At its June 20 meeting, the District 65 School Board decided its achievement goal for next year, and possibly future years, will be that the District will provide high quality instructional experiences for all students that will close the achievement gap, bring students to grade level proficiency, and prepare them for high school and college and career readiness. The Board is scheduled to adopt measures to assess student achievement at a meeting in August. The Board may also set targets for success.
We think the most important thing this Board will do in the next two years – and we say this recognizing the financial challenges ahead – is to adopt good measures to assess student achievement and to monitor and report achievement using those measures. Lofty goals are meaningless if they are not accompanied by good measures. Moreover, parents and the community at large are entitled to a nuanced, transparent picture of student achievement. The community is paying directly or indirectly more than $100 million a year to operate the schools in District 65.
We think the following measures should be used as a minimum:
Grade Level Performance
The District should report the percent of students, by ethnicity and grade, who are performing at or above “grade level” using two different measures: a) the percent scoring at/above the average scale score (or alternatively the median scale score – the 50th percentile) on the Illinois Standard Achievement Test (ISAT); and b) the percent scoring at/above the 50th percentile on the end-of-year (the spring) Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test.
The 50th percentile is often associated with grade-level proficiency. Reporting the ISAT data will give the percent of District 65 students performing at grade level measured against other Illinois students who took the same test. The MAP data will give the percent of District 65 students performing at grade level measured against a national norm.
On Track to College and Career Readiness
The District should report the percent of eighth-graders, by ethnicity, who are on track to college and career readiness using the college readiness benchmarks identified for the EXPLORE test.
In addition, the District should report by ethnicity the percent of third- through eighth-graders who are on track to ACT college readiness using the scale scores identified by Paul Zavitkovsky of the Urban Education Leadership Program at the University of Illinois-Chicago. On May 23, the RoundTable published an article in its online paper that lists and cites support for using these benchmarks. See “Setting Targets for Grades 3-12 Linked to the ACT’s College Readiness Benchmarks,” evanstonroundtable.com.
There is a growing recognition throughout the nation that in order for students to be college and career ready when they graduate from high school, they need to be on track when they are in the elementary and middle school grades. This is a premise of the new Common Core State Standards adopted by most states. If the Board is serious about preparing students to be on track to college and career readiness when they graduate from eighth grade, it is essential that the District begin measuring whether student groups are on track to college and career readiness starting at the elementary grades.
Overall Student Achievement
The District should also report, by ethnicity and grade, the average ISAT scale scores and the average RIT scores on the end-of-year MAP tests. These scores capture in a single number how a student group did on an overall basis and provide valuable information on whether a group as a whole is progressing, staying the same or declining. To provide context for these scores, the District should also provide the percentile rank of the scores.
Students With a Disability; Household Income
The District should also use these measures to report achievement for students with a disability and those without a disability. This is essential to evaluate the success of the Inclusion Program. In addition, it would be helpful to break out the data for low-income and non-low-income African American and Hispanic students. This disaggregated data will provide further insights into the success of the District’s programs.
District 65 students are already taking the ISAT, MAP and EXPLORE tests, so reporting test data using these measures will not increase the number of tests students take. Moreover, reporting out this data should be inexpensive to do.
We appreciate that the Board decided last October that the District would consistently measure and monitor student performance using several of the measures listed above, that Board members have expressed a desire to use several additional measures, and that the District has begun to report student achievement using some of the measures. We encourage the Board to adopt all of the measures and to nail down the precise measures to be used on a going forward basis in a statement of its goals.