Story Time for School Districts

By Theresa Kelly Gegen

Upon the release of the 2019 Illinois Report Card, the Illinois State Board of Education encouraged public school districts in Illinois to use the data to tell their stories — celebrate improvements, acknowledge progress, and identify challenges. 

Districts throughout the state, from Herrin to Alhambra to Dixon to Rockford to Skokie to Urbana have not only dug into the data to assess their progress and goals, but have also shared stories derived from that information with their communities. 

The Illinois Report Card, an annual report released by the Illinois State Board of Education that demonstrates progress on educational goals at the state, district, and school levels shows at the state level “… how historic increases in students taking and succeeding in rigorous college and career preparation courses — representing four years of continuous growth and reflecting Illinois’ investments in equity and opportunity. Illinois now has its most racially and linguistically diverse student population in recent history, which amplifies its gains.”

The 2019 Illinois Report Card will include new data points, notably site-based expenditures as indicated by the state’s implementation of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Other new data points include student groups, civil rights data collection, alternative climate surveys, and the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and additional science data. 

For each school, the Report Card includes one of four summative designations — Exemplary, Commendable, Under-Performing, and Lowest-Performing — reflecting how well the school is meeting the needs of all students. This designation is based on eight indicators of academic success and school quality, weighted towards graduation rates in high school and growth in English/language arts and math in PK-8. The designations include student subgroups and racial/ethnic groups relative to the indicators.

The district snapshot offers data compiled and aggregated from each of the district’s schools. This snapshot also includes the district’s financial capacity to meet expectations.
Annually, school districts are required to submit the data used to compile the Illinois Report Card. When the reports are released in late October each year, districts can use the new data to tell stories — with students, staff, teachers, and the community, about the progress the district has made towards its goals. 

A wealth of information on understanding the Illinois Report Card and sharing the stories it produces is available through the resources link below.

According to ISBE, “The Illinois Report Card … shows how the state, and each school and district, are progressing on a wide range of educational goals. The Report Card offers a complete picture of student and school performance in order to inform and empower families and communities as they support their local schools.”

Theresa Kelly Gegen is editor of the Illinois School Board Journal. Resources associated with this article can be accessed via