Showing posts with label PSAE. Show all posts
Showing posts with label PSAE. Show all posts

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Reclassification of juniors to avoid taking the PSAE

Rich East High School in Chicago has seen state test scores for its 11th-graders improve by a stunning 37 percent during the last two years - a gain so impressive that regional education officials asked the Park Forest school to host a seminar to help others emulate its success.

There's only one problem: Rich East did not give the Prairie State Achievement Exam to about 40 percent of its juniors last school year. And it excluded the ones furthest behind academically.

It's not the only school to keep the most underachieving students off the books, according to a Tribune analysis of new state Report Card test data.

School districts statewide are using a loophole that allows them to define what constitutes a "junior." By ratcheting up the credit hour requirements, schools are disqualifying thousands of third-year high school students from taking the 11th-grade exam that is the primary tool to hold the schools accountable for student achievement.

Many then take the test as seniors, but their scores are not used for state and federal No Child Left Behind accountability purposes. In fact, the state does not even track how well seniors perform on the test.

School officials say that giving students more time in class better prepares them for the exam.

A Tribune analysis found that 20 percent of Illinois sophomores didn't officially advance to junior-level status last year and, therefore, never took the exam.
Officials with the Illinois State Board of Education have known for years that schools were reclassifying juniors. But the practice became so pervasive last year, state officials said they launched an investigation. They will not provide any details of what they uncovered, saying they will present their findings to the state testing review committee this month.

"This is not an appropriate way to engage in the accountability system," said Joyce Zurkowski, who oversees student assessment for the Illinois State Board of Education. "This is an accountability test, and it's the gauge of how ready students are. By keeping out the kids who are most at risk, you are not being held accountable."

It's impossible to know exactly how many third-year high school students skipped the PSAE last school year because they were not counted as juniors.
But a Tribune analysis shows there were about 167,000 sophomores in 2007-08. By last school year - when this class moved into its junior year - only about 133,000 took the exam, according to the state data.

So 34,000 students - about 20 percent of the original sophomore class - either dropped out, transferred out of state or, most likely, simply were not counted as juniors.

In many cases, the missing students then reappear on state enrollment data as seniors come to their fourth year, according to state data. So, in effect, they were never classified as juniors on state enrollment data.

Traditionally, Illinois high schools have determined what class a student is in based on years in school. In the last five years, however, many districts began basing it on credit hours completed.
More recently, districts ratcheted up the requirements by insisting that students complete specific courses in math, English, social studies and science before they advance. As a result, thousands of students have not advanced as juniors.

How widespread is the practice? In 130 of the state's 660 high schools, at least a quarter of students dropped off the radar between sophomore year and junior test-taking time, according to a Tribune analysis of 2009 test score data.

Tom Truesdale, associate superintendent of Thornton School District 205 in the south suburbs, defended the district's decision to reclassify students. "I don't see this as gaming the system," he said. "We want to make sure students are adequately prepared. The credit hour requirements are used so students can adequately matriculate through the system and be ready to meet graduation requirements."
Read entire article here.