The 2018 Illinois Report Card released on Oct. 31 by the Illinois State Board of Education features a new system that separates public schools throughout the state into four tiers — lowest-performing, underperforming, commendable and exemplary.
Most of Oak Park’s elementary schools and high school were rated commendable while Mann and Whittier elementary schools were rated exemplary. However, both of the village’s middle schools were rated as underperforming.
Each designation is based on 10 weighted measures of student performance, which are different for grade schools and high schools.
In grade schools (pre-K through eighth grade), measures include chronic absenteeism (weighted 10 percent); performance on various standardized test scores and evaluations, including PARCC (worth a combined total weight of more than 40 percent); and academic growth (50 percent).
An exemplary school is one whose performance is in the top 10 percent of schools statewide, according to ISBE, while a commendable school has most of the characteristics of an exemplary school, but “whose performance is not in the top 10 percent of schools statewide.”
An underperforming school has at least one student demographic group performing at a proficiency levels seen in the lowest 5 percent of all schools in the state.
“By definition, an underperforming school is really a commendable school that happens to have a student group that’s not performing at the expected level,” Ralph Grimm, chief education officer for the ISBE, told NPR Illinois.
According to ISBE, around 70 percent of public schools in the state were designated commendable, while 15 percent were designated underperforming on this year’s report card.
Schools designated lowest-performing are the lowest-performing 5 percent of schools in the state.
Underperforming and lowest-performing schools will undergo an improvement process that includes a needs assessment, additional federal funding and more state resources.
“The purpose of the designation is to drive resources to the students in the greatest need,” said State Superintendent of Education Tony Smith in a statement. “No single data point can capture what makes a school great. We encourage schools to use the designation as a tool to communicate about strengths and challenges and to engage communities and stakeholders in the success of all students.”
According to this year’s Illinois Report Card data, 26 percent of Brooks Middle School students who took the PARCC test met state standards on the English and language arts (ELA) section while 5 percent exceeded them.
At Julian Middle School, 34 percent of students who took PARCC met state standards on the ELA section while 7 percent exceeded them.
That’s compared to the district average of 35 percent and 7 percent, respectively. Across the state, 31 percent of students met ELA standards while 6 percent exceeded them.
In the math section of PARCC, 22 percent and 4 percent of students at Brooks met and exceeded state standards, respectively. At Julian, 34 percent and 7 percent of students met and exceeded state standards, respectively.
That’s compared to the district average of 33 percent and 8 percent, respectively. Across the state, 27 percent of students met ELA standards while 5 percent exceeded them.
The portion of African-American and low-income students at either Brooks or Julian who met or exceeded state standards on PARCC was no higher than 14 percent in either ELA or math.
More than half of black and low-income students did not meet or partially met state standards on either the ELA or math segments of PARCC at either middle school.
The portion of white and non-low-income students at either Brooks who met or exceeded state standards on PARCC ranged roughly between 30 and 40 percent in either ELA or math while at Julian, roughly half of white and non-low-income students met or exceeded state standards on either ELA or math.
In an interview last week, Amy Warke, D97’s chief academic and accountability officer, said that the state’s designations do not “reflect the totality of who our students are and what our district is doing to help the district succeed.”
Warke said that the district has recently implemented a range of changes in the middle schools whose effects may not be apparent yet, such as increasing the number of minority and low-income students taking advanced level math and implementing behavioral supports.
“As we’re working on things in the district we’re really working on the system and that is something that we think is important, because when we talk about change, it’s about the institution,” Warke said. “Our children aren’t broken, they don’t be fixed and that’s something we feel is really important.”
To access more Illinois Report Card data for all public schools, visit: illinoisreportcard.com/.