Illinois behind in scoring science exams for years

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Three years after Illinois changed how science would be taught and tested, performance data still isn’t available because schools haven’t seen science exam scores.

Illinois officials told the Chicago Tribune (http://trib.in/2rCElBz ) that science testing and scoring hasn’t gone smoothly, largely due to state budget woes.

Illinois adopted the updated Next Generation Science Standards in 2014. A new exam wasn’t created by 2015 testing time, resulting in no test that year and causing the state to clash with the U.S. Department of Education.

Federal law requires states to administer science exams at least three times from grade school through high school and to make results public.

Scores still haven’t been released for the new exam called the Illinois Science Assessment taken in 2016. Students have already taken the spring 2017 exam.

“How could schools have tested in 2017 and not have gotten 2016 results? It is kind of crazy,” said Carol Baker, a science educator who helped write the new standards.

The Illinois State Board of Education said the budget crisis delayed the agency’s partnership with Southern Illinois University Carbondale to score exams. The 2016 scores are expected to be released this summer, and the 2017 scores in the fall.

Baker said the delay affects everything from curriculum planning at school to input at home about how students are performing in science. But she said not having a 2015 exam gave teachers time to train in the new standards.

Next Generation Science Standards focus on analysis in key areas of science and engineering instead of just memorization of facts.

“One of the good things is that NGSS has really lit a fire in the science community,” Baker said. “Most schools, most teachers, are working hard to implement NGSS — not because they have to, but because they want to. It is good instructional practice. It is good teaching and learning.”