as limited English proficient as specified in the letters is critical. The window for the administration is Dec. 7th through Dec. 11th. Additional information regarding administration will be provided in the notification letters and with the assessment materials. Your full cooperation and support of this effort is appreciated and will allow us to continue and to expand the accommodations made available with ISAT. If you have questions regarding the pilot, please contact Student Assessment at 217.782.4823.

The letters referenced are on their way; but in the meantime, we also sent out e-mails to those ISAT coordinators whose districts/schools will be involved and for whom we have valid addresses. We appreciate the level of support we are getting in response to that communication; but did want to provide some additional background information to make clear the importance of this pilot study.

The fieldís involvement in the upcoming Special Pilot Study is critical to our efforts to provide valid means of participation for our students with disabilities and English language learners on the state tests. As you are all well aware, assessing these students poses challenges. In an attempt to minimize the influence of disability and language barriers, the state has provided for accommodations to allow students to better demonstrate what they know. From this pilot study we will get data on the impact of certain key accommodations on student performance. What we learn should have practical implications in the selection of the most appropriate accommodations for students with different learning needs and English language proficiency levels. In addition, sufficient participation by students with disabilities could lead to something like Form LM being available to them in the future.

Giving another test at this time of year is the last thing anyone wants to do, but losing essential testing accommodations needed by our students in special populations is unthinkable.† Two years ago, Illinois eliminated a specialized state test for English Language Learners (IMAGE) due to our inability to demonstrate technical adequacy. Although there was no way to maintain IMAGE due to its true lack of comparability, this is not the case with our accommodations for ISAT. Adequate participation in the Special Pilot Study will provide evidence not only to us, but also to federal reviewers, on the appropriateness and effectiveness of ISAT reader scripts and linguistically modified forms (Form LM).

We do have an added incentive to complete this study in a timely manner. The just recently released application for the second round of State Fiscal Stabilization Funding (SFSF) asks us to show that our state education tests are in compliance with federal law. In addition, it asks whether we have studied the appropriateness and effectiveness of our accommodations. Our response to these two indicators will be positively enhanced with the study. During this time of fiscal challenges, we in Illinois canít afford to jeopardize our access to that large federal source of funding.[1]

We apologize for the disruption and difficult timeline.† The challenge is significant, but there is much at stake. Again, we appreciate the level of support you have been demonstrating thus far and in advance, thank you for your continued cooperation over the course of the next few weeks. Please, do everything possible to provide crucial education data through your participation, and donít hesitate to contact ISBE (217-782-4823) with your questions and concerns.

[1] According to estimates, the Illinois share of the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund could be over two billion dollars.† Eighty percent of which must be spent on public education.

Illinois State Board of Education
100 North First Street
Springfield, IL 62777