The Chicago Tribune reports that more than a year after students took a new state science exam but never got their scores, the state is providing at least a glimpse of how well kids did. Only about 39 percent of high school students passed the new science exam in 2016, meaning those kids were considered “proficient.” Close to 60 percent of grade school students passed, according to an analysis by the Illinois State Board of Education.
Those numbers are approximate, based on a complex process used to decide what it takes to pass the exams, and members of the state board of education still have to approve the model used. A vote is expected Wednesday, which could pave the way for schools and families to get long-awaited results in the critical area of science.
Educators and parents alike are expected to see drops in performance compared to results from the old state science exams of previous years. Then, it was usual for 50 to 52 percent of high school students to pass statewide and 75 to 80 percent of grade school students to pass, state data show.
But those exams got shelved, and in 2014 the state adopted Next Generation Science Standards that move away from memorizing science facts and toward analysis in key areas of science and engineering. Those new standards were used in the state science exam that was launched in spring 2016.
“It’s a different test and the bar has been set in a different place; and we’d rather set the bar high and strive for that than set a lower bar, which will lull us into a false sense of security,” said Charles Sprandel, executive director of research and assessment in the sprawling Indian Prairie School District 204 in DuPage County.
Illinois used test items from Washington, D.C., to launch the state’s first NGSS-based science exam in 2015-16, and ISBE hopes to get the results from that exam out in the coming weeks, after the state board makes a decision on proficiency levels, said ISBE spokeswoman Jackie Matthews. She said scoring of the 2017 test is “about to begin.”
Switching to the new science exam is much like when the state switched to new reading and math exams, Nolten said. Scores statewide plummeted compared with prior year exams.