Declining HS Test Results Underscore Need For More Time on Task & Extended Day 

PSAE shows that only 7.9% of student test takers meet college readiness benchmarks; CEO Brizard praises teachers for their commitment to boost student achievement, but says they need more support from the system and more time with students


August 18, 2011


Chicago Public Schools today reported generally mixed, flat or declining scores on the 2011 Prairie State Achievement Exam (PSAE), an annual test administered mainly to high school juniors. The test shows only 7.9% of those students meeting college readiness benchmarks with the overall district composite declining by 1 percentage point over last year.


The preliminary results underline the need for a new approach to teaching and learning that emphasizes the priorities set by the District’s administration, CPS officials said.


“Our mission is clear: to ensure that every child has access to a world-class education and that our graduates are college and career ready,” said CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard. “These results show we have work to do in pursuit of these goals. Our teachers are working hard to provide their students with a quality education based on all the tools at their disposal, but those tools are not enough. Students need more time in the classroom with their teachers and that time needs to be best used to boost student achievement. These results, coupled with a high school graduation rate of 57 percent and only 31 percent of eighth graders on track for college readiness, clearly show that our students can no longer afford to have the shortest school day and year in the country.”


Preliminary data from the PSAE show a 1 percentage point decline in the PSAE composite of students meeting or exceeding standards to 28.3. Declining meeting/exceeding year-over-year scores were also seen in sub-categories of the PSAE: down 2 percentage points in reading and 1.5 percentage points in science. Math was the only subcategory of the PSAE that saw growth. Math meeting/exceeding rose .6 percentage points.


On the ACT, a component of the PSAE, the average composite score declined .1 scale score point to 17.2. The percentage of students scoring 20 or higher on ACT, the score indicating minimum proficiency for college enrollment, rose by .1 percentage points and the percentage of students meeting college readiness benchmarks on all ACT subjects tests rose .7 percentage points. Other results within the ACT and accompanying Work Keys test were mixed.


The test results also show a widening of the achievement gap between minority and white students meeting college readiness benchmarks on the ACT, but a slight narrowing in meeting or exceeding state standards.


The generally flat or mixed results emphasize the importance of the priorities already established by his administration, Brizard said: more time on task for students, an extended school day and school year, hiring, developing and supporting outstanding teachers, and empowering school principals.


In 2011-12, CPS will begin working with schools on the launch of the new Common Core Standards in literacy and mathematics. The new standards describe what students should know and be able to do at every grade level so that students graduate college and career ready. The District is also aligning its PreK through 12th grade instructional framework through a new network/collaborative structure in order to move that agenda forward.


The preliminary PSAE scores also follow release earlier this summer of eighth grade EXPLORE test results, which showed that 31 percent of eighth grade students met college readiness benchmarks in reading and 20 percent in math.


Average ACT composite scores for CPS students have risen only about 1 scale score point in 10 years and remain well short of the benchmark. That trend line is unacceptable, Brizard said.


Within the overall 2011 PSAE results:

  • The composite showed 28.3 percent of students meeting or exceeding standards, down 1 percentage point from 2010 results.
    • In reading, 30.9 percent hit the meets/exceeds benchmark, down 2 percentage points from 2010.
    • In math, the meets/exceeds was 29.4 percent, up 0.6 percentage points.
    • In science, 24.6 percent met/exceeded standards, down 1.5 percentage points.
  • The percentage of students exceeding standards also declined by .5 percentage points to 3 percent.


College and Workforce Readiness:

  • The 2011 composite showed that 7.9 percent of test takers met college readiness benchmarks in all subjects compared to 7.2 percent in 2010. ACT establishes college readiness benchmarks for each subject based on likelihood of success in first-year college coursework.
  • In 2011, 37.2 percent of test takers obtained a Work Keys score of 5 or higher in reading. In math, 36.7 percent of test takers earned a 5 or higher, which approximates workforce readiness in both subjects. In 2010, the percentages were 44.5 percent in reading and 36.8 percent in math.


Included in 2011 ACT results:

  • The District composite increased by 0.1 percentage point over 2010. In reading, 27.8 percent of students scored 20 or higher (up 1.3); in math 26.1 percent (up 2.4); 33.3 percent in science (up 1.0); and 29.3 percent in English (down 1.3).
  • The ACT average composite score was 17 in reading, 17.7 in math, 17.6 in science and 16.4 in English. The year-over-year results were flat in math and science; reading and English scores declined by .3 and .4 percentage points respectively.
  • A score of 20 is the bar which many colleges set as the minimum for acceptance of applicants.


Regarding the achievement gap:

  • The achievement gap widened for African-American and Hispanic students as measured by students meeting college readiness benchmarks on the ACT by 1.4 percentage points to 29.0% and 0.3 percentage points to 25.7%, respectively.
  • From 2010 to 2011, the achievement gap narrowed between African-American and white students as measured by students meeting or exceeding standards by 1.3 percentage points to 42.1 and by 2.5 percentage points to 30.9 for Hispanics compared to white students.


Within the overall scores, some schools did stand out for their year-over-year improvements. Lindblom High School showed a gain of 12.7 percentage points (to 76.8 percent) in the PSAE meets/exceeds category.

Uplift High School showed a 1.4 scale score increase on the ACT from 2010, from 15.5 to 16.9. Lindblom went from 21 to 22.3.


Progress was also seen at turnarounds. PSAE scores in meets/exceeds more than doubled at Phillips (4.7-11.7 percent) and Harper High Schools (5.3-12.1 percent). Marshall and Phillips both showed 1-point increases in their ACTs. CPS turnarounds showed a 3.0 percentage point increase in composite meets/exceeds. The Marshall and Harper turnarounds are being managed by CPS; the Phillips turnaround is being managed by the Academy for Urban School Leadership. AUSL schools showed a 3.7 percentage point increase in composite meets/exceeds. Individual scores at AUSL turnarounds also showed the following:

  • College readiness benchmarks on the ACT at Chicago Academy rose from 27.1 to 29.8 percent meeting. The PSAE meets/exceeds composite for Chicago Academy students also rose 2.3 percentage points year-over-year.
  • At Orr, the percent of students meeting/exceeding on the PSAE composite rose four percentage points (to 11.6) year-over-year. Also at Orr, the ACT composite scale score has risen eight-tenths of a point to 14.9 over the last two years.
  • At Collins Academy, the ACT composite rose .4 points year-over-year to 15.6 and, the percent of students who scored 20 or higher on the ACT rose 3.1 percentage points to 13.3.


Results were from the PSAE administered in May 2011 to juniors as well as to seniors who had not previously taken the PSAE. In 2011, for the first time, ISBE has included in its reporting all students who took the PSAE; previously ISBE reported on juniors only. Of the more than 24,000 first-time test-takers, nearly 1,500 were 12th graders.


English Language Learners are included in this reporting of results.


About CPS

Chicago Public Schools serves 405,000 students in 675 schools. It is the nation’s third-largest school district.


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