Local officials approve of report card system.
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.