Although River Forest District 90 schools continued to widely outperform the state in the Illinois Science Assessment exam in 2017, fifth- and eighth-graders’ scores decreased year over year and also revealed a gap in black, brown, low-income and special education students’ performance.   

“They did decrease slightly, they did for the state too, so typically when you see both dip then it’s not so much a cause for concern,” said Alison Hawley, D90’s director of curriculum and instruction. “Your test scores are going to bounce a little bit year over year, so we’ll see what 2018 brings. You really want multiple years of data to compare any trends.”

But Hawley said the district is working on a new model to raise science scores for minority and special education students.

In 2017, 77 percent of D90 eighth-graders tested as proficient in the state test, compared to 86 percent of students who met science standards the year before. Eighty percent of fifth graders tested as proficient, compared to 83 percent of students who passed the test in 2016. D90 students continued to outperform the state average of 54 percent of fifth graders who passed the test, and 58 percent of eighth graders who tested as proficient in 2017. The state-mandated Illinois Science Assessment is administered in the spring to all fifth-grade, eighth-grade and high-school students taking their first biology course.  

In 2017 in D90 just 44 percent of fifth grade students receiving an individualized education program (IEP) met state science standards in 2017, whereas 85 percent of non-special education students passed the test. Only 53 percent of low-income students—ie. those receiving free or reduced-price lunch—met state science standards, while 83 percent of non-low-income students passed the test. Eighty-three percent of white fifth graders tested as proficient in science in 2017, compared to 58 percent of black and 78 percent of Hispanic students who met state science standards that year. 

In eighth grade, 42 percent of students with IEPs met state science standards, while 84 percent of non-special education students tested as proficient. Nearly 82 percent of white eighth graders met state science standards, while just 38 percent of black eighth graders and 68 percent of Hispanic students the same age tested as proficient. Fifty percent of low-income students tested as proficient, compared to 80 percent of non-low-income students. 

Hawley said the district is working with outside data consultant Phil Earvolino to develop a model to address the minority achievement gap in this area. She said the model will address student learning over the next two years and “we’re getting very close” to finishing. 

“We’re developing goals and measures to track student growth and achievement over time, and identify opportunity gaps or education barriers that have a potential to impede or impact student learning,” Hawley said. She said the model will address students of all racial, income and individualized education program sub-groups. The district also works with the National Equity Project, an education reform agency, to address opportunity gaps. 

Hawley said D90 will mail individual 2017 scores to parents by the end of the week. Scores can also be viewed online at www.isbe.net/ISA. Because this is just students’ second time taking the test, science scores will not be posted on the Illinois Report Card. 

CONTACT: ntepper@wjinc.com

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