State’s school gauge to weigh grades, graduation rates more heavily

Illinois’ next school-performance measurement is going to put a lot more value on tests and grades.

Currently, test scores and graduation rates account for only 30 percent of a school’s grade in Illinois. The new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) could flip that to as much as 70 percent.

Most local school leaders like the new measurement because it gives districts more flexibility.

McLean County Regional Superintendent of Schools Mark Jontry said most schools across the state are eager to get back more control over their classrooms.

“What can (measurements) look like in the State of Illinois and still be an effective tool to allow school districts to provide the best educational opportunity to our kids? (Not) burdening us with some of the rigor, in terms of assessments and unwavering mandates, that came with No Child Left Behind,” Jontry said.

But there is some concern with putting more emphasis on test scores and graduation rates.

PARCC test results show more than 60 percent of kids in Illinois can’t read or do math at their current grade levels, and 14 percent of students in the state don’t graduate high school.

Jontry said ESSA’s strength is that it allows local schools to decide how best to improve those numbers.

“ESSA does give schools more flexibility in how the deliver instruction…and that’s huge,” Jontry added.

Illinois Deputy Superintendent Jason Hefler said even though there will be a new focus on tests and graduation, the new measurements will take a holistic view of schools across the state.

“It really is looking at an equitable way of thinking that includes the entire range of schools,” Hefler noted.

ESSA’s requirements aren’t set in stone. Hefler and the State Board of Education are criss-crossing the state on a listening tour before deciding just how high the new measurement bar will be.

–Illinois News Network

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