Understanding the Shifts in Illinois State Reporting
The Illinois Report card has undergone two major changes throughout the few years. The good news is that it currently sits as one of the most user-friendly and informative state school reports in the country. Before explaining how the Report Card has improved, it helps to have a basic understanding of its definition and function.
What is the Illinois State Report Card?
According to the Illinois State Board of Education, the Report Card “is an annual report released by the Illinois State Board of Education that shows how the state, and each school and district, are progressing on a wide range of educational goals.” Just as students receive report cards to show their grades across subjects, the state, schools, and districts also have their achievements reported to the public in this way.
In 2013, a major revision to the Report Card was led by an organization called Advance Illinois. This nonprofit group, founded in 2008, is funded by big names in education, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and others. The revision helped to make the report card more user-friendly. The Report Card’s most recent version was released in late 2017. It includes several changes to the data that schools must report.
Taken together, the changes to the Report Card have been so successful that a recent study concluded that the Illinois Report Card was among those of the top three states because they had “overall the best easy-to-find, informative and readable report cards.” The study lists the Illinois Report Card as an exemplary example of state reporting on education.
Focusing on the most recent (2017) changes to the Report Card, there are a few important highlights:
- Improved user interface
- Enhanced special education information
- Inclusion of SAT results
- Teacher evaluation data
A Better View of Schools
Before the revision in 2013, the state Report Card was clunky, difficult to navigate, and confusing to view. Now, the landing page includes an easy search function. Searching for a specific school brings the user to an aesthetically pleasing School Snapshot page, which includes a map with the location of the school and basic contact information. A sidebar menu allows users to easily navigate through useful data about the school, including information about academic progress, school environment, students, teachers, administrators, school highlights, and retired tests (more on this later). Each of these tabs leads users to statistics that are carefully displayed in a variety of graphs.
In addition to an improvement in the way that information is displayed on the Report Card, there are several major changes to the information itself.
Emphasis on Special Education
One of the points of emphasis on the new Report Card is special education. The report card now provides enhanced information about the educational environment, disability categories, and demographics for special education students. This information is broken down into two age ranges: 3-5 and 6-21. The Report Card also now clearly displays changes in the percentage of special education students in a school or district from the previous year to the current year.
Statewide SAT is in, ACT is “Retired”
Another important change to the Report Card is the inclusion of student results on the new statewide administration of the SAT. Beginning in 2017, all juniors in the state of Illinois took the SAT on the same day (April 5). This data is displayed for the first time in the 2017 Report Card and is found under the academic progress tab for a school or district. The SAT results are presented as average results, as well as the percentage of students scoring within specific ranges on the ELA and mathematics portions of the exam. Additionally, test results are broken down by demographics and year (although data is available only for 2017 because it was the first year that all students in the state took the exam). Results can also be viewed by gender and broken up between students with and without IEPs.
With the inclusion of the SAT results comes the de-emphasis of ACT results. The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) redefines the standards for college and career readiness for students, and the SAT will be used to measure progress and provide school accountability. ACT results are still viewable under “retired tests.”
While the special education data and SAT results represent the inclusion of new information in reports, the treatment of charter school information shows a revision to previously reported information. Individual charter schools from the same parent organization used to be reported as one group. Now, data from these schools will be reported individually. The goal of this change is to make charter schools more accountable: “All parties agreed that the change would positively increase accountability and transparency and would align with Chicago Public Schools’ own reporting practices.”
Refined Data on Teachers
Other revisions to the data featured on the Report Card include teacher-related information. One such example is that the report card will now show the percentage of teachers who achieved proficiency on their professional evaluations. Additionally, there are changes to the reporting on teacher attendance. Absences as part of the Family Medical Leave ACT (FMLA), long-term disability, and parental leaves are no longer included as part of the report on teacher absences.
Driving Better Decisions
The Illinois Report Card is now a robust and useful resource for a variety of educational stakeholders. Parents looking to make decisions on living arrangements or school attendance for their children now have an easier way of seeing how schools compare to each other. District administrators can determine if their school is on the right course by comparing their school to others with similar demographics. Special education educators have better insight into their student populations, and even college admissions professionals will have a better understanding of Illinois high school student achievement with the new inclusion of the SAT. Overall, the changes in the Illinois Report Card will help all involved in Illinois education make more well-informed decisions.
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