New testing benchmarks for Illinois high schools are prompting concern and confusion.
The Chicago Tribune reports that the state is taking the unusual step of using scores from the SAT college entrance exam to judge whether students and high schools are meeting state standards in reading, writing and math.
The tests will be administered to all public school juniors in the spring. The state plans to use those scores to measure how students are performing, as is required by federal law.
However, the minimum score to meet the state's standards will be higher than the SAT's college-readiness scores. That's causing controversy because it means that a student could be considered ready for college by the SAT's standards, yet fall short of Illinois standards.
"This discrepancy is going to be very difficult for us to explain to our parents, teachers and especially our students. How can a student be simultaneously college-ready and not have made the cut?" said Kevin O'Mara, a former high school superintendent who now leads the High School District Organization of Illinois.
The Illinois State Board of Education voted last week to set a minimum proficiency score of 540 in both the math and the reading-and-writing portions of the SAT exam. Students who score higher would be considered proficient, even though the SAT generally considers a score of 480 in reading and writing, and 530 in math, as indicating a student is ready for college.
Scores range from 200 to 800 on each portion of the test.
For several years, the Prairie State exam given to high school juniors included another college entrance exam, the ACT, but the ACT alone wasn't used to determine whether students meet Illinois standards.
The state school board's assessment and accountability director, A. Rae Clementz, said some exams can be used for different purposes and the same scores could have different meanings.
The board plans to provide information to the public and educators about how the SAT scores will be used.