5 Things to Know About the New Illinois School Report Card

Illinois’s school report cardwas released on October 31st, and there have been several changes this year due to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Here are five things families need to know about this year’s report card.

  1. There’s a new school rating system.Schools are now classified in one of four designations:
    • Exemplary:Schools performing in the top 10% statewide with no underperforming student groups (e.g., white students, low-income students, special needs students).
    • Commendable:Schools that have no underperforming student groups, performance is not in the top 10% statewide, and for high schools, the graduation rate is above 67%.
    • Underperforming:Schools where one or more student groups is performing below the level of the “all students” group in the lowest performing 5% of schools. This definition of underperforming student groups applies to the two designations above.
    • Lowest-Performing:Schools in the lowest-performing 5% of schools statewide and any high school with a graduation rate of 67% or less.
  1. Schools are rated on more than test scores.Under No Child Left Behind (NCLB), how a school was performing was based only on how students performed on statewide tests. Under Illinois’s ESSA plan, schools are evaluated on several measures, including academic growth, proficiency, school climate survey results, high school graduation, and chronic absenteeism.

 

  1. The focus is now on student growth, not proficiency.NCLB’s focus was only on proficiency—did a student meet a specific score on the statewide test—as a means of measuring a school’s success. That focus did not take into account where students were at the beginning of a school year. Under Illinois’s ESSA plan, student growth—how much a student improves over the course of the year—is one measure of how a school is performing. That means that a school is doing well when a student shows more than one year of academic growth over the course of the year even if they still do not meet the standards for their grade. This focus on growth will encourage schools to support all students and close achievement gaps.

 

  1. School funding is being reported.With Illinois’s new school funding formula, we have a way of estimating what it costs to educate a student in every Illinois school district—its Adequacy Target. The school report card now shows where each school district stands on funding compared to its Adequacy Target on the first page of the report card, as well as which funding tier (1 through 4) the district is in for the new funding formula. Next year’s report card will also include how much school districts are spending at each school.

 

  1. The lowest performing schools get more support.Under NCLB, schools that were not making Adequate Yearly Progress often had funding cut. Under Illinois’s ESSA plan, those schools that are Underperforming or Lowest-Performing get additional funding and supports to help them improve. Those schools will also partner with higher performing schools to help institute best practices for student success. The system to implement these supports is known as IL-EMPOWER.

These changes in the report card reflect many Illinois PTA and National PTA legislative priorities. From moving beyond a simple test score to measure school success, to focusing on student growth, to adequately and equitably funding education, PTA advocacy has helped to continue the progress being made towards providing every child a quality education. You can help lend your voice to future PTA advocacy efforts by joining the Illinois PTA Takes Action Network.

 

5 Things to Know About Illinois’s New School Funding Formula

Last August, Illinois adopted a new evidence-based funding (EBF) formulafor providing new state funding for schools. The new EBF formula estimates what it actually costs to provide a quality education to students in each of Illinois’s 853 school districts (called the adequacy target) as well as the local tax resources available to the district to meet that funding level (their local capacity). State funds are then distributed with more money being directed to the school districts with the largest gap between their local capacity and their adequacy target.

The Center for Tax and Budget Accountability has released a new report covering how the new EBF formula is working. Here’s what you need to know about it.

  1. Collectively, Illinois school districts are $7.37 billion short of adequate funding.The legislature and governor have verbally committed to increasing K-12 education funding by $350 million each year over 10 years. Note that this amount covers less than half of the total additional funds needed to provide a quality education to every Illinois student.
  2. Only 146 districts (17%) had resources above their adequacy target. The other 707 districts (83%) are below their adequacy target.
  3. Those districts furthest from adequacy (known as Tier 1 schools), are spending on average $5,000/student less than their adequacy target. By contrast the school districts at or above their adequacy target (Tier 4 schools) are spending about $3,000/student above adequacy.
  4. Of the $366 million of additional state funding that went through the EBF formula, 89.1% went to Tier 1 schools.This indicates that the new formula is correctly directing the most new money to the districts most in need.
  5. 63% of the new funding went to school districts that had 59% or more of their students coming from low-income homes.6% went to districts with low-income students making up 40% or more of their population. Again, this indicates that the new EBF formula is directing additional funds to those students who need additional supports.

The new funding formula represents a significant step in the right direction towards improving Illinois’s least-equitable school funding in the country. However, closing the gap between current funding and adequate funding will require continued commitment from legislators and the governor to increase state school funding. As part of the new funding law, a Professional Review Panel was created to oversee implementation, and Illinois PTA has a seat on that panel. In addition, the scholarship fund set up by the law (which Illinois PTA opposed) to get around Illinois’s constitutional ban on providing public funds to private schools will divert up to $75 million to private schools each year and it is not entirely clear how those funds are being handled.

 

National PTA’s New Position Statement on Safe and Supportive Schools

As schools across the country are increasingly impacted by violence and natural disasters, National PTA’s board of directors adopted a new position statement on safe and supportive schools during its August board meeting. The statement calls for a multi-faceted approach to address school safety that involves all stakeholders, especially students, parents and families.

“School safety is a critical priority for all parents, families, educators, students and community members that cannot be taken for granted. Every child has a right to learn and grow in a safe and supportive environment,” said Jim Accomando, president of National PTA. “National PTA recognizes that school safety is a multi-faceted issue with no one clear solution for each community. We believe any effort to address school safety must involve all stakeholders who should consider a variety of factors, including the physical and psychological safety of students.”

As outlined in the position statement, National PTA promotes the establishment of and support for school safety policies and procedures that emphasize family engagement, adequate funding for student supports and services, and conditions that create and foster positive and welcoming school environments. The association also promotes the implementation of evidence-based policies and best practices articulated in A Framework for Safe and Successful Schools, which was written and has been endorsed by the nation’s leading education stakeholders and practitioners.

The position statement further states that National PTA believes the most effective day-to-day school climate is a gun-free campus—which includes not arming teachers and administrators—but defers to local, collaborative decision-making regarding the presence of law enforcement for school building security. If the decision is made to have a Student Resource Officer (SRO) or other security agency within a school building, the association believes there must be a clearly defined memorandum of understanding between the law enforcement agency and the school that articulates the role of the SRO.

“National PTA believes teachers and administrators are there to educate our children and should not be acting as armed security in classrooms,” said Nathan R. Monell, CAE, executive director of National PTA. “Families, students, educators, administrators, counselors, law enforcement, community leaders and elected officials must work together to ensure students feel safe and schools and communities have the resources and capacity to provide a positive and healthier environment for all students.”

Advance Illinois Launches Equity Dashboard

The new Evidence-Based Funding (EBF) model for school fundingin Illinois has had the first $350 million payment delivered earlier this month. This new funding begins the process of improving Illinois’s worst-in-the-nation funding equityby targeting the largest increases in state funding to the districts furthest from an adequate level of funding based on the EBF formula. Illinois still has a long way to go until every school district is adequately funded, but this payment represents an important first step on that journey.

To help families and communities understand what the new EBF model means in terms of money for their local school district, Advance Illinois has created an Equity Dashboard. The interactive dashboard allows you to see an overview of state funding levels, a comparison of school districts across the state, compare student demographics, and lookup your local school district to see its current level of funding and how the new funding will affect the district.

Photo © 2003 by Jacob Edwardunder Creative Commons license.