Three years after Illinois made a bold change in how science would be taught and tested, little is known about how students have performed because neither schools nor families have seen state science exam scores since 2013-14.

But the delay in science scores — blamed largely on state budget woes — is unusual and problematic, given that federal law requires states to administer science exams at least three times from grade school through high school and make the results public.

There were no scores in 2015 because the Illinois State Board of Education didn’t give a state science exam, getting into hot water with the U.S. Department of Education. At the time, the state argued it shouldn’t give an old exam based on outdated standards for what students should know in science. For years, students took the state science exam in 4th, 7th and 11th grade grades.


Without a state science exam in 2015, for example, teachers got the chance to train in the new science standards without the pressure of a statewide exam. And teachers have been incorporating the new standards in their instruction.

The state board of education keeps track of how much instruction time is spent in math, English, science and social sciences in grades 3, 6 and 8, and statewide data in 2016 show science instruction minutes on average rose to the highest in 15 years.

Third grade instruction in science rose to to an average of 34 minutes per day; 6th grade minutes went up to 48, and 8th grade minutes to 50. Science has usually trailed math and English in terms of instruction minutes, and has been about equal to minutes spent on social sciences.

The current Illinois Science Assessment was put together by using test questions from the Washington, D.C., school district, a process that was not ideal because Illinois was under pressure from the federal government to give a science exam in 2016 after missing the science test in 2015.

Click here to read the full story in the Chicago Tribune (June 5, 2017)




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