Why Northwest suburban schools rated well on report cards but not on the SAT

  • Mykel Brewer, 17, works with AP science teacher Logan Nelson as Cassandra Sanchez, 17, looks on while they cover material from the class at Hoffman Estates High School. Providing opportunities to earn college credit through Advanced Placement classes is one way high schools help students' college and career readiness.

      Mykel Brewer, 17, works with AP science teacher Logan Nelson as Cassandra Sanchez, 17, looks on while they cover material from the class at Hoffman Estates High School. Providing opportunities to earn college credit through Advanced Placement classes is one way high schools help students' college and career readiness. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Sierra Mathias, 17, looks on as teacher Darcy Sowle explains the direction the course will take in AP chemistry with Manushi Shah, 17, and Amir Bahari, 18, at Hoffman Estates High School. Helping students earn college credit through Advanced Placement classes is one way high schools get them college and career ready.

      Sierra Mathias, 17, looks on as teacher Darcy Sowle explains the direction the course will take in AP chemistry with Manushi Shah, 17, and Amir Bahari, 18, at Hoffman Estates High School. Helping students earn college credit through Advanced Placement classes is one way high schools get them college and career ready. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

 
 

Two Northwest suburban high school districts emphasizing college and career readiness that received "commendable" or "exemplary" designations from the state, still saw a significant percentage of students with SAT college entrance scores that fell below state standards this year.

But superintendents of Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 and Northwest Suburban High School District 214 offered several reasons for the apparent disparity.

Among them is the reading and math skills measured by the SAT account for only 10 percent each of the state's criteria for how well a school meets students' needs shown in the 2018 Illinois Report Card.

Another is this is only the second year since the SAT replaced the ACT as the state's measure of students' English and math competency skills in high schools.

District 214 Superintendent David Schuler said that while the intention has never been to teach to the test, the SAT's math section measures knowledge of statistics while the ACT doesn't. Also, the SAT's English section more strongly emphasizes factual, evidence-based reading and writing of particular use to understanding job manuals and the like, which typically isn't the focus in English instruction.

"It's going to take a little bit of time to recalibrate our instruction," Schuler said.

District 211 Superintendent Dan Cates said districts such as his are determining the characteristics colleges and employers are looking for in high school graduates and implementing ways to ensure all students possess them.

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The state's new accountability plan under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act demonstrates a major improvement in this regard over the flaws of the prior No Child Left Behind Act, Cates said. But problematic differences remain between the state's criteria of college readiness and those of The College Board that implements the SAT, he said.

"The College Board has nearly unlimited national data to establish scoring standards on the SAT to declare when a student demonstrates college readiness in English and language arts or in mathematics," Cates said. "The state's cutoff scores exceed these data-driven standards. This artifact imposed by the (Illinois State Board of Education) is not well understood by the public."

The College Board determined 75 percent of this year's District 211 seniors demonstrated college readiness in reading and writing and 67 percent did so in math. By comparison, under state standards, only 49 percent of students met readiness bench marks in reading and writing and 54 percent in math, Cates said.

"Our local employers are clear that they rely on attendance, completion, the ability to work together and the capacity to solve problems," Cates said. "Employers don't ask for a student's SAT score. We believe a student's readiness includes academic readiness, skills to be successful in college and a career, global competitive skills, a sense of their own wellness and involvement as a community member."

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