Lo­cal of­fi­cials ap­prove of re­port card sys­tem.

Daily Southtown (Sunday) - - FRONT PAGE - By Su­san DeMar Laf­ferty slaf­ferty@tribpub.com Twit­ter @Su­sanLaff

A new sys­tem for track­ing school per­for­mance­was un­veiled Wednes­day as the Illi­nois State Board of Ed­u­ca­tion re­leased its an­nual re­port cards.

Lo­cal school lead­ers gave it high marks.

The 2018 Illi­nois Re­port Card ranks schools by one of four des­ig­na­tions: ex­em­plary, com­mend­able, un­der­per­form­ing and low­est per­form­ing based on 10 mea­sures. The new fea­tures are de­signed to give a more com­plete pic­ture of each school, of­fi­cials said.

“The des­ig­na­tions are facts, not judg­ments,” state Su­per­in­ten­den­tTony Smith said.

In this first year, the top 10 per­cent were la­beled as “ex­em­plary,” while the bot­tom 5 per­cent were des­ig­nated as “low­est per­form­ing.” The ma­jor­ity were rated “com­mend­able.”

That will change over time, Smith said in a re­cent con­fer­ence call with me­dia.

All schools were scored on pro­fi­ciency in English and math— 10 per­cent each — and progress of its English lan­guage learn­ers – 5 per­cent.

The grade school per­for­mances also were based 50 per­cent on stu­dent growth, which tracked how much progress stu­dents made in the past year com­pared to oth­ers who re­ceived the same test score the pre­vi­ous year. Chronic ab­sen­teeism ac­counted for 20 per­cent of a score, de­fined as a stu­dent miss­ing more than 10 per­cent of the school year, or 18 days. This did not in­clude stu­dents who are home­bound due to med­i­cal is­sues, of­fi­cials said.

High schools were judged 50 per­cent on their grad­u­a­tion rates, 7.5 per­cent on chronic ab­sen­teeism and 6.25 per­cent on fresh­men on track to grad­u­ate in four years.

Next year, all schools will have ad­di­tional mea­sures, in­clud­ing pro­fi­ciency in science, and school cli­mate, ac­cord­ing to the state board of ed­u­ca­tion. Ad­di­tion­ally, high schools will be judged on col­lege and ca­reer readi­ness.

The new ac­count­abil­ity sys­tem, based on the Every Stu­dent Suc­ceeds Act, which re­placed No Child Left Be­hind in 2015, is “a jour­ney for all of us,” Smith said.

Man­hat­tan Dis­trict 114 Su­per­in­ten­dent Rus­sell Ragon said the state is “on the right track in the changes they have made to the state re­port card.”

The­in­for­ma­tion will give an “ac­cu­rate pic­ture” of how school dis­tricts are per­form­ing, not only aca­dem­i­cally, but also how re­spon­si­ble they are fi­nan­cially, and how they are do­ing with the so­cial/emo­tional/cul­tural needs of the school and com­mu­nity, he said.

The new re­port card is “do­ing a much bet­ter job than the pre­vi­ous re­port cards” in mea­sur­ing and re­port­ing data clearly and con­cisely, Ragon said.

To re­ceive an ex­em­plary rat­ing, a school must also have no stu­dent group per­form­ing below the level of the 33 schools that make up the low­est 5 per­cent of schools in the state.

Com­mend­able des­ig­na­tions— which­went to about 70 per­cent of schools — were those not among the top 10 per­cent, but had no bot­tom-per­form­ing stu­dent groups.

Schools with one or­more low-per­form­ing stu­dent groups were deemed un­der­per­form­ing, un­less they fall within the low­est 5 per­cent. Stu­dents are bro­k­endown­into sub­groups by eth­nic­ity, spe­cial needs and abil­i­ties, and eco­nom­ics.

The new re­port­ing sys­tem high­lights what is good in the pub­lic school sys­tem and where im­prove­ments are needed , Smith said.

Statewide, “there are con­cen­tra­tions of poverty and priv­i­lege. We have to dig deeper for those who are not per­form­ing well. The fu­ture of our state de­pends on qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion for all kids,” Smith said.

“We have con­sid­er­able in­equity in Illi­nois. We still have dis­tricts that don’t have the re­sources they need to meet ex­pec­ta­tions,” he said, ex­plain­ing that this newap­proach­con­sid­ers the well-be­ing of the whole child.

Be­fore, schools were rated on whether their stu- dents were pro­fi­cient or not. The new fo­cus on growth is a “bet­ter way of look­ing at what stu­dents are do­ing over time. Growth is less tied to pre-ex­ist­ing de­mo­graph­ics,” Smith said.

With the Ev­i­dence Based Fund­ing ap­proved in 2017, the state will al­lo­cate its re­sources and fund­ing to ar­eas of greater need, he said, adding that Illi­nois also needs to fully fund its ed­u­ca­tional sys­tem.

Lo­cal ed­u­ca­tors like the new sys­tem for its datadriven ac­count­abil­ity and growth mea­sure­ments.

Su­per­in­ten­dent John­netta Miller, in West Har­vey/Dix­moor Dis­trict 147, which had one of the low­est per­form­ing schools in the south sub­ur­ban area, said she “ab­so­lutely” likes this sys­tem be­cause it takes into ac­count other fac­tors that af­fect stu­dent learn­ing, such as ab­sen­teeism and so­cial-emo­tional is­sues.

In an “im­pov­er­ished area” like Har­vey-Dix­moor, she said, “stu­dents deal with a lot out­side of school.”

“I re­ally like that the state is ad­dress­ing so­cial-emo­tional is­sues. It has to be a con­cen­trated ef­fort. Stu­dents can make awe­some growth but it doesn’t al­ways show on a test,” said Miller, whose back­ground is in so­cial­work.

Miller also is pleased to hear that the state will give them time and money to fig­ure out how to im­prove their schools.

“Be­fore, the state just said we needed to do bet­ter. Now, they are put­ting money on the ta­ble,” she said.

Frank­fort School Dis­trict 157C Su­per­in­ten­dent Maura Zinni said she is grate­ful that the state is mea­sur­ing stu­dent growth.

“This has been my tar­get since ar­riv­ing in the dis­trict five years ago. Growth lets us know if stu­dents are learn­ing at their ex­pected rates over time while ex­posed to our cur­ricu­lum and in­struc­tion,” she said.

The­data used to mea­sure stu­dent and school suc­cess are “re­search based” and should “help im­prove the learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence” of all pub­lic school stu­dents,” Zinni said.

“We be­lieve in ac­count­abil­ity,” said Jean­nie Sta­chowiak, su­per­in­ten­dent in North Pa­los Dis­trict 117, adding, “It’s a good sys­tem, easy to read.”

Ab­sen­teeism is “def­i­nitely” some­thing that should be a fac­tor — “we can’t teach stu­dents who are not here,” she said.

While stu­dent ab­sen­teeism is “some­times out of our con­trol, it re­minds us of the im­por­tance of the part­ner­ship of par­ents and schools,” she said.

The re­port cards also show that there is “lots to cel­e­brate,” Smith said.

On the plus side, more stu­dents than ever are en­rolling in col­lege within 12 months of grad­u­a­tion – up to 75 per­cent from 68 per­cent four years ago, he said.

More high school stu­dents are tak­ing — and pass­ing — Ad­vanced Place­ment ex­ams, to earn col­lege credit, and low-in­come stu­dents have been en­cour­aged to take AP classes, he said.

“The trend is pretty ex­tra­or­di­nary,” he said.

With the in­crease in stu­dents be­ing col­lege ready, the num­ber of col­lege stu­dents need­ing re­me­dial work is down, Smith said.

In look­ing ahead, he said, a school’s so­cial en­vi­ron­ment is “an area we need to growin.”

Stu­dents should not only feel and be safe in school, but stress among teach­ers needs to be ad­dressed.

Af­ter “years of un­der­fund­ing,” there are teach­ers who take “many days off,” Smith said, as he again stressed the need to “fully fund the ed­u­ca­tional sys­tem.”

The re­port card also shows that Illi­nois’ stu­dent pop­u­la­tion has be­come more di­verse, with “stu­dents of color” com­pris­ing the ma­jor­ity, while teach­ers are 83 per­cent white, Smith said. ISBE is work­ing to ad­dress the short­age and di­ver­sity of its teach­ing staff.

“We need to mir­ror the de­mo­graph­ics, and give stu­dents dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ences, and a deeper un­der­stand­ing of race and lan­guage back­grounds. Butwe have a long way to go to re­cruit and sup­port teach­ers,” Smith said.

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