For Immediate Release
November 17, 2003
Five eastern Illinois public schools step into spotlight
for making the grade
Charleston, Ill. The Illinois State Board of Education
(ISBE) today gave Spotlight School recognition
to five central and eastern Illinois public schools that
have achieved high academic performance in an environment
in which a majority of students come from low-income families.
State Superintendent of Education Robert E. Schiller
presented plaques to each of the Spotlight Schools
during a special reception at Eastern Illinois University
in Charleston. The five schools recognized are:
- East Richland Elementary, Olney
- Michael Baum Elementary, Decatur
- St. Marie Elementary, St. Marie, Jasper County
- Petty Elementary, Sumner, Lawrence County
- Willow Hill Elementary, Willow Hill, Jasper County
We are extremely pleased to be able to honor these
schools, said Robert E. Schiller, State Superintendent
of Education. Each of them shows that students at
any grade level and in a challenging economic environment
can be motivated to learn and, more importantly, to achieve.
The five schools are among Illinois schools where a majority
of students come from low-income families, and in which
60 percent or more of students passed rigorous state tests
in 2003. The schools are part of a total of 27 Spotlight
Schools identified statewide. In addition to meeting
specific student demographic criteria, the Spotlight
Schools have met the Adequate Yearly Progress
standards imposed by the federal No Child Left Behind
initiative and the states accountability system.
The accomplishments of these schools demonstrate
that high-poverty schools can bridge the well-documented
achievement gap between high-income and low-income
students, and between students of color and their white
and other peers, Schiller said.
The Spotlight Schools awards are a joint effort between
ISBE and Northern Illinois University, which has researched
high-poverty, high-performance schools.
There are not many Spotlight Schools, NIU
President John Peters said, but their significance
is monumental. Our research at NIU has identified 10 commonalities
among high-poverty, high-performing schools. Given the
importance of their accomplishments, these schools deserve
close attention from scholars and dedicated support from
all of us interested in raising student achievement.
Marilyn McConachie, director of the Spotlight Schools
Project for NIU Outreach, said recognition of the Spotlight
Schools should inspire other educators to believe that
they can truly make a difference in helping all children
reach high expectations.
The conventional wisdom is that low-income students
provide an excuse for low performance, McConachie
said. What we have here are schools that disprove
conventional wisdom. For them, demographics are not destiny.
Their students are extraordinarily more successful than
students at comparable schools. What theyre doing
is special, and they deserve to be praised.
The extraordinary accomplishments of the Spotlight Schools
are thrown into relief by NIU statistics that, unfortunately,
paint a bleak picture.
Nearly 38 per cent of the 2.1 million children in Illinois
come from low-income families. Percentages of achievement
drawn from low-income schools can dwell in the bottom
quarter. At one high-poverty high school, only 17 per
cent of students met reading standards while the percentages
of student meeting math, writing and science standards
were 7 percent, 4 percent and 3 percent respectively.
Meanwhile, numbers at schools with more affluent students
often are quite opposite.
While just 40 percent of Illinois third-graders from
low-income families meet state standards, 75 percent of
their peers do. Merely 20 per cent of low-income high
school juniors meet math standards, a number that more
than triples to 65 per cent in schools with more affluent
The 27 Spotlight Schools have beaten the odds, however,
proving the gap can be closed. Four criteria were used
to determine the Spotlight School designation:
- At least 50 percent low-income students in 2002 and
- At least 50 percent of students meet or exceed state
standards in reading and math in 2002.
- At least 60 percent of students meet or exceed state
standards in reading and math in 2003.
- Adequate yearly progress, as prescribed
by No Child Left Behind, was made in 2003. This includes
a 95 percent participation rate in state assessments
for all students and for each subgroup, at least 40
percent of students meeting and exceeding standards
in both reading and mathematics, and an attendance rate
of at least 88 percent for elementary and middle schools
and 65 percent for high schools.
The common characteristics of high-poverty, high-performing
schools, according to NIUs Center for Governmental
- Strong leaders who advocate high expectations for
- Emphasis on early literacy and intervention for struggling
- Exceptional teachers.
- More academic learning time.
- Extensive parental involvement.
- Regular use of data to drive instructional decisions.
- An internal capacity for accountability.
- High quality, school-based professional development.
- Ready access to early childhood education programs.
- Attention to health and safety needs of students.