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Transition time ahead for PES

PRINCETON — Though state testing scores are expected to go down for the next three years, as testing standards are changed and a new grading scale implemented, that doesn’t mean Princeton Elementary School students are learning less nor does it mean PES teachers aren’t doing a good job.

That’s the message given at this week’s meeting of the Princeton Elementary School Board by Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Barb Valle.

The Illinois State Board has raised the performance expectations of the existing Illinois Standard Achievement Test (ISAT) as part of the ongoing effort to better prepare students for college and careers in the 21st century, Valle said. That effort includes the implementation of the new Common Core Standards, with this year’s ISAT basing 20 percent upon the new Common Core Standards. That percentage will increase each year for three years until the new standards are fully in place and a new assessment system, the PARCC, is implemented.

The higher expectations of the new standards and the changing grading/assessment scale will no doubt result in a downward shift of how students meet or exceed standards in state testing for the next three years, Valle said. However, these new expectations do not mean PES students know less than they did before or are less capable then in previous years, she added.

Giving examples, Valle looked at last year’s ISAT scores for PES students and showed how those same performances would be ranked lower with the new grading scale in place. Valle also gave examples of Common Core Standards questions, which would require more of a thought and skills process, rather than content based.

Valle encouraged everyone to remember this is a transitional period for schools and not to judge students or teachers by the state test scores for the next three years. At that time, when the transition to the new Common Core Standards and grading scale are completed, then that year can be used as the benchmark to chart future progress of the PES students, she said.

PES Superintendent Tim Smith said he expects the test scores of every school district to drop during this transition time.

As an added note, Smith said the new testing will be done completely online by the students, which means more computers and more network support will be needed by the district. The Common Core Standards are great conceptually, but the implementation of those standards will require more money for the district, he said.

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