November 20, 2009
Earlier this week, the message below was sent out via the superintendentís bulletin:
The letters referenced are on their way; but in the meantime, we also sent out e-mails to those ISAT coordinators whose districts/schools will be involved and for whom we have valid addresses. We appreciate the level of support we are getting in response to that communication; but did want to provide some additional background information to make clear the importance of this pilot study.
The fieldís involvement in the upcoming Special Pilot Study is critical to our efforts to provide valid means of participation for our students with disabilities and English language learners on the state tests. As you are all well aware, assessing these students poses challenges. In an attempt to minimize the influence of disability and language barriers, the state has provided for accommodations to allow students to better demonstrate what they know. From this pilot study we will get data on the impact of certain key accommodations on student performance. What we learn should have practical implications in the selection of the most appropriate accommodations for students with different learning needs and English language proficiency levels. In addition, sufficient participation by students with disabilities could lead to something like Form LM being available to them in the future.
Giving another test at this time of year is the last thing anyone wants to do, but losing essential testing accommodations needed by our students in special populations is unthinkable.† Two years ago, Illinois eliminated a specialized state test for English Language Learners (IMAGE) due to our inability to demonstrate technical adequacy. Although there was no way to maintain IMAGE due to its true lack of comparability, this is not the case with our accommodations for ISAT. Adequate participation in the Special Pilot Study will provide evidence not only to us, but also to federal reviewers, on the appropriateness and effectiveness of ISAT reader scripts and linguistically modified forms (Form LM).
We do have an added incentive to complete this study in a timely manner. The just recently released application for the second round of State Fiscal Stabilization Funding (SFSF) asks us to show that our state education tests are in compliance with federal law. In addition, it asks whether we have studied the appropriateness and effectiveness of our accommodations. Our response to these two indicators will be positively enhanced with the study. During this time of fiscal challenges, we in Illinois canít afford to jeopardize our access to that large federal source of funding.
We apologize for the disruption and difficult timeline.† The challenge is significant, but there is much at stake. Again, we appreciate the level of support you have been demonstrating thus far and in advance, thank you for your continued cooperation over the course of the next few weeks. Please, do everything possible to provide crucial education data through your participation, and donít hesitate to contact ISBE (217-782-4823) with your questions and concerns.
Illinois State Board of Education