Editorial: State scrutiny of suburban-initiated 'Redefining Ready' could lead to fairer student assessment

  • District 214 Superintendent David R. Schuler discusses his 'Redefining Ready' proposal with the Illinois State Board of Education last year.

    District 214 Superintendent David R. Schuler discusses his 'Redefining Ready' proposal with the Illinois State Board of Education last year. File Photo Courtesy of District 214

The Daily Herald Editorial Board

Sometime this year, the Illinois State Board of Education will consider a policy change that could have an important -- and positive -- impact on every high school student in the state. The proposal, originally designed by Northwest Suburban High School District 214 and now promoted by at least four more school districts statewide, would redefine what it means for a young person to be ready for college or a career.

Current standards for making that assessment focus heavily on college prep tests like the ACT and SAT. That, the school districts argue, provides an unrealistic, often limited picture of how well a student will perform at the next stage of his or her life. To be sure, the tests can be predictive in some ways for many students, but hardly for all. Some who perform well on tests may not be ready socially or in terms of maturity for college or a career. Some who do not perform well on a standardized test are fully capable of success after high school.

So, the "Redefining Ready" model developed by District 214's Superintendent David Schuler, along with superintendents in Grayslake, Lyons Township, Argo and Carbondale, invokes a broad new set of measures intended to give colleges and employers a more accurate view of how well a particular individual is prepared for success.

Our Christopher Placek reported in Monday's editions that the superintendents want the state board to include the concept within a state accountability plan to be submitted to Gov. Bruce Rauner under provisions of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act.

Their plan measures students according to a mix of components, including GPA, attendance, community service, work history, advanced placement classes and even success in Algebra II, which authorities say is remarkably accurate in predicting students' likelihood of success in college. Standardized tests are still part of the mix, too, of course, but according to Redefining Ready model, they are evaluated in conjunction with the other measures.

To be sure, many colleges and universities already include other factors in addition to standardized tests in determining what students they accept. And the ultimate success of Redefining Ready depends not just on what the state board adopts but on how credible colleges and universities -- and employers -- find this approach. Their universal acceptance may not be a given, but considering the research and development that has gone into producing this new set of standards, they surely must find the approach intriguing.

That could be a big plus for students from Illinois and may eventually suggest a significant step toward fairer assessment of school success across the country. We're proud of the work District 214 and other suburban school districts have done to produce and advance these proposals, and we look forward to seeing how well they fare in evaluations by state education experts.

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