The Illinois State Board of Education recently released the 2018 Illinois Report Cards.
This annual resource, available at IllinoisReportCard.com, provides a plethora of data on public schools throughout this state.
New this year, the state gave each school a summative designation as part of the Every Student Succeeds Act, the federal law that governs public education policy.
The designations are the primary mechanism for school accountability. The ISBE uses 10 measures of academic achievement and student success to arrive at its designations.
Ten of 12 area schools received a commendable designation from the state, with one school getting a better classification and another a worse one.
In Waterloo Community Unit School District 5, Zahnow Elementary, Rogers Elementary, Gardner Elementary and Waterloo High schools all earning commendable designations.
Of the four possible classifications, commendable is the second best. The ISBE deemed approximately 70 percent of schools commendable.
The designation means those schools have no underperforming student demographic groups according to the state’s standards, are not in the top 10 percent of all schools and may apply to participate in a program meant to help other schools.
It also means WHS has a graduation rate higher than 67 percent. Its rate is 94 percent.
“We’re very proud of the performance of our students,” Waterloo school superintendent Brian Charron said. “We feel the commendable classification is appropriate for us.”
Charron also explained that 50 percent of the school’s score to be considered for the highest designation, exemplary, relates to student growth.
He said since students were already performing so well, it would be difficult for those schools to get the exemplary classification due to the limited room for growth.
Nevertheless, Waterloo Junior High School attained that designation.
That means WJHS is in the top 10 percent of schools statewide, with no underperforming student groups. It may also apply to serve as a learning partner through IL-EMPOWER, a statewide system of differentiated supports and accountability that aims to improve student learning.
“With any of our schools that get statewide recognition for the academic performance of students, we’re always proud of that school getting that attention,” Charron said. “We believe we have a strong K-12 system of providing quality instruction and assessment. We also benefit from the fact that we’re in a strong, healthy community. I do think it’s wonderful for the junior high and that they are deserving of that recognition.”
Three of the four schools in Columbia Community Unit School District 4 received the commendable designation from the state.
Eagleview Elementary, Parkview Elementary and Columbia High schools were all classified as commendable.
“In the prior years, state tests results and success indicators have always focused on ELA (English language arts) and math proficiency for grades third through eighth students, with Columbia CUSD 4 traditionally scoring very well district wide compared to state averages and other districts,” Columbia school superintendent Dr. Gina Segobiano said. “This year with the new ESSA model, a student growth component was added that represents 50 percent of the school’s designation score. Eagleview, Parkview and Columbia High School fell in the ‘commendable’ designation.”
The outlier school was Columbia Middle School. It earned the designation of underperforming, the second lowest.
Underperforming schools are those in which one or more student groups performs at or below the “all students” group in the lowest-performing 5 percent of all schools. Those groups must have at least 20 students in at least four of the indicators the ISBE uses.
At CMS, the underperforming group was students with Individual Education Plans.
In general, the state’s report card for CMS shows a higher percentage of special education students in fifth, sixth and eighth grade fell into the did not meet, partially met and approached expectations categories in ELA and math performance levels compared to the state average for students with IEPs. Those are the three lowest classifications.
A lower percentage of the school’s IEP students in those grades were in the met and exceeded expectations categories, the two highest, in ELA and math performance levels compared to the state average for special education students.
No data was available for seventh grade special education students. The data was all based on scores on the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers test.
Illinois does not only provide the underperforming designation, which about 15 percent of schools received. It also offers assistance.
In the coming weeks and months the school can work to receive targeted assistance from the state through IL-EMPOWER.
Assistance CMS may choose to receive includes an extra $15,000 in federal money, a learning partner and a school support manager.
It will complete a work plan for school improvement since it got that designation.
“The designations are facts, not judgments,” State Superintendent of Education Tony Smith explained. “The purpose of the designation is to drive resources to the students in the greatest need. No single data point can capture what makes a school great. We encourage schools to use the designation as a tool to communicate about strengths and challenges and to engage communities and stakeholders in the success of all students.”
Segobiano outlined the district’s plans related to CMS.
“Columbia Middle School fell in the ‘underperforming’ designation due to a sub group collectively scoring below the state criteria,” she said. “School administrators and teachers will be closely examining trend data to drive decision making in regards to developing a plan to improve scores. The goal is not to focus on one sub group, but to have collaborative discussions with educators on strategies to improve student growth for all students. As far as extra support from the state, the district will receive an additional $15,000 of Title I funds to support any school initiative tied to school improvement.”
The school has four years for school improvement work, with the option to use the first year for planning, according to ISBE.
It will no longer be classified as underperforming when it no longer meets the criteria.
All three schools in Valmeyer Community Unit School District 3 received the commendable designation.
The school district could not be reached for comment.