Another day, another conflicting state directive on the Illinois Standards Achievement Test.
That was the reaction of some Illinois district officials following a Jan. 7 letter from state Superintendent Glenn W. “Max” McGee explaining that local districts that receive federal Title I funding could jeopardize those resources if they fail to administer the ISAT to sophomores this spring. Schools receiving such funds must meet federal rules for annual testing, Mr. McGee said.
Previously, district officials had been told that, because the legislature had failed to make the test mandatory, the decision to administer the state test to 10th graders was optional. But before the state officials said the test was optional, they said it would be required. And before they said it was required, they said it had been eliminated altogether.
The ISAT will be replaced next year with the Prairie State Achievement Test, a high school completion test given to 11th graders.
“I support tough standardized testing,” said Paul G. Vallas, the chief executive officer of the Chicago schools, one of the 105 Illinois districts that receive Title I funds for high schools. “But the testing policy should be rational, whereas this is giving students a test for the sake of giving them a test.”
State officials maintain that most districts that receive the federal anti-poverty funds at the high school level were already planning to administer the state tests this spring. Mr. Vallas said that, based on his talks with Hazel Loucks, the state’s deputy governor for education, he still expects the district’s own exam to fulfill the Title I testing requirements.
“I’m not putting the blame on him for this,” Mr. Vallas said of Mr. McGee. “He inherited this problem.”
—Jessica L. Sandham
A version of this article appeared in the January 26, 2000 edition of Education Week