The only way a district or school can help students learn is to take the time to assess students and determine successful strategies and methods and areas in need of improvement. While the Measure of Academic Progress assessment is given to students in U-46 throughout the school year along with classroom evaluations to guide instruction, every March students in grades 3-8 and high school juniors take the Illinois standardized tests.
These tests are based on Illinois Standards, an outline of what material and concepts students should learn in all content areas at each grade-level. Students are evaluated on how well they meet these standards through the Illinois Standards Assessment Test (ISAT) in elementary and middle schools grades 3-8, and the Prairie State Exam (PSAE) at the high school level. A separate test is used to measure the performance of students with disabilities, the Illinois Alternate Assessment.
While the standardized test has been around for a long time, the reporting of the assessment data and response to it has been changed by the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). Every school district and school has report cards with test results reported in a number of different student subgroups, including race/ethnicity, low-income, English language proficiency and disability status. The district-wide and individual school ratings are based on how well each subgroup performs in academic areas. If any one group falls short, the district and/or school will be listed as not meeting standards.
For years the test results reported for districts and individual schools were the average of all student scores. When the state rating system began, the minimum requirement was at least half of the students meeting or exceeding standards on the test. Now 55 percent of each and every subgroup must meet or exceed standards or the district/school is placed on the early academic warning list. This bar will be raised incrementally over time as more and more students in each subgroup are expected to succeed. The ultimate goal is to have every student meet or exceed expectations by 2014.
In response to the new demands for ensuring the achievement of all students, U-46 educators have been refining their school improvement planning process, added assessments through out the school year to assure educators have the current information to meet the needs of every student. In addition, the District Improvement Plan focuses all district efforts and resources on enhancing student achievement.
NCLB appropriately places public attention on the real role of schools—student learning.