Illinois State Board of Education


For Immediate Release
September 18, 2002
For Information:

Research Report Shows Teaching Standards Yields Higher Achievement

Students score higher on state tests in schools that are farthest along in implementing the Illinois Learning Standards.

That may appear to be conventional wisdom, but the State Board of Education today received a research study that, for the first time, documents the connection between Standards implementation and student achievement.

“This may be the first study in the country to document the correlation between standards implementation and test results,” said State Superintendent of Education Robert E. Schiller. “This is powerful information for schools that are trying to improve student achievement.

“It has often been said that the Illinois Learning Standards provide the roadmap to improve student achievement, and now we have data to demonstrate that relationship.”

University of Illinois researchers Lizanne DeStefano and Nona Prestine presented their research study, “Evaluation of the Implementation of Illinois Learning Standards, Year Four Report,” to the State Board today in Springfield. The State Board has commissioned the studies for the last four years to gauge the progress of schools in implementing the Illinois Learning Standards that were adopted in 1997.

The researchers found that students in schools with higher overall ILS implementation levels scored higher in grade 3 reading and grades 5 and 8 mathematics. Schools with higher district and school infrastructure supportive of the ILS were found to have greater numbers of students meeting or exceeding Standards in grade 3 reading and grade 5 writing. While greater professional development was found to be associated with lower performance in grade 5 writing, the researchers theorize that schools with lower-scoring students used professional development to try to raise scores.

The evaluation also showed that there is greater belief among local educators that the Standards are “here to stay,” and greater buy-in for the concept of standards-led teaching and learning. Local educators particularly emphasized their belief that the ILS provide a means for assuring a more equitable education for all students “by asserting that schools are accountable for certain levels of content mastery for all their students.”

ILS Implementation Remained Stable in Year Four

Despite increased acceptance of the Standards, implementation in Illinois schools remained stable in year four for the first time since 1999. Using the researchers’ five-stage model, 43% of surveyed teachers judged their schools to be at stage three implementation, defined as “Transition to an ILS-Led System.” About 56% of schools were judged to be at Level 2, “Awareness and Exploration of an ILS-Led System,” but it was noted that several dimensions of implementation for these schools were more characteristic of Level 3 practice. “Schools in the state are exhibiting strong evidence of transition to a standards-led system (Level 3) in most, if not all dimensions of implementation,” the report emphasized.

Most highly implemented dimensions include Professional Development, curriculum development and district/school infrastructure

The most common implementation activities are teacher professional development regarding ILS, curricular alignment with the ILS, and integration of the ILS into district or school policies and procedures. Teacher access to professional development on the ILS continued to increase in year four, the report noted. More than 70% of teachers said that curricular changes were occurring in their schools to implement the Illinois Learning Standards.

Community and Stakeholder Involvement Remains Low, But Increased From 1999

Survey respondents noted that parents, school boards, and the community had limited awareness and understanding of the ILS and limited access to information and education opportunities about them. This low level of implementation with the larger community was noted at all levels; elementary, middle, high and special – even though some progress has been documented since the first study in 1999. Where parents and the community were meaningfully involved in Standards implementation, researchers found that “school staff often used grade-level objectives or some other translation of ILS to make the standards more understandable.”

Four Effects of Standards Implementation

The most frequently mentioned effect of ILS-implementation efforts was that the Standards have brought a new focus and clarity to school improvement efforts. The report noted that “this focus is critical as it promotes serious systemic alignment, and helps to bring all elements of schooling into a cohesive, comprehensible, connected whole.” The researchers also noted that the Illinois Learning Standards have “allowed the focus of improvement efforts to move to instructional issues, rather than the plethora of detractors that can undermine change.”

ILS implementation has also brought more meaningful involvement and engagement of teachers’ and administrators’ work toward the goal of student learning. As teams of educators worked to align curriculum with the ILS, they developed a greater understanding of the “big picture” of student learning and a stronger commitment to shared goals, the reported stated.

Respondents also noted that ILS implementation is associated with a growing acceptance and understanding of standards-based reform. Resistance to the ILS was found to be low among educators with a general acceptance and appreciation of the ILS. Educators also reported that the Illinois Learning Standards provide a means of assuring a more equitable education for all students.

Consistent with findings and recommendations in the report, the Board was asked to consider the following:

  • direct staff to conduct a gap analysis of the recommendations in the report in relation to current ISBE activities and to develop a work plan for continuing standards implementation in Illinois;
  • ask the Assessment and Accountability Task Force to consider the report recommendations regarding assessment;
  • authorize a project to develop high school coursework “frameworks” and pursue additional policy discussions around core curriculum; and
  • authorize a second-phase evaluation/study to answer additional questions about state policies and support that can help districts improve student achievement in relation to the Learning Standards.