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Embargoed until 11:00 a.m.
July 29, 2004

State Assessment results encouraging Achievement gap continues to close

(Springfield) – State Superintendent Robert E. Schiller Thursday announced that overall performance on state assessments continue, especially among Hispanic, low income and black students in the areas of reading, mathematics, writing and science, however, he said he remains concerned about flat performance by high school students in nearly all areas, except social science.

“When we look at the gains that our black, Hispanic and low income students have made since 2001, it is remarkable,” Schiller said. “We are seeing steady and significant improvement which again illustrates that our students are succeeding and our schools certainly are not failing them.”

At a Springfield news conference, Schiller released the statewide aggregate scores on the 2004 Illinois Standards Achievement Exam (ISAT), given to elementary school students; the Prairie State Achievement Exam (PSAE), given to high school juniors; the Illinois Measure of Annual Growth in English (IMAGE), which measures the progress of students with limited English proficiency in attaining English-language reading and writing skills, and the Illinois Alternate Assessment (IAA), designed for students with Individualized Education Programs for whom all other state assessments are inappropriate, even with accommodations, because of their disabilities.

Six-year assessment data for Illinois elementary school students show an upward trend in mathematics in all grades tested, and over the past four years there is a continued narrowing in the achievement gap in many subjects and grade levels for black, Hispanic and low-income students.

A snapshot of performance:


  • Reading: Moderate gains in grades 3 and 8, marginal gain in grade 5.
  • Mathematics: All grades continue to improve, with 65.4 percent of third graders meeting or exceeding standards, of those students there were significant gains by black students who made a 5.2 gain; Hispanic students made a 6.7 gain; and low-income students made a 5.7 gain.
  • Writing: Overall performance has been erratic, but there were year-to-year gains in each grade assessed, including 5th graders who moved from 64.8 to 69.9.
  • Science: Remains steady with small gains in both grades 4 and 7.
  • Social Science: Despite moderate gains in 2003, we actually saw a small decrease in 2004.


  • In each subject area, Reading, Mathematics, Writing, Science and Social Science we saw slight improvement, with the exception of Mathematics which saw a .02 decrease.


  • 11th grade students who were assessed in writing showed marked improvement, of nearly 7 points.


  • In grades 3,5,8, and 11 writing performance in the expanding and transitioning levels increased, especially in grade 5 where there was a 23.4 jump and grade 11 where there was an 11.9 increase.

“These results are a very important tool,” Schiller said. “Noting the decline in Social Science in both fourth and seventh grade, it begs the question, should we put an increased emphasis on History and Geography?”

Schiller explained how the assessments support our state’s education foundation: The Illinois Learning Standards, which were adopted in 1997. State assessments are aligned with the Illinois Learning Standards and measure student achievement against those standards and inform the public about how Illinois’ children are learning. For students to do well on state assessments, their curriculum must be aligned with the state standards.

State Board Chair Dr. Janet Steiner, noted that the assessment data allows us to appreciate the gains that all students are making, and the State Board is particularly proud of the narrowing of the achievement gap. “Programs like the 21st Century Grants and Summer Bridges which target students in need through after school and summer school programs really do make a difference. We consistently see the positive impact of using our resources on students who are struggling but want to learn,” Steiner said.

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 PSAE, which also includes the ACT test and two ACT Work Keys assessments.

The test results from reading and math are used to comply with the requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act and are used to calculate Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) as required under the law. The AYP results are used to identify Title I schools that must offer school choice and Supplemental Educational Services.

School districts this week got their first look at their performance data as part of the second data verification window. Schools previously reviewed their demographic and enrollment data and in the next few weeks will finalize the assessment information that will be used to create the State and local school report cards to be released this fall.

The complete data charts for all grades and subjects tested can be viewed at:

Audio clips are available at:

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