New method leaves some students off Illinois exam rosters

CHICAGO (AP) - Some Illinois students are being left out of certain state exams under a new practice that gives school administrators flexibility to filter testing rosters.

Federal law requires students be tested annually in reading and math at least once during high school. A Chicago Tribune analysis shows that Illinois school officials are allowed to determine students' eligibility for the state's Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers exams based on particular course participation, not grade level.

The analysis found that, in some cases, students in developmental, special education, and even gifted and honors classes were removed from state testing because they were doing coursework above or below the qualifying level, leaving some school administrators wondering how those ineligible kids would affect overall test performance at schools.

The newspaper reviewed data for nearly 300 high schools that offered the ninth-grade-level English language arts exam, comparing how many freshmen there were at the beginning of the year to the number eligible to take spring exams.

Differences in those numbers were found at dozens of schools. Lake County's Grant Community High School had 482 freshmen in 2014-15, state figures say, but 257 students were tested on the ninth-grade-level English exam.

Greg Urbaniak, the school's director of curriculum, instruction and assessment, said 150 or more freshmen honors students weren't included in testing because they were essentially doing 10th-grade coursework.

"Now we may need to rethink why we had to do that," Urbaniak said. "Our best kids are never going to be tested."

DuPage County's Addison Trail High School had nearly 600 freshmen at the start of a school year, but more than 100 were left out of PARCC testing in English. DuPage High School District 88 said several students labeled as freshmen in state enrollment data were actually older students who failed courses and were excluded from testing because they weren't in classes aligned with the exam.

It's unclear how many high school students didn't take state exams last year because they weren't in designated courses, the newspaper said. The Illinois State Board of Education said it doesn't track that number.

The agency said in response to questions from the newspaper that it expects districts to "fully comply with all federal and state laws and rules" on assessments from students with special needs and English learners.