May/June 2019

ICYMI: New data, new uses for policymakers

By Joe Mullikin

Joe Mullikin is principal of Meridian CUSD 223’s Highland Elementary School in Stillman Valley and a participant in the Educational Administration Intern program at the 2018 Joint Annual Conference.

Presenters: Alan Clemens, Director, Illinois Report Card, Northern Illinois University; Patrick Payne, Director of Data Strategies and Analytics, Illinois State Board of Education. Moderator: Kristin Brynteson, Director of Professional Development, Center for P-20 Engagement at Northern Illinois University and Board Member, Genoa-Kingston CUSD 424.The intent of this panel was to share what is different with the update of the Illinois Report Card, which annually offers a snapshot of each public school and district across the state.

Over the past year, with the adoption of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), multiple different data reports have been included in the reporting. The Illinois Report Card’s intent is to communicate a narrative — the story of the district. Many of the changes to this year’s release were done in the interest of adding additional context about the district on its opening page. Previously, the front page was a generic and brief overview of the district. This year, the district’s front page shows key data points such as graduation rate, student mobility, summative designations, evidence-based funding data, chronic absenteeism, and teacher retention.

There were also significant changes to the academic progress portion of the Illinois Report Card. Academic progress had traditionally included the composite data for state assessments. After review, it was concluded that this was a misleading data point and has therefore been removed for the calculation of PARCC (which has since undergone a change in Illinois) and SAT. Additions such as the science assessment data, performance scatterplots, achievement gap data, and a new breakdown for postsecondary enrollment were added.

One of the most profound changes to the Illinois Report Card was in the area of the evidence-based funding. With this shift, a new tab was added within the finances section. This demonstrates the actual percentage towards adequacy and the tier in which the district has been assigned, along with a bar graph that represents the target in relation to funding. Further tabs include the local capacity target as a percentage of adequacy target, real receipts as a percentage of adequacy target, and traditional measures such as operation and instructional spending per pupil. This portion of the presentation led to a long and a bit tense conversation about the summative designations as related to schools.

Part of the ESSA framework from Illinois is assigning of one of four summative designations: exemplary, commendable, under-performing, and lowest performing. Much discussion took place surrounding how this designation was and is determined, along with what is shown on the Report Card. There were some questions as to whether or not students who were included on the Report Card, but were not supposed to be included in the calculation of the summative designation, were actually being recorded correctly.

The Illinois Report Card is a valuable tool for all schools and communities to see where they are at. The continued development and refining of the report card allows for the story of the district to continue to evolve and develop. One of the most interesting additions to the Illinois Report Card was the performance scatterplots. This allows you to choose multiple different demographic data points and graph that in connection with the overall student percentage of student proficiency on SAT or PARCC.

In the future, this will allow districts to seek out best practices from other schools within our state and improve the collective performance of Illinois schools as a whole