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Scores Rise, But Loophole Keeps Test from Underachievers
Filed under: In The News
The Chicago school saw such an improvement that, according to the Chicago Tribune, the school district asked Rich East for a presentation to other schools on improving students' performance. This attention has brought increased scrutiny to the school, illustrating a procedure that apparently is widespread throughout the school district and enables Illinois schools to skirt some of the sanctions of the No Child Left Behind policy.
Analyzing district numbers, the Tribune found that Rich East did not administer the Prairie State Achievement Exam to 40 percent of its juniors and did not permit underachieving classmates to take the exam. In Illinois, this test serves as a benchmark for No Child Left Behind and serves as a basis for determining if a school is underperforming and should close or if it should provide free tutoring to its students.
Mark Kramer, principal of Rich East High School, told the Tribune that his school is "most focused on doing what is right for the students, not on the accountability rules of the federal government."
The PSAE test includes the ACT, which is a college entrance exam. Kramer argues that students should have the best preparation for that exam so they are better prepared for getting into college.
An ongoing practice in Illinois schools, according to the Tribune analysis, is for schools to reclassify students so that they miss the junior year testing. The Tribune reports that the 11th grade test is a primary tool in assessing accountability; the school is not held accountable for the test score if a student takes the PSAE as a senior. A loophole allows schools to disqualify students from taking the test and to redefine a student's status. Because it has become so widespread, Illinois officials have launched an investigation.
While the Tribune numbers show that from the 2007-2008 school year to last year, 20 percent of the state's "original sophomore class" were not tallied. While some students may drop out or move to an out-of-state school, frequently a previously missing student will resurface as a senior.
Related: Should we pay teens to take advanced high school courses?
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