Blowing smoke

State education officials in the Land of Lincoln are jumping for joy--student performance on the state's ISAT exam is up from 2005. Way, way up. On most exams, the 2005-2006 gains outpaced the improvement made over the previous five years combined. Low-income and minority pupils posted the largest increases, which helped narrow the pernicious gap between their performance and that of their white, Asian, and more affluent counterparts. "The kids were prepared for the tests," said Becky McCabe, who oversees assessments for the state board, "and it shows on the results." What she didn't say is that the passing bar on the 8th grade math test was lowered dramatically. Or that students had longer to write (45 minutes more on the reading section). Or that there were fewer questions. "It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that something doesn't compute here," said a University of Arizona professor. "All of the changes they made to the test will certainly inflate the scores." The head of the state's Business Roundtable was more blunt: "It's an anomaly that blows the credibility of this test." Puff!

"Why Test Scores Went Up," by Stephanie Banchero, Darnell Little, and Diane Rado, Chicago Tribune, March 6, 2007

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