Why Illinois will start testing ninth, 10th graders with PSAT

Illinois schools will begin administering the Preliminary SAT in ninth and 10th grades next school year, along with providing the SAT college entrance exam in 11th grade.

The state board of education this week announced it will provide the College Board's PSAT 8/9 to all ninth-graders, the PSAT 10 to all 10th-graders, and the SAT to all 11th-graders for free beginning in spring 2019. The aligned assessments measure students' mastery of the Illinois Learning Standards in English language arts and mathematics.

The move to add PSAT in ninth and 10th grades comes in response to educators' calling for measuring growth in high schools, which could be included in the state's support and accountability system in the future.

State education officials say test results will provide educators, families and students with meaningful data about students' year-to-year academic growth. They also will help educators tailor instruction and individual support students need to graduate and be prepared for college and careers.

Students and teachers also will have access to free, supplemental resources from Khan Academy to support classroom learning.

"Our commitment to excellence and equity drives our assessment design," State Superintendent of Education Tony Smith said. "We are excited to offer a growth measure in high school, in direct response to the needs and feedback of Illinois educators."

Statewide, 11th-graders took the SAT as the state's accountability assessment and free college entrance exam for the first time in 2017. Schools also administer the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers test measuring growth in the third through eighth grades.

The state board will collect three years of baseline data from administering the PSAT to ensure the indicator is reliable and provides meaningful differentiation of school progress.

Earlier this year, Smith shared educators' collective vision for readiness assessments in a letter to district superintendents. Among the objectives are:

• Returning results more quickly.

• Building assessments in more languages to increase accessibility and allow all students to demonstrate their true level of mastery.

• Measuring growth in high school.

• Using test items developed by Illinois educators to more closely align with classroom instruction.

• Reporting results on a common scale across all assessments.

• Reaching full online assessment.

• Transitioning to a computer-adaptive format in which test items get more or less advanced depending on student performance.

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