Answer this test question: If Student A takes the SAT and is found to meet college-ready standards, could Student A also be considered non-proficient according to state standards?

Correct answer: If Student A attends school in Illinois, then yes.

The reasoning behind the logic is about as confusing as an SAT question on converting radians to arcseconds. Parents and taxpayers are left to untangle whether schools are performing at the highest level.

This is a pertinent topic as the Illinois Board of Education released annual performance data for schools last week. The Illinois Report Card is an obnoxiously complex grouping of statistics, looking at exam scores, teacher evaluations, enrollment, poverty trends, district finances and other topics.

Making heads or tails of the numbers on state’s “eReport Card Public Site” requires, well, a high score on the SAT. There’s a 12-page report for each school, with a blizzard of percentages, charts and acronyms (PARCC, DLM, PLD, ELA to name a few) — so much data, in fact, it’s hard to grasp how it all impacts a child’s education.

Into this comes the SAT factor.

The state is using the college entrance exam to assess whether juniors — as well as their schools — are hitting federally mandated academic standards for math, reading and writing.

But here’s where it gets (more) confusing. The state has a higher score standard than the one used by the SAT. Hence, it’s possible to be deficient according to the state and concurrently ready according to the SAT.

That may seem like a small issue, but it sure is confusing.

It highlights the extraordinary pressure school districts and state education officials are under to comply with federal benchmarks.

We have tremendous respect for our education leaders. Theirs is a difficult job made even more difficult by a tricky balancing act — we want high standards and we want districts held accountable, but there are obvious concerns about students having to endure assessment after assessment, one of the key flaws in the federal No Child Left Behind Act from years ago.

More troubling, though, is the report of all the testing is simply too cumbersome for the average person to analyze. Parents, taxpayers and community members should get a clear picture and not have to wade through the equivalent of a company’s Form 10-K to understand student achievement.

To its credit, the state Board of Education has a website,, with slightly fewer acronyms and more visuals, although as of Friday it hadn’t been updated with the new data.

More efforts should be made to make this data more relevant to those who need the information the most: parents and students.


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