State investigates 'irregularities' on ISAT tests

October 26, 2011

(WBEZ/Linda Lutton)

The state says “testing irregularities” occurred last spring at seven Illinois elementary schools when students took state standardized ISAT tests.

Those cases, along with 26 others dating back to 2005, are being investigated by the Illinois State Board of Education.

The news comes as the state continues a major cheating investigation. It’s conducting an “erasure analysis” on every student answer sheet from the ISAT tests kids took last spring. In other states, such analyses have turned up evidence of adults changing answers and improperly helping children.

ISAT exams are taken by third through eighth grade public school students in the state.

In addition to the erasure analysis, the state says districts themselves occasionally report test irregularities. For the first time, the state is revealing the names of 33 schools that have reported such irregularities since 2005.

State board spokeswoman Mary Fergus says self-reported irregularities might include allowing children more time on a test, reading questions to students or allowing them to open their test booklets before the appointed hour.

“We wouldn’t call this cheating just yet. We’re still reviewing what happened,” said Fergus.

Forest Park superintendent Lou Cavallo said his district “did the right thing” when it discovered a fifth grade teacher had encouraged her students to carefully “look over” their answers after she noticed they’d made incorrect choices on the test.

“A teacher was encouraging students to look back over answers,” said Cavallo. “Not giving any answers—not cheating and saying, ‘That is wrong—change it to this.’ Nothing like that, but to look over answers.”

Still, that didn’t sound right to one of the fifth graders, who reported it to a parent. The parent reported it to the school.

ISAT results for the specific classrooms under investigation are being suppressed. Affected students receive a student ISAT report that says “NA” for “not available.”

Districts from across the state reported the irregularities. The state says it does not yet have a timeline for finishing its larger cheating investigation. “This is our first time doing this kind of a thorough review,” said Fergus. “It’s an ongoing, evolving process.”

Districts that have reported “testing irregularities” to the state, 2005-2011

Year of testSchoolDistrict/CityAffected grades
2011Lombard Middle SchoolGalesburg CUSD 205, Galesburg6th grade reading and math
2011Churchill Junior HighGalesburg CUSD 205, Galesburg7th grade reading
2011Bright Elementary SchoolChicago Public Schools4th grade reading, math, science
2011Greenbrook ElementaryKeeneyville Elementary SD20, Hanover Park3rd and 4th grade reading
2011Grant-White SchoolForest Park SD91, Forest Park5th grade math
2011Silver Creek ElementaryTriad CUSD 2, Troy4th grade reading and science
2011Knoxville Junior HighKnoxville CUSD 202, KnoxvilleIAA (special needs)
2010Clinton Junior HighClinton CUSD 15, Clinton8th grade math
2010Chester Grade SchoolChester CUSD 139, Chester4th grade math
2010Marion Junior HighMarion CUSD 2, Marion6th grade reading
2010Cook ElementaryChicago Public Schools4th grade math
2010Robinson ElementaryChicago Public Schools3rd grade reading, math, writing
2010Daley ElementaryChicago Public Schools8th grade reading, math, writing
2009Lincoln Junior HighSkokie SD69, Skokie8th grade reading
2009Williamsfield ElementaryWilliamsfield CUSD 210, Williamsfield3rd grade reading, math, writing
2009Hartsburg-Emden Junior/Senior HighHartsburg-Emden CUSD 21, Hartsburg5th grade reading and writing, 6th grade writing
2009Paw Paw Elementary, Paw PawPaw Paw CUSD 2716th grade math and writing
2008Krug ElementaryAurora East USD 131, Aurora3rd, 4th, 5th reading and math
2008Illinois ElementaryMatteson SD162, Matteson7th and 8th grade math
2008Shiloh Middle SchoolShiloh Village SD85, Shiloh5th grade math
2008Carolyn Wenz ElementaryParis Union SD 95, Paris4th grade math
2008Little Village AcademyChicago Public Schools3rd grade reading and math
2007National Teachers AcademyChicago Public Schools7th grade math
2007Piccolo Specialty SchoolChicago Public Schools3rd grade reading
2007Cotton Creek SchoolWauconda CUSD 118, Wauconda3rd grade math
2007Jefferson Junior HighNaperville CUSD 203, Naperville7th grade math
2007Eastlawn Elementary SchoolPaxton-Buckley-Loda Unit #10, Paxton4th grade reading and math
2006Alcott ElementaryChicago Public Schools7th grade science
2006Franklin Middle SchoolSpringfield SD 186, Springfield7th grade science
2005Anne M. JeansBurr Ridge CCSD 180, Burr Ridge3rd grade reading
2005Mill Creek ElementaryGeneva CUSD 304, Geneva3rd grade math
2005Lathrop AcademyChicago Public Schools7th science
2005Freeport Junior HighFreeport SD145, Freeport8th grade math