Monday, March 5, 2012


Hello Cougar families!  As we enter ISAT testing, I thought I would blog about some of the common questions about ISATs.

What are ISATs?
ISAT stands for Illinois Standards Achievement Test.  It is a state test that is given to all public school children in grades 3 through 8.  The students are tested on the skills and concepts that are in the Illinois Learning Standards for their grade level.  The purpose of the test is to determine how well the schools are doing in providing appropriate instruction for each grade level. 

What tests are given and how long are they?
In grades 3 and 5, the students take three reading tests and three math tests.  In 4th grade, the students take three reading tests, three math tests, and two science tests.  The testing sessions are all 45 minutes.  All three reading tests have multiple choice questions, and two of them have an additional extended response question.  Two of the math tests have multiple choice questions, one has three additional short response questions, and one test is made up of two extended response questions.  The science tests are both exclusively multiple choice questions.

I heard this is the last year for ISATs.  Is this true?
We will be switching to a new set of standards, called Common Core Standards.  The Common Core Standards are a common set of standards across the nation.  With this change, there will also be a new assessment that will be consistent across the country.  At one point, the plan was to allow districts to pilot the new assessment during the 2012-2013 school year in place of the ISAT.  Unfortunately, the assessment is not yet ready, so we will most likely take the ISATs in 2013.

I have heard about school districts that "teach to the test".  My child has mentioned practicing for the ISAT.  Does that mean our teachers are "teaching to the test"?
The term "teaching to the test" means that teachers teach a curriculum that is narrowed in scope to address only the skills that are most likely on the test.  In addition, students are only assessed in ways that mirror the ISATs so that they become very accustomed to the format of the test.  Our teachers do not do this.  They teach a broad curriculum that includes all of the standards for their grade level along with introduction to the concepts in the standards for future grade levels.  They assess students in a variety of ways throughout the year in order to provide them with the best chance to show what they know in a way that fits their learning style.  When we get close to ISATs, our teachers do provide practice opportunities for the students to take assessments that are like the ISAT.  They do this so that the students develop a level of comfort with the testing style.

What should we do differently during ISAT testing to ensure success for our student?
Prior to ISAT testing, you will often see tips for parents about making sure that students get enough sleep, eat a good breakfast, etc...  These are all good ideas, but our hope is that these things are always happening on school days!  We don't want the students to feel like these weeks are really that much different.  We do not want students to feel stress or pressure.  I like to tell the kids that this is a great time, because it is their time to show what they know!  It's like in sports where you practice and practice, then you get to show what you can do in a game.  This is their game day!!

What if my child gets sick?
We do not want students coming to school sick.  It will not allow them to do their best, and they will infect other students.  If your child is sick, the teachers will work with them to schedule make up tests when they return to school. 

When will we receive results from the ISAT testing?
We will get school wide summary reports in May or June, but you will not get your child's individual reports until next fall.

If you have other questions about ISAT testing, please feel free to ask!  Our staff at Prarieland does a phenomenal job teaching all of our students.  We are always excited to have our students show what they know because we trust in our instruction, in our students' hard work, and in the support and encouragement our students receive at home!

It's a GREAT day to be a Cougar!
Carmen Bergmann

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