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State tests will bring disappointment to parents

Published: Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013 5:00 a.m. CDT

(MCT) — Here’s a good message to send to parents: Lower your goals for your children or be disappointed.

That seems in the same genre as telling a beauty pageant contestant she “has a great personality” or complimenting a singer on his guitar playing.

OK, the state put it a little more nicely and with some additional context.

Basically, the Illinois State Board of Education is making the test third- through eighth-graders will be required to take this spring even tougher than it has been.

That means grades are going to go down this year, Illinois State Superintendent Chris Koch warned this week.

Last year, 79 percent of the students passed the reading portion of the test — known as the Illinois Standard Achievement Test — and 86 percent passed the math section.

The ISAT is going away within the next few years, though, switching to the Common Core State Standards Initiative. State education officials decided it was time to start incorporating some of the Common Core questions — even though such a test has not been developed.

With those changes, state education folks think the passing rate will be closer to 60 percent.

Koch and the state board said in a letter that the drop in scores “does not mean that our students know less. Instead, ISBE is simply expecting more from students.”

That’s still going to be a bitter pill for children — and parents — who have taken the test for more than a year or two and suddenly find their grades plummeting. While officials say to look at how the scores compare to others in the state, it’s only logical to look at previous scores and this year’s score and arrive at the conclusion the individual is going downhill.

The same with the public perception of its school districts. It is human nature to compare current numbers to the most recent numbers and make a determination based on the results.

Not to mention the switch to Common Core carries with it the same intrinsic problem that exists already: Too much emphasis being placed on one-size-fits-all testing and scores that do not reflect individual schools’ nuances.

But dozens of other states will be making the change, so why wait?

Call it a little “tough love,” we guess.

Still, it seems as though a lot of teachers and school administrators have been caught off guard by the change. They also express concern about what message it will send to have students essentially tank on a test that is going away in just a few years.

Maybe to prepare themselves, students can read some of the classics, such as “Mediocre Expectations” by Charles Dickens or “The Little Engine That Almost Made It” by Watty Piper.

This editorial appeared in The Telegraph, Alton, Ill., on Friday, Feb. 1.

©2013 The Telegraph (Alton, Ill.) Distributed by MCT Information Services

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