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July 31, 2002

Mathematics achievement continues upward trend, most scores stable on 2002

Illinois Standards Achievement Tests and Prairie State Achievement Examination

Mathematics achievement for Illinois students continued a three-year upward trend at all elementary grades tested, and science scores also showed slight improvements across all grades while most scores on other 2002 state tests were about the same as 2001, the State Board of Education reported today.

“While some progress can be noted in 2002 test scores, it is clear that we have a long way to go if we are to meet the challenge of No Child Left Behind (the new federal law) to have 100% of students, including all subgroups, meeting standards within twelve years,” State Superintendent of Education Respicio Vazquez warned. “We must step up the pace to assure that all students have the opportunities and support to reach high achievement targets.

“Wide achievement gaps among groups of students are appalling and unacceptable. No Child Left Behind raises the bar -requiring substantial statewide growth each year. We must eliminate our intolerable achievement gaps and assure that all students reach high standards – not because of requirements of a new federal law but because it is the right thing to do.”

The 2002 test data continue to show substantial gaps in achievement for low income students versus non-low income students and between minority groups and their white counterparts. Minority groups – particularly Hispanics and blacks – as well as low-income students improved their scores in most subjects and grades tested, but wide gaps remain.

Vazquez called the improvement in mathematics achievement “a bright spot in the four-year history of state standards-based testing.” “All these tests are difficult since they are based on the rigorous Illinois Learning Standards adopted in 1997,” he said, “but the mathematics tests are the most difficult, requiring knowledge of algebraic concepts throughout the grades tested.”

It wasn’t until the third year of ISAT (2001) that 50% of eighth-grade students met rigorous mathematics standards on the ISAT. This year, eighth-grade mathematics achievement increased to 53% meeting standards.

“The hard work of teachers and administrators in implementing the Standards has helped students improve mathematics achievement steadily over the four years of ISAT testing,” Vazquez said. “Mathematics achievement has increased each year for all grades tested, and eighth-grade students are now nearly ten percentage points above 1999 scores.”

As an example of modest gains in closing the achievement gap, he noted that the increase in 8th-grade mathematics achievement is almost solely attributable to increases by low income and minority students.

Low-income students raised 8th grade mathematics achievement by almost 5 percentage points, from 24% meets in 2001 to 28.9% in 2002; Hispanics raised scores over 4 points, from 29% to 33.2% and black students increased over 3 points, from 19% to 22.1%. White students and non-low income students recorded smaller increases – from 64% to 64.8% for whites and from 61% to 62.1% for non-low income.

Widest disparities appeared in 5th grade mathematics where 75.3% of non-low income students met standards compared to only 40.7% of low-income students. Similar disparities occurred between white students and minorities: 77.3% meets for white, non-Hispanic students versus 46.3% for Hispanic and 32.2% for black, non-Hispanic students.

The State Board has made closing the achievement gap one of its highest priorities. “We must do all we possibly can to close these achievement gaps and ensure that all students reach high standards,” Vazquez said.

The superintendent also expressed concern regarding an eleven-percentage-point drop in 5th grade writing. “We usually do not see such a large swing in test scores in a single year on this type of test administered to over 130,000 students,” Vazquez observed. “Since 2002 scores are not in line with the previous three years, which were in the 70 to 75-point range, we will conduct further analyses of the results.”

The small amount of movement on reading scores reflects the findings of other tests, including the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

Illinois Standards Achievement Tests were given in reading, mathematics and writing to all 3rd, 5th, and 8th grade students in 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002 and science and social science in grades four and seven in 2000, 2001 and 2002. Prairie State Achievement Examinations in mathematics, reading, writing, science and social science were given to grade eleven students in 2001 and 2002.

Local schools will report their final assessment results on School Report Cards, which are required to be released by October 31.

Charts showing achievement levels at all grades tested, including racial, ethnic and socio-economic differences, are accessible on the web:

for ISAT results;
for PSAE

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