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ISBE Hot Topics - Spring 2014


dollarStandards & Assessments Updates

Illinois schools are implementing a number of changes related to learning standards and state assessments to ensure all students are prepared to succeed in college and careers. These current and pending initiatives include:


Fact Sheets About College and Career Readiness

In today’s economy, students need to pursue postsecondary education if they wish to lead meaningful and rewarding careers. Research shows that as a person continues on with education, her average annual income increases and the likelihood of unemployment decreases.

As it stands now, however, too many students fail to enroll in postsecondary education and graduate with a degree in a timely manner.  For every 100 Illinois students that enter the ninth grade, only 42 will immediately begin college and 20 will finish their degree within 150 percent of the program time (i.e., six years for a Bachelor’s degree and three years for an Associate’s degree).  Once enrolled in a postsecondary program, many students require remediation to meet the demands of college coursework.

College and Career readiness impacts the state’s economy as well: thousands of positions go unfilled as employers struggle to find qualified applicants.  ISBE is addressing the need for better college and career preparation through a number of initiatives.  Improved college and career readiness within Illinois’ elementary and high schools will pave the way for student success in higher education, lead to increased economic opportunity for students, and support the state’s economy as a more educated and skilled workforce becomes available.

Click here to visit the ISBE College and Career Readiness page.

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Fact Sheets Common Core Learning Standards Implementation

Race to the Top

Illinois joined more than 40 states in a collaborative effort to raise learning standards and improve college and career readiness for all students, regardless of where they live. The new Common Core State Standards establish clear expectations for what students should learn in English language arts and mathematics at each grade level. The standards are high, clear, and uniform to ensure that students are prepared for success in college and the workforce.

By emphasizing depth over breadth, the Common Core ensures that students have comprehensive understanding of key concepts.  Illinois adopted the Common Core in 2010 and teachers and administrators across the state are fully implementing the new standards during the 2013-14 school year.  Many schools have already begun to incorporate elements of the new learning standards into their curricula. The Common Core determines what educators should teach, not how they should teach.  Teachers will continue to have the freedom to tailor lesson plans to the individual needs of their students.  The Common Core’s higher standards and emphasis on applying knowledge to real-world situations will better prepare Illinois students for the challenges facing them after high school graduation.

Click here to visit the ISBE New Illinois Assessments based on the Common Core page.

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Fact Sheets Raised Cut-Scores

cut scores

In order to align state assessments with the more challenging standards of the Common Core, ISBE raised the performance level cut scores of the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) in January 2013. The State Board, working with an expert advisory committee, looked at the necessary college and career readiness scores of 11th-graders and then set scores for each elementary grade level accordingly. In short, it worked back from the high school readiness scores and set grade-level appropriate scores to ensure that elementary students will be on track for college and career readiness. This means that students will be measured against college and career readiness benchmarks earlier – starting in third grade – to ensure they’re prepared to succeed in high school and beyond rather than waiting for the 11th grade Prairie State Achievement Exam (PSAE) to yield this information. As expected, the higher performance levels mean that fewer students met or exceeded standards on the ISAT this year. 

The decline in test scores is not a reflection on student capability or teacher performance, but rather a result of implementing more rigorous learning standards under the Common Core and raising the performance level cut scores. During the 2014-15 school year, ISBE will replace the ISAT with a new assessment that is fully aligned with the Common Core.

Raised Cut Scores Fact Sheets

Raised Cut Scores FAQs

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Fact Sheets New Report Card

ISBE released a new interactive School Report Card on October 31, 2013.  The redesigned Report Card more accurately reflects a school’s academic performance, climate, and learning conditions through information that is accessible to parents, educators and policymakers.  It now includes information about a school’s extracurricular activities, report cardspecial programs, advanced coursework, honors and awards.

report card video

Watch the Video! (13:31)
(May 2014)

By measuring student growth over time instead of only reporting a snapshot-in-time score from an annual standardized test, the latest report card provides data that reflect how much schools are helping students improve academically. The redesigned report card makes information about school performance and improvement more accessible, offering educators, students and their families and local community members the opportunity to help improve outcomes.


Click here to visit the new Illinois Report Card Website
Click here to view a short video about the new Illinois School Report Card video format (1:39)
Click here to view an informative video about the new Illinois School Report Card video format (13:31)

New Illinois Report Card Fact Sheets

New Illinois Report Card FAQs

New Illinois Report Card Communication Documents

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Fact Sheets 5Essentials Survey (7/11/14) 

5 Essentials Survey

The Illinois 5Essentials Survey is a diagnostic tool that equips schools with fine-grained data on five leading indicators of school environment:

  • Effective Leaders
  • Collaborative Teachers
  • Involved Families
  • Supportive Environment
  • Ambitious Instruction

The survey was administered to teachers and 6th through 12th grade students in Spring 2014 in schools that did not offer the survey last year and in Race to the Top School Districts.

Research has shown that schools strong in three to five of the Essentials were 10 times more likely to improve student learning than schools weak in three to five of the Essentials. Those differences remained true even after controlling for student and school characteristics, including poverty, race, gender and neighborhood characteristics.  Strength on components within the Essentials also correlated with increased teacher retention, student attendance, college enrollment and high school graduation.

In 2012-13, the inaugural year of implementing the 5Essentials Survey across the state of Illinois, 87 percent of all public schools in the state met the required 50 percent participation threshold to receive survey results. More than 70 percent of all teachers and eligible students across Illinois took part in the survey.

The work in 2013 helped Illinois establish a statewide benchmark, or baseline, for the 5Essentials Survey that will allow Illinois schools to track their year-to-year progress. The 2013 administration also provided a valuable opportunity to incorporate educator feedback into the 5Essentials survey going forward.

The State Board reviewed the Illinois 5Essentials Survey process and has implemented some improvements, including increased security measures. The agency worked with educators across the state to review all survey questions and ensure they were applicable to all parts of our large and diverse state.

Each school will receive a 5Essentials Report, offering an analysis of results for each of the five indicators or “Essentials,” and guidance for improvement. Results will be shared publicly upon the release of the State School Report Cards in late October 2014. The 5Essential Reports are part of ISBE’s commitment to work transparently and collaboratively towards preparing every student in the state with the knowledge, skills, and abilities to succeed in college and careers in the 21st century. The 2014 survey window is closed.

2014 Illinois 5Essentials Rostered Survey Report PDF Format

Click here for more information.

5Essentials Fact Sheet (3/14) 

5Essentials Survey FAQs (3/14) 

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Fact Sheets New Growth Model Using Value Tables (updated 8/12/14)

Growth Model Value Table

To complement its initiatives promoting college and career readiness, ISBE is also implementing the Value Table, a new metric to gauge student and school performance over time.  The Value Table is a growth model that tracks student progress over a period of two years to allow schools to see the change in student achievement, rather than a snapshot-in-time of student achievement.

The Value Table has four performance categories and considers student growth to be movement from a lower proficiency level to a higher proficiency level.  Improving and faster-paced progress earns higher scores, while worsening or slower-paced progress earns lower scores.  Students who consistently meet or exceed standards earn additional points for maintaining excellence.  The Value Table contextualizes the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) performance targets set by the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) and provides educators with an effective measure of student progress.

Click here to visit the Balanced Assessment page.

New Growth Model Using Value Tables Fact Sheets

New Growth Model Using Value Tables FAQs

New Growth Model Webinars and Presentations

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Fact Sheets New Online Assessments (PARCC) (updated 5/9/14) 

online assessment

Illinois is among more than a dozen other states working together to create new assessments specifically aligned with the Common Core learning standards as part of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC). These new online assessments in English language arts and mathematics place a greater emphasis on constructed response questions and more closely resemble the work that students typically do in the classroom.

Schools will administer the PARCC assessment multiple times throughout the year so that teachers can identify problem areas for students and make more informed decisions about instruction.  The new assessments will replace the ISAT and make their debut in time for the 2014-15 school year.   

PARCC Assessment Fact Sheets

PARCC Field Testing Fact Sheets

PARCC Assessment FAQs

Other Documents

Announcement: Illinois PARCC Testing Windows for 2014-2015 PDF format

Click here to access PARCC Assessment Webinars and Presentations

Click here to access PARCC Assessment Video Series

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