ISBE Banner
State of Illinois - Governor Blagojevich 

  ECS  |  CeRTS  |  IWAS | Teachers  | Students  | Administrators   | Student Assessment  | IL Learning Standards  | Programs | FormsGlossary


July 23, 2003


Math scores up, achievement gaps narrow; but reading scores are flat

Little movement in 3-year high school scores; overall results "not acceptable" says State Superintendent

Five-year assessment data for Illinois elementary school students show an upward trend in mathematics in all grades tested, a narrowing in the achievement gap in many subjects and grade levels for black, Hispanic and low-income students and improvement in the achievement of students in bi-lingual and special education programs, the Illinois State Board of Education reported today. But the results also show little movement in elementary school reading scores and little improvement over three years in all subjects tested at the 11th grade level.

"Overall, these results are not acceptable. We need to see accelerated improvement. There just aren't enough students meeting state standards," said Robert E. Schiller, State Superintendent of Education. Schiller released the statewide scores on the 2003 Illinois Standards Achievement Exam (ISAT), given to elementary school students, and the Prairie State Achievement Exam (PSAE), given to high school juniors, at a Springfield news conference.

"The results are mixed," Schiller said. "For the first time, we have five years of results on the ISAT - numbers that can legitimately be described as showing a trend. The trend is encouraging in mathematics and not so encouraging in reading. Overall, though, student performance is flat and we can't be pleased."

"The narrowing of the achievement gaps is very good news, because the state board has emphasized addressing this problem for several years," said Dr. Janet Steiner of Carlinville, ISBE chair, "but clearly there is still much work to be done in many areas."

The most recent state test was given in April. Elementary school students are tested in reading, writing and mathematics in grades three, five and eight and in science and social science in grades four and seven. Eleventh graders are tested in reading, writing, math, science and social science as part of the Prairie State exam, which also includes the ACT test and two ACT Work Keys assessments.

In these specific areas, the results showed:

ISAT MATH: The 5-year trend data shows continuous increases at all grade levels, with the percentage of students meeting or exceeding state standards moving from 68.3 to 75.7 in grade three, 55.6 to 68.3 in grade five and 42.9 to 53.1 in grade eight.

NARROWING THE ACHIEVEMENT GAPS: In numerous subjects and grade levels, black, Hispanic and low-income students showed significant improvement in narrowing the achievement gap with white students. Particularly positive trends are seen for black students in third grade math, where the gap narrowed from 43.8 to 39.6 and seventh grade science (41.6 to 34.5); for Hispanic students in third grade math (26.9 to 19.1), fifth grade math (37.4 to 26.0), fourth grade science (41.1 to 33.4), seventh grade science (31.0 to 24.6), third grade writing (21.6 to 17.5) fifth grade writing (241. to 17.4) and eighth grade writing (28.9 to 17.0); and for low-income students in fifth grade math (37.4 to 31.0)

IMAGE TEST: The Illinois Measure of Annual Growth in English is given to non-English-speaking students. Scores improved from 2002 to 2003 at virtually every grade and subject tested. Notable increases included eighth grade reading (18.5 to 31.3), fifth grade math (22.1 to 32.1), and eighth grade writing (28.2 to 39.5).

IAA TEST: The Illinois Alternate Assessment is taken by students with significant disabilities. Notable increases are seen in third grade reading (44.7 to 59.0), fifth grade reading (42.9 to 57.0), eleventh grade writing (24.1 to 39.9) and seventh grade science (28.2 to 43.2).

ISAT READING: Five-year scores are flat in grades three (61.3 in 1999, 62.0 in 2003) and five (60.3-60.4) and down in grade eight (72.2-63.7).

PRAIRIE STATE TEST: From 2001-03, the percentage of students meeting or exceeding standards fell in reading (57.5 to 56.4), math (53.9 to 53.3), writing (59.0 to 58.9) and social science (57.8 to 56.2). It increased slightly in science (50.2 to 51.3).

Schiller identified the key to improving student performance on statewide assessments.

"The State Board of Education has established high level standards and its job is to administer the tests that measures student achievement against those standards and inform the public about how our children are learning. For students to do well on state assessments, their curriculum must be aligned with the state standards. It is as simple as that. I believe flat performance on the ISAT and the PSAE can be attributed in large part to that alignment not being present in enough Illinois schools," he said.

Results of a longitudinal study conducted last year for ISBE by University of Illinois researchers indicated that the number of districts that have aligned their curriculum with the Illinois Learning Standards has reached a plateau and seems to be "stuck" at the present time. By the same token, the same study indicates we are beginning to see a causal relationship between those schools that implement the standards and improved performance on the state assessments, Schiller said.

The test results take on added meaning in this and coming years in connection with the requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind legislation. The reading and math results will be used to calculate "Adequate Yearly Progress" under the law and identify Title I schools that must offer school choice and Supplemental Educational Services.

This week, the state board's test contractor sent all the school districts in the state their 2003 school-by-school test data for review. The districts have 45 days from receipt to inform the state board of any corrections they believe should be made. Districts have until October 31 to share the report card information with their communities.

Based on the preliminary data, schools that likely will be required to offer choice when school begins this year are being alerted to that effect this week by ISBE. A final and complete list of such schools will be released by ISBE later this summer, Schiller said.

Bullet Item Data charts for all grades and subjects tested can be viewed at

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