State exam scores plunged to record lows across most grades after the state raised the bar for passing the spring 2013 exams for third- through eighth-graders, according to results released Tuesday.
Overall, math scores took the biggest hit on the Illinois Standards Achievement Tests, which were given in March. The steepest drop was for third-graders taking the math test, state officials reported. Only 54.9 percent of them passed, compared with 87.7 percent the year before.
The percentage of students passing reading and math tests in each of the other grades fell to about 59 percent, compared with the mid-to-high 70s and 80s in prior years.
Only one grade, fourth, posted a passing rate above 60 percent — 60.2 percent on the math exam, according to results released by the Illinois State Board of Education.
The Tribune reported the big drops in scores in a story last week, based on information from local school districts.
In a morning call with news reporters, State School Superintendent Christopher Koch stressed that the declines were expected because the state pushed up the scores required to pass each of the grade school exams in reading and math. The threshold to pass or "meet standards" varies by test and grade and is based on the number of correct answers that correspond to a particular score.
After the scores required to pass were boosted by 13 to 30 points, thousands more students flunked.
"The new expectations do not mean that our students know less or are less capable than they were in previous years," Koch said.