Illinois schools graded with new system

By Kevin Beese Staff Reporter

A new School Report Card — one that puts more emphasis on growth than proficiency — is being rolled out to residents.

The Report Card, scheduled to be unveiled at 4 p.m. Oct. 31, shows that more Illinois students are attending college than any time in the past four years. Illinois State Board of Education officials note that 75 percent of students enrolled in college in the year since graduating in 2017, up from 68 percent four years ago.

A big change in the Report Card is the measurement of success for individual schools in the state. Instead of achievement being linked to meeting state standards in reading, math and other subjects, the new gold standard of success comes from a formula of at least six factors.

“The core is around growth,” state Superintendent of School Tony Smith said. “In the past it was if students were proficient or not and that didn’t fully represent the work of families, educators and students.”

Smith said growth and other factors are a better way to measure success than just chronicling students’ proficiency on a standardized test.

“Success before was largely based on the socioeconomic process. Now we are looking at the individual student over time, comparing like scores over time,” the state superintendent said. “We are looking at growth in schools. It is really powerful.”

He said growth is less tied to pre-existing demographics, such as wealth, in a school or school district.

The formula for measuring individual school success is now:

Preschool through eighth grade

  • Academic growth (average student growth in English and math) – 50 percent
  • Chronic absenteeism (students missing 10 percent or more of school year) – 20 percent
  • Language arts proficiency (students meeting grade-level expectations in English) – 10 percent
  • Math proficiency (students meeting grade-level expectations in math) – 10 percent
  • English learner progress (English learners on track to reach English proficiency within five years) – 5 percent
  • Climate survey (Students participating in survey on school security and climate) – 5 percent

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High school

  • Graduation (graduating in four years weighted at 30 percent, graduating in five years weighted at 15 percent and graduating in six years weighted at 5 percent) – 50 percent of score
  • Language arts proficiency – 10 percent
  • Math proficiency – 10 percent
  • Chronic absenteeism – 7.5 percent
  • Ninth-graders on track to graduate (freshmen having earned five full-year course credits or 10 semester credits and not more than one “F” in a core subject) – 6.25 percent
  • College and career readiness (Students meeting the requirements of the College and Career Ready or Distinguished Scholar pathways – 6.25 percent
  • English learner progress – 5 percent
  • Climate survey – 5 percent


On the Report Card, an “Exemplary” designation identifies the highest-performing 10 percent of schools in the state, based on the new guidelines. A “Lowest-Performing” designation identifies the lowest 5 percent of schools. Schools that are otherwise well performing but have one or more student groups significantly underperforming received an “Underperforming” designation. All other schools received a “Commendable” designation.

Ralph Grimm, acting chief education officer for the State Board of Education, said that there are several resources available on the board’s website,, to give residents insight into student and school performance.

He said the State Board of Education has provided a letter template and a sample press release for school districts to use for stakeholders to better understand the new Report Card. He said the State Board has also worked to share information with residents.

“Over the course of nine or 10 months, we have engaged with stakeholders about the designations,” Grimm said. “We have encouraged local school districts to reach out to stakeholders about what the new information means and how to begin the conversation. Many have begun to do so.”







—- Illinois schools graded with new system —-