Some things in the ISBE accountability model are dictated by federal law, such as the requirement to have increasing proficiency targets. Illinois chose to have the target of 90 percent for all student groups to be at proficiency level by 2032. Even if proficiency in Mathematics, English Language Arts, and Science are not weighted as heavily as graduation rates or growth, it will have ever-increasing performance expectations. This is similar to Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) under the previous federal law, No Child Left Behind (NCLB). So, as conversations continue about shifting the weights of indicators under the accountability metrics, the more heavily proficiency is weighted, the more those increasing performance targets may impact a school’s designation.
For example, in 2019, the proficiency target for all English Learners is 24.90 in English Language Arts. But two short years from now, that proficiency target will rise to 34.92. For high schools, the increase goes from 14.29 percent proficient for English Learners in English Language Arts in 2019 to 31.76 percent proficient in 2022. If a school was designated in 2018 because their English Learners were not meeting proficiency, what is the likelihood of that school to increase performance so much in two years that their proficiency can keep up with the increasing targets? Again, it’s dictated in federal law to have long-term goals. Perhaps when we start to feel the impact of the AYP trajectory of proficiency, the 90 percent proficiency expectation for all student groups will be reconsidered.
Unlike AYP, the goal is not 100 percent, and proficiency is not the only metric that impacts a school’s designation. But those designations are another thing that is dictated by federal law. There will always be a bottom 5 percent of all schools. The sort and rank system of identifying and subsequently supporting schools is another artifact of NCLB. Alas, it does not seem that there is anything Illinois can do to avoid this requirement. However, ISBE has decided to change the names of designations (Lowest Performing to be called Comprehensive, and Underperforming would be called Targeted).
As ISBE’s accountability system continues to evolve, focus on what matters. Proficiency is the goal we seek. Growth is how we get there. Understand that designations, whatever they may be called, are only one small way to understand the true performance and quality of a school. The story of local school districts is more comprehensive than what state report cards capture. Districts and schools need to communicate all the many ways they support student success and the value the District provides its community. For more information, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.