Mathematics achievement continues upward
trend, most scores stable on 2002
Illinois Standards Achievement Tests and Prairie State Achievement
Mathematics achievement for Illinois students continued a three-year
upward trend at all elementary grades tested, and science scores also
showed slight improvements across all grades while most scores on other
2002 state tests were about the same as 2001, the State Board of Education
“While some progress can be noted in 2002 test scores, it is clear
that we have a long way to go if we are to meet the challenge of No Child
Left Behind (the new federal law) to have 100% of students, including
all subgroups, meeting standards within twelve years,” State Superintendent
of Education Respicio Vazquez warned. “We must step up the pace
to assure that all students have the opportunities and support to reach
high achievement targets.
“Wide achievement gaps among groups of students are appalling and
unacceptable. No Child Left Behind raises the bar -requiring substantial
statewide growth each year. We must eliminate our intolerable achievement
gaps and assure that all students reach high standards – not because
of requirements of a new federal law but because it is the right thing
The 2002 test data continue to show substantial gaps in achievement for
low income students versus non-low income students and between minority
groups and their white counterparts. Minority groups – particularly
Hispanics and blacks – as well as low-income students improved their
scores in most subjects and grades tested, but wide gaps remain.
Vazquez called the improvement in mathematics achievement “a bright
spot in the four-year history of state standards-based testing.”
“All these tests are difficult since they are based on the rigorous
Illinois Learning Standards adopted in 1997,” he said, “but
the mathematics tests are the most difficult, requiring knowledge of algebraic
concepts throughout the grades tested.”
It wasn’t until the third year of ISAT (2001) that 50% of eighth-grade
students met rigorous mathematics standards on the ISAT. This year, eighth-grade
mathematics achievement increased to 53% meeting standards.
“The hard work of teachers and administrators in implementing the
Standards has helped students improve mathematics achievement steadily
over the four years of ISAT testing,” Vazquez said. “Mathematics
achievement has increased each year for all grades tested, and eighth-grade
students are now nearly ten percentage points above 1999 scores.”
As an example of modest gains in closing the achievement gap, he noted
that the increase in 8th-grade mathematics achievement is almost solely
attributable to increases by low income and minority students.
Low-income students raised 8th grade mathematics achievement by almost
5 percentage points, from 24% meets in 2001 to 28.9% in 2002; Hispanics
raised scores over 4 points, from 29% to 33.2% and black students increased
over 3 points, from 19% to 22.1%. White students and non-low income students
recorded smaller increases – from 64% to 64.8% for whites and from
61% to 62.1% for non-low income.
Widest disparities appeared in 5th grade mathematics where 75.3% of non-low
income students met standards compared to only 40.7% of low-income students.
Similar disparities occurred between white students and minorities: 77.3%
meets for white, non-Hispanic students versus 46.3% for Hispanic and 32.2%
for black, non-Hispanic students.
The State Board has made closing the achievement gap one of its highest
priorities. “We must do all we possibly can to close these achievement
gaps and ensure that all students reach high standards,” Vazquez
The superintendent also expressed concern regarding an eleven-percentage-point
drop in 5th grade writing. “We usually do not see such a large swing
in test scores in a single year on this type of test administered to over
130,000 students,” Vazquez observed. “Since 2002 scores are
not in line with the previous three years, which were in the 70 to 75-point
range, we will conduct further analyses of the results.”
The small amount of movement on reading scores reflects the findings
of other tests, including the National Assessment of Educational Progress.
Illinois Standards Achievement Tests were given in reading, mathematics
and writing to all 3rd, 5th, and 8th grade students in 1999, 2000, 2001
and 2002 and science and social science in grades four and seven in 2000,
2001 and 2002. Prairie State Achievement Examinations in mathematics,
reading, writing, science and social science were given to grade eleven
students in 2001 and 2002.
Local schools will report their final assessment results on School Report
Cards, which are required to be released by October 31.
Charts showing achievement levels at all grades tested, including racial,
ethnic and socio-economic differences, are accessible on the web:
for ISAT results http://www.isbe.net/assessment/ISAT2002State.htm;
for PSAE http://www.isbe.net/assessment/PSAE2002State.htm.