How Do They Compare? ITBS and ISAT Reading and Mathematics in the Chicago Public Schools, 1999 to 2002

February, 2003
John Q. Easton, Macarena Correa, Stuart Luppescu, Hye-Sook Park, Steve Ponisciak, Todd Rosenkranz, and Susan Sporte
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For several decades, the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills (ITBS) held a preeminent role in measuring student and school performance in the Chicago Public Schools (CPS). This role became even stronger in the late 1990s as schools were held accountable for their ITBS scores by being placed on or off probation based on the percentage of students who scored at or above national norms. Use of the ITBS to determine which students needed to attend mandatory summer school and which were eligible for promotion to the next grade made it a high-stakes test.

Recently, CPS has broadened the criteria it uses to measure school performance by including scores from the state test, the ISAT, as well as ITBS. This change is at least partly in response to No Child Left Behind (NCLB), which requires states to test all students in reading and mathematics annually.

There is relatively little public knowledge in Chicago about the ISAT, even as it becomes more important for CPS. In this data brief, we compare and contrast the two tests to bring some needed attention to the ISAT and, by doing so, perhaps assist the discussions about the next generation of assessments that must be put into place by the 2005-06 school year. 

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