A March analysis of 2015 PARCC results by John Gatta, president of Education, Consulting, Research and Analytics Group, showed that the standardized test performance of Oak Park District 97 students decreased markedly from 2012 to 2015, but the district’s improvement over the average performance of students in the state actually grew. 

The analysis also showed that the test performance of D97 students in the upper elementary grades tends to dip noticeably once those students transition into middle school. 

The number of D97 students who at least met standards on the English Language Arts (ELA) sections on assessment exams between 2012 and 2015 fell by around 24 percent. In the math sections, those students who at least met standards fell by nearly 47 percent. On the other hand, the difference between the D97 students’ percentage and the percentage of students across the state who met or exceeded standards increased by 170 percent in ELA and 200 percent in math.

The precipitous decrease in overall test performance was consistent with statewide trends. In 2012, the Illinois State Board of Education implemented more rigorous performance levels on the Illinois Standards Achievement Test to align with the Common Core curriculum. And in 2015, students took the inaugural PARCC exam (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers).

In 2014, according to data provided by Gatta, D97 performed better than 91 percent of Illinois districts on the ISAT’s ELA section and 86 percent of districts on the math section of that test. The next year, on the PARCC exam, D97 performed better than 92 percent and 86 percent of Illinois districts on the ELA and math sections, respectively.

Gatta also noted that on last year’s PARCC exam, D97 outperformed districts in Illinois that share similar community profiles, such as housing values and median income levels. D97 also compared favorably with districts nationally.

“If you’re looking at [students’ PARCC scores] and saying they’re in the bottom quartile of our district, they’re still above the national average,” he noted. 

“You have to put that into context as you start to identify students because even though they’re at the bottom here, they’re very competitive nationally. If you’re in the middle of the distribution here in Oak Park, you’re at the 80th national percentile. If you’re at the 75th [locally], you’re at the 90th percentile [nationally].”

One point of potential concern, however, was the drop-off in math and reading performance on the PARCC among students as they transition into middle school. The percentage of D97 students who met or exceeded PARCC’s ELA standards ranged from 73 to 68 for third- through fifth-graders and from 66 to 63 for sixth- through eighth-graders. 

The percentage of D97 students who met or exceeded PARCC math standards ranged from 56 to 48 for third- through fifth-graders and from 46 to 44 for sixth- through eighth-graders. 

“You start to see a dip in the grade six range in reading, which is an indication of transition issues that are even more pronounced than in mathematics,” said Gatta. 

Although he didn’t give any immediate explanations for the decrease, he said the data showed that the performance dip was shown among the same cohort of students.

“The finding is pretty compelling,” he said. “You are more competitive in the earlier grades than you are in the later grades. … These are the exact same students looked at over time. This is five years of matched, paired data here.”

CONTACT: michael@oakpark.com 

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