Nearly half of all Illinois students flunked the latest round of state exams, and for Illinois 11th graders, it was the worst performance ever. The data also showed dramatic differences in test outcomes for younger children when compared to high schoolers.
The Chicago Tribune reported the results from the 11th grade Prairie State Achievement Examination show about half of Illinois public high school students flunked this year, but third through eighth graders got the highest passing rate in 10 years.
Educators said they've known about the disconnect between the two levels and said the ISAT is too easy, while the PSAE is too hard. Even high-achieving schools like Maine Township District reported high schoolers failed the federal standards.
Only 50 percent of high school students in Illinois passed the PSAE this year as compared to 53 percent last year, but 82 percent of elementary students passed the ISAT, compared to just 63 percent last year.
Educators said the high school results are abysmal and mean Illinois kids are not prepared for college.
Illinois will request a waiver this February from certain requirements of No Child Left Behind, state education officials said Thursday as they announced the state is falling behind in meeting the increasingly strict performance targets set by the federal law.
"We need a realistic, measurable accountability system based on growth and individual student progress rather than an absolute, unattainable goal handed down from Washington," Illinois State Board of Education chairman Gery Chico said.
President Barack Obama announced last month that states will be allowed to ask the Education Department to be exempted from some of the law's requirements if they meet certain conditions. They include enacting standards to prepare students for college and careers and making teachers and principals more accountable.
Results of assessment date for 2011 in Illinois show that more than 2,500 schools, or 65 percent, didn't meet the progress standards that No Child Left Behind requires. Data show the same for 695, or 80 percent, of Illinois school districts.
Just eight of 656 Illinois high schools met the standards based on 2011 test results, state education officials said.
"That's just crazy," Chico said. "We know that there are more than eight high schools doing a fine job educating their students."
Illinois needs a flexible system of accountability that has attainable goals, Chico said.
"We're not going to have goals that are out of reach," he said.
In 2010, to make "adequate yearly progress" more than 77.5 percent of a school's students had to meet or exceed state standards on testing. This year that bar was raised to 85 percent.
Elementary school students who took the Illinois Standards Achievement Test saw increased scores, from 80.9 in 2010 to 82.0 in 2011.
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan happens to be in Chicago Thursday to recognize excellence in Chicago's after school programs.
However, high school juniors who took the Prairie State Achievement Exam saw scores fall from 53 in 2010 to 50.5 in 2011. State education officials attributed the drop to new state rules that require all 11th graders to take the test, meaning there were 12,500 more test takers in 2011.
The No Child Left Behind law passed in 2001 with widespread bipartisan support and much fanfare. It sought to hold schools more accountable for student performance and get better qualified teachers in classrooms. It also offers school choice and extra tutoring to students attending schools deemed failing.
The Obama administration said it was offering the waivers because Congress has been slow to address the issues by rewriting the law.