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Illinois: Standards for Transition Help Parents Understand Student Scores

At Township High School District 214, administrators use the Standards for Transition and the EPAS® tests in another creative way. Before each first-year class enters high school, their parents are required to come to a parents-only meeting. At that meeting, using the Standards for Transition and Pathways for Transition, educators explain to the parents of these soon-to-be freshmen just what skills and understandings their children need to work on, some teacher strategies for encouraging that work, and what academic levels students are expected to have achieved once they graduate from the high schools of District 214.

Prior to the parent meeting, in the spring before eighth-grade students enter high school, administrators ask students to take the EXPLORE® test. That way, counselors and administrators can use EXPLORE results as a benchmark against which to measure further academic progress. In addition, EXPLORE is used, along with other measures such as teacher recommendations and student writing samples, to help educators place students in classes that best meet their abilities. At the all-parents meeting, then, by looking at score reports centered around the Standards for Transition, parents learn more about where their children scored and where they're going academically, based on the EXPLORE test results.

Before students take EXPLORE, educators ensure that students understand the purpose and importance of their taking this test. Behaviors expected during testing are made explicit; students are shown a variety of strategies they might use while taking the test; and they're given time to practice such strategies.

But it's the Standards for Transition that help the parents and students understand most clearly what skills and understandings are necessary to success on the tests. “We have found the Standards for Transition to be quite helpful in working with students and parents with regard to the skills that students have acquired and those that they need to work on,” says Marilyn Kulieke, director of research and evaluation for Illinois Township District 214. “The Standards tie scores to instruction: if a student scores 11, you know where to focus your energy if you want to bring his scores up.”

The Standards could easily become a major tool for aligning standards nationwide, Kulieke says. “One of the dilemmas educators face is that [state] standards are written at many, many different levels of specificity. Some are so general they encompass the world, and some are so specific they encompass almost nothing. The Standards for Transition are in bite-size pieces, at a good level of specificity to relate to teaching and learning. . . . The Standards are one of the most exciting things I've seen from ACT.”