Illinois’ indicators are logical, strongly research-based and actionable.
Illinois has chosen a logical set of indicators to include in its accountability system (academic proficiency, growth, chronic absenteeism, climate surveys, and English learner proficiency) as well as an on-track indicator for ninth-graders (based on their accumulated credits and grades).
Overall, Illinois’ system emphasizes academic performance, with 75 percent of the weight placed on academic proficiency and growth. In fact, 50 percent of Illinois’ system is based on academic growth. However, the calculation for growth is not well-defined in grades 3-8, and academic growth in high school cannot be determined with the state’s current assessments.
At the high school level, Illinois could strengthen its plan by placing a stronger emphasis on the four-year graduation rate. As currently drafted, the state’s plan appears to use an aggregate graduation rate composed of the average of the four-, five-, and six-year rates, which would inflate graduation rates and dilute the value of completing in four years.
Moreover, Illinois is exploring the addition of a fine arts indicator, which seems to align with the state’s desire to educate the “whole child.” The weight of this indicator, which will be based on the percentage of students enrolled in a fine arts course, will be determined when more data are available.
Illinois incorporates both college and career readiness into its high school system.
It provides multiple opportunities for students to demonstrate their readiness for college and careers, such as course-taking, assessments, and co-curricular experiences, and its emphasis on all students engaging in college and career opportunities should be commended and replicated by other states. However, it can be improved by providing greater detail about the definition of “quality” for the “career” measures and placing greater emphasis on externally validated measures (i.e., exams) over course grades.
The state’s plan could also provide more information about its pathway endorsement and college remedial coursework measures. As data become available, the state should analyze the extent to which students who met the benchmarks ultimately enrolled and demonstrated success in postsecondary education and training.
Illinois proposes a lower weight for the English-language proficiency indicator compared to other states.
Illinois is proposing to weight the English-language proficiency indicator at 5 percent, which is lower than other states. However, Illinois specifically notes that it will include all K–12 English-language learners in this indicator, which is an innovative idea. It goes beyond ESSA’s requirement, which only asks states to use English-language proficiency scores from grades 3–8 and once in high school.
Illinois has also proposed two additional school-quality indicators for the elementary level.
Notably, Illinois deserves credit for considering an indicator focused on pre-k through second grade, reflecting the state’s desire to recognize the importance of early learning.
While these are all potentially promising individually, the state needs to be cautious about incorporating too many indicators. In fact, the state’s plan is already lacking in evidence that its proposed indicators provide uniquely valuable information on school performance, and it could be strengthened by adding that additional information.