Making the most of 2017 Illinois Report Card data
By Melissa Figueira
Several years ago, Advance Illinois helped spearhead an effort to revamp the way the Illinois Report Card displayed data about the state’s 2 million public school students. In 2013, the report cards got a much-needed makeover. Now, they are among the highest quality reports of their kind in the entire United States. The Illinois State Board of Education released the 2017 Report Card on Oct. 31.
From Baffling to Best-in-Class
The old Report Card was overladen with complex metrics and was neither understandable nor useful to the general public. The process of creating the new Report Card brought together a wide array of stakeholders, with the goal of making the Report Card readily understood and used by parents and communities, schools, districts, and researchers alike.
According to a comparative 2014 report compiled by the Education Commission of the States, Illinois hit the ball out of the park as the Report Card was ranked in the top three in all categories, indicating that it has “overall the best, easy-to-find, informative and readable report cards.”
Exploring the Illinois Report Card Online
Finding your child’s school or school district is a breeze thanks to the search function on the Illinois Report Card home page, which lets you search by school, district name, or zip code. But what’s even more striking than the easy navigability of the site is the wealth of information about every level of educational organization that the report card puts, quite literally, at your fingertips.
At the state, district, or school level, the site’s interactive functions provide a clear picture of the demographics of both the student population and the educators who serve them, as well as information about school quality and environment and student academic progress. Another important feature is the ability to compare the performance of any school or district to the performance of Illinois as a whole. A “State Snapshot” gives a birds-eye view of student outcomes and characteristics across the state, and options to view five-year or 10-year trends to provide an idea of where schools and districts have made progress over time.
For each school or district, a button at the upper right corner of the screen downloads the highlights in the form of an “At-a-Glance” PDF that includes stats and a brief explanation of each measure and how it is displayed. Finally, for those who prefer a more intimate interaction with the data, there’s an option to download data in Microsoft Excel format.
Data for Continuous Improvement
Now, with the passage of a new, equitable education funding formula and the implementation of Illinois’ state plan under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the Report Card will soon display additional information on district spending, and school spending, and student growth and performance broken down by demographic subgroups. This kind of data, which highlights schools’ strengths while identifying areas with potential for improvement, is critical for the work of continuous improvement if we want a public education system that enables all Illinois students to achieve their full potential.