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Standardized test raises the bar

SYCAMORE – Sycamore District 427 is aligning its curriculum with new testing standards, but changes to the standardized test students will take in March could result in lower scores.

“The kids don’t know any less,” said Kristine Webster, the district’s director of curriculum and instruction. “They haven’t gone backwards.”

The district won’t be able to accurately measure the effectiveness of the common core curriculum until spring 2015, when it’s completely aligned with the common core standards.

For the past few years, District 427 has been working to implement the common core standards in the classrooms. The curriculum currently meets the standard in both math and English Language Arts, which includes reading, writing, speaking and listening. The district also will work to bring science and social studies to match the common core standards in the future.

The Illinois State Board of Education has made a few changes to the Illinois Standard Achievement Test, raising the bar for students across the state. The board has aligned 20 percent of the ISAT to common core standards while also raising the cut scores for the test and making it more challenging for students.

“We’re excited that there is a push for more rigor,” Superintendent Kathy Countryman said.

Illinois is one of 44 states that uses the common core standard with a curriculum designed to adequately prepare students to be college and career ready. Adopted in 2010, these core standards are internationally bench marked so students can compete globally with a more intense curriculum.

More than 85 percent of D-427 students met or exceeded the test’s standard score in the past two years, compared to the state average of 82 percent.

D-427 currently has teachers assigned to Common Core Implementation Teams, which Webster said has been an insightful process.

“It’s really allowed us to have some great conversations about what’s good for the kids,” she said.

D-427 students from third to eighth grade will take the ISAT the first week in March. The results will be available to parents this fall.

“When they see the scores, they may be surprised by them,” Countryman said. “But we feel like we’re on a good path. We’re going to stay the course. We have a curriculum in place.”

Countryman said parents will be receiving more information about the ISAT in the coming days.

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