The Illinois Report Card, a comprehensive look at all public schools in Illinois, comes out every year near the end of October. This year’s report card shows a record high school graduation rate (led primarily by increases for students of color), student growth outperforming pre-pandemic levels, and Illinois’s teacher workforce defying national trends by adding over 2,500 new teachers. While much of the news focuses on test scores and the positive results cited above, there is a lot of information in the report card that can help your PTA or PTA Council be more effective.
School District Data
The report card includes data for individual schools and aggregate data for school districts. For PTA Councils, this school district data can inform your conversations with district administrators and the school board to work together to improve student success. Every button on the left side of the report card opens a summary page that can be further drilled down into by clicking on the tiles or submenu items.
Information your PTA Council may find useful include:
- Racial/Ethnic Diversity: Determine how well your PTAs are reaching everyone in your district. If you are looking to increase your PTA’s diversity, use National PTA’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion resources.
- Chronic Absenteeism: Identified as a statewide problem, your PTA Council may be able to help with educating families on the importance of attendance.
- School Finances: The site-specific school spending data can inform conversations on equity in the district. Note that high spending in only a few buildings may be due to a school hosting a program targeting high-need students (e.g., English Language Learners (ELL), Special Education students, learning recovery students), which is why it is important to discuss with your district administrators.
- District Finances: This report indicates how your school district is relative to the Evidence-Based Funding (EBF) formula’s calculation of adequate funding. Conversations on how the district is aligning EBF funds to the elements of the formula (e.g., Are the extra funds in the formula for ELL students being allocated to them? Does the district’s funding for gifted education match what is in the EBF formula?) can highlight opportunities for local advocacy.
- Academic Progress: Are students meeting or exceeding the state average or the target levels for proficiency or growth in English/Language Arts (ELA), math, and science? If not, can PTA programs help support student growth and success?
Individual School Data
For your PTA, the data for your school that will be most helpful will be similar to that at the district level for PTA Councils. Demographic data, financial information, and academic progress data can all help your PTA meet the needs of your school’s families.
One item that is only available at the school level is the 5Essentials survey results. You can find this data in the “Climate Survey” item under “School Environment.” The 5Essentials survey was originally developed by the University of Chicago for use in the Chicago Public Schools. The survey targets five elements that research has shown to be critical for student success. For most schools, the data will only be available from the surveys of students and teachers. The parent survey usually does not have enough participation to be reported on the report card (something your PTA could work to improve).
The graphic on the Climate Survey page shows how your school ranks in terms of:
- Effective Leaders
- Collaborative Teachers
- Supportive Environment
- Ambitious Instruction
- Involved Families
Schools that are at or above the benchmark for three or more of the essentials are ten times more likely to improve than schools below the benchmarks.
Additional information on your school’s survey can be found by clicking the link at the bottom that says: “For a more detailed look at this school’s 5Essentials report, please visit www.5-essentials.org.” Note that the link goes directly to your school’s survey, and not the general 5Essentials website that the text implies. When you click the link, you can drill down into specific topics in the survey to find out, for example, why your school is rated the way it is for involved families.