NEWS

Prairie State Achievement Examination opened opportunities for students: McGee

For Immediate Release
Date: November 15, 2001
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The state's first-ever Prairie State Achievement Examination (PSAE) can lead to opportunities for students that some might not have dreamed were possible, State Superintendent of Education Glenn W. McGee said in reporting results for the ACT Assessment and WorkKeys tests administered as part of the PSAE.

"The main purpose of the PSAE is to provide a good measure of student achievement of the Illinois Learning Standards," McGee explained. "Along with that measure students get two bonuses - a composite score from the ACT Assessment, one of the nation's premier college-entrance examinations, and scores from two WorkKeys, tests that are used by many employers."

"Regardless of the directions students choose after high school, the PSAE has equipped them with valuable tools to help make those choices."

"Over 10,000 students who would not have taken the ACT in previous years scored at least an 18 on the test. That score will gain them entry into many colleges and universities in the state and nation. Clearly, the PSAE-ACT has brightened the opportunities for success for these students."

"Almost 43,000 additional students took the ACT this year than in previous years," McGee said, "and that included over 6,000 who received extended time because of their disabilities." All eleventh-graders in Illinois public schools were for the first time required to take the ACT - at state expense - as part of the PSAE.

"Despite the increased numbers, the ACT performance of Illinois students remains strong, with a very respectable average composite score of 19.4 - a score that is also higher than a number of other states where only college-bound students test."

ACT reported previously that 2001 graduates of public and nonpublic high schools in Illinois achieved average composite scores of 21.6, compared to the national average of 21.0 for all ACT-tested graduates.

McGee listed several items of interest from the PSAE-ACT:

* Thirty-three Illinois juniors scored a perfect 36 on the ACT taken as part of the PSAE. That alone would make Illinois the state with the most perfect scores. Combined with the other ACT administrations in the 2000-2001 school year, 58 Illinois students achieved perfect scores. The state with the next highest number of perfect scores was Michigan with 15. During that time frame, only 156 students throughout the nation recorded perfect ACT scores.

* Illinois eleventh-grade students demonstrated greatest achievement in mathematics, scoring an average of 19.8 on the mathematics portion of the ACT. The lowest average score was for English with a18.5. Other averages for ACT subject tests were 19.5 in reading and 19.5 for science reasoning.

* Students taking "core" coursework scored substantially higher on the ACT, with a composite average of 22.2 compared to 17.7 by those taking less than core. "Core" coursework is defined by ACT to be four or more years of English and three or more years of mathematics, social sciences and natural sciences.

* ACT scores reported by ethnicity show significant achievement gaps that are similar to those found with other statewide tests. Asian students recorded the highest composite ACT average with a 21.8; Caucasians 20.8; Puerto Rican/Hispanic 17.1; Mexican/Chicano 16.8 and African American 16.0.

Results of the ACT WorkKeys tests of Applied Mathematics and Reading for Information suggest that Illinois schools are preparing students well for the challenges they will face in the workplace. The Applied Mathematics assessment measures a person's skill in using mathematical reasoning to solve work-related problems. The Reading for Information assessment measures a person's skill in reading and using work-related information including instructions, policies, memos, bulletins, notices, letters, manuals, and governmental regulations.

McGee also pointed out important PSAE WorkKeys results:

* Reading for Information results indicate that 59% of Illinois students scored at a level that met or exceeded reading qualifications for 89% of all jobs profiled.

* Applied Mathematics results show that 61% of Illinois students scored at a level that met or exceeded mathematics qualifications for 85% of all jobs profiled.

"Students have to make difficult choices after high school that will have a profound impact on their future success," McGee said. "The PSAE, which includes the added value of the ACT and WorkKeys, gives students concrete information to guide them in making those choices. Students can focus on the opportunities available to them as a result of this vital information."

Students who took the first PSAE in April had the opportunity to retake it in October if they wanted to try to improve their scores.

The PSAE will be given to eleventh-grade students in the spring of each year. In 2002, the testing is scheduled for April 24 and 25.