'Absolutely on the right track': State school report card shows signs of student growth

  • The new Illinois School Report Card, to be released Thursday, shows promising signs that students are rebounding after two years of learning disruption during the COVID-19 pandemic, state education officials say.

      The new Illinois School Report Card, to be released Thursday, shows promising signs that students are rebounding after two years of learning disruption during the COVID-19 pandemic, state education officials say. Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • School districts will be able to provide an explanation of a school's designation in this year's state report card to be released Thursday.

    School districts will be able to provide an explanation of a school's designation in this year's state report card to be released Thursday. Daily Herald File Photo

 
 
Updated 10/24/2022 6:15 AM

Illinois students appear to be showing signs of academic rebound after significant performance slippage from two years of learning disruption during the COVID-19 pandemic.

That's according to the 2022 Illinois School Report Card data that will be released Thursday. It includes the results of the state's standardized assessments in English language arts and mathematics administered each spring to all students in third through eighth grades, and the science assessment taken by fifth-, eighth- and 11th-graders. The tests measure student growth and proficiency in meeting learning standards.

 

Last year's state report card showed steep declines in student performance when compared to pre-pandemic years. This year's data, measuring assessments from the 2021-22 school year, indicates modest growth toward pre-pandemic achievement levels.

"Proficiency rates are still not at pre-pandemic levels, but the growth shows us we are absolutely on the right track," State Superintendent of Education Carmen Ayala said.

Ayala noted that proficiency data show the percentage of students meeting or exceeding state standards, while growth shows year-to-year progress toward meeting those standards.

After a two-year waiver due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year's report card will see the return of school designations based on performance. Schools fall into one of four categories: exemplary, commendable, comprehensive and targeted.

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Schools in the exemplary category are among the highest-performing top 10%, while schools falling in the comprehensive category are among the lowest-performing 5%. Schools designated as targeted would otherwise fall in the commendable or exemplary categories based on overall student performance but have one or more individual student groups performing at the bottom 5%.

These designations allow the state to direct additional funding to schools that need help.

New to the report card this year is an opportunity for districts to explain a school's designation and what steps they took toward improvement.

This year's report card also will include information to better understand how absenteeism from the state assessment affects overall scores.

Federal law mandates that a school's proficiency rate be based off the number of students who tested or 95% of the students who should have tested, whichever is higher, Ayala said.

Students who do not test are not left out of the data; rather they are counted as a zero. This year's report card will show the percentage of students who did not take the test and the percentage used to determine proficiency ratings to show if absenteeism affected scores.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Also new this year, the report card will show where a district stands on an equity continuum by breaking out data for students of color.

The new metric looks at student learning, learning conditions and the diversity of teachers in the district. Districts are placed on a continuum, ranging from large gaps to minimal gaps, based on the data. School districts can provide their own narrative of where they are on the continuum and how they plan to address gaps.

"This is an informational tool that school districts can use to have those conversations about where they are on their equity journey and what they can do to close those gaps," Ayala said.

Though this year's report card shows signs of improvement, Ayala and others state education officials warned that recovery to pre-pandemic levels will take time. But they remain optimistic that schools across the state are heading in the right direction.

"I don't know that we're ever going to get back to normal, if you will," Ayala said. "This is why we are wanting to make sure we are putting a focus on growth. ... We need to continue to keep growing, keep moving and to keep closing the gaps that we have."

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