River Forest School District 90 outperformed the state in its annual test of students’ science abilities, whereas special education and students of color performed behind their white counterparts. The state-mandated Illinois Science Assessment (ISA) is administered in the spring to all fifth-grade, eighth-grade and high-school students taking their first biology course.

Almost 84 percent of D90 fifth-graders either met or exceeded the Illinois State Board of Education’s standards in science in 2016, compared to a state average of 57.5 percent. Nearly 87 percent of white fifth-graders met or exceeded standards, while just 64 percent of Hispanic fifth-graders did so.

In eighth grade, 86.4 percent of students met or exceeded standards, compared to a state average of 61.1 percent. Eighty-eight percent of white River Forest students tested as proficient, while 68.8 percent of black students and 74 percent of Hispanic students met or exceeded standards. Seventy-three percent of special education students tested as proficient, while 90.4 percent of non-individualized education program students met or exceeded state standards.

After nearly two years, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) unveiled the 2016 results in January. Officials hastily threw together the science exam over a six-month period, after legislators realized they would lose federal funding if the state didn’t test students in science. After an initial test in 2016, the state’s nearly three-year-long budget impasse delayed officials’ ability to grade and release science scores.

“The task of creating and implementing a brand new test in six months, in combination with the lack of state budget for more than two years, greatly impacted the timeline for administering, scoring and reporting the 2016 ISA,” ISBE said in a statement. “The lack of a state budget significantly delayed ISBE’s ability to enter into contracts with vendors both to create the test and to score the test. The performance level setting required in the first year of any new assessment also extended the normal timeline for releasing the 2016 ISA scores.”

Because state standards hadn’t been clearly articulated to districts, schools’ 2016 science scores will not be posted on the Illinois Report Card site. Scores can be viewed online at www.isbe.net/ISA.

The Illinois State Board of Education has also finished grading the 2017 scores and plans to release the results Feb. 14.

CONTACT: ntepper@wjinc.com

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