Achievement
Gaps Persist

4th Grade Reading & 8th Grade Math

LOW-INCOME STUDENTS LAG
BEHIND MORE AFFLUENT PEERS

Over the last decade, the number of Illinois 4th-graders reading at grade level has grown slowly from 31% to 35%. For 8th-grade math, the share of students at grade level has grown from 29% to 32% with a jump to 36% in 2013.13 While it’s unclear what caused 8th-grade math to drop, the trend is fairly flat.

To achieve the state’s goal by 2025, 4th-grade reading performance must reach 45%, and 8th-grade math performance must reach 44%. That means in addition to the nearly 53,000 4th-graders already reading proficient, we need an additional 15,000 4th-graders—meaning 1,500 new 4th-graders every single year—reading proficient by 2025. For 8th-grade math, on top of the 49,000 already proficient, we need an additional 18,000 8th-graders—meaning 1,800 new 8th-graders every year—reading proficient in math by 2025.

Despite improvements by low-income students, Illinois continues to face some of the largest income-based achievement gaps in the nation. Only 20% of low-income Illinois 4th-graders are proficient, 35 percentage points lower than their more-affluent peers. In 8th-grade math, just 18% of low-income students are proficient, 29 percentage points lower than their more-affluent peers.14 If we are going to improve the performance to meet our 2025 goal, we have to focus on low-income students to close these gaps.

Source: National Assessment of Educational Progress

Moderate but steady growth in 4th grade reading, but wide gaps based on income
Income-based gaps also persist in 8th grade math performance
4th Grade Reading & 8th Grade Math

Illinois’ Progress
Trails Most States

An analysis by the Urban Institute showed that while Illinois has made some progress in helping students achieve proficiency in reading and math, other states are outpacing our gains.15 Their analysis showed that Illinois ranks 30th nationally in change on the National Assessment of Educational Progress since 2003.

When looking at 4th and 8th grade scores for math and reading, the study found that in 2015 Illinois students were 6.7 months ahead of where they were in 2003, while students in the best state were 13.6 months ahead.16 In other words, a 4th grade student in 2015 knows the same as a 4th grader in 2003 who had been in school for nearly seven months.

Illinois Students Improved
6.7 Months Since 2003

Source: Urban Institute

CHICAGO 4TH GRADE READING AND 8TH GRADE MATH

ALL STUDENTS CAN LEARN,
CHICAGO STUDENTS SUCCEEDING

Chicago has been driving Illinois’ growth on NAEP, significantly outpacing the gains seen in the rest of the state1 for both low-income students and their wealthier peers.

Chicago has consistently been closing the gap between its students and those in the rest of the state. From 2005 to 2015, Chicago 4th graders went from 14% proficient to 27% proficient in reading, whereas peers in the rest of the state moved from 34% to 38%. Chicago’s 8th graders went from 11% proficient in math to 25% proficient, while the rest of the state inched from 33% to 34%.

Chicago’s growth in 4th grade reading and 8th grade math has outpaced the rest of the state’s for both low-income students and their wealthier peers. Chicago’s low-income students are now nearing proficiency rates of peers in the rest of the state, while wealthier students in Chicago have surpassed their peers elsewhere.

At the same time, gains have not been equal across the board. While Chicago’s low-income students have seen gains of at least 10 percentage points in both 4th grade reading and 8th grade math, a significant accomplishment, Chicago’s wealthier students have tripled that growth during the same time frame.2 Just like for the rest of the state, Chicago must continue to work to close the gaps between the wealthier and low-income students.

1. “Rest of the state” refers to Illinois school districts except Chicago Public Schools.

2. Chicago’s non-low-income make up a smaller share of the student population than do non-low-income students in the rest of the state. Further, the median income for Chicago’s non-low-income students has risen over the last ten years, and now surpasses the median income for non-low-income students in the rest of the state, according to census data.

Chicago Surpasses State in 4th grade reading growth

Source: NAEP 2005-2015

Chicago Surpasses State in 8th grade math growth

Source: NAEP 2005-2015

*Only includes English-fluent participants

*Only includes English-fluent participants

CHICAGO 4TH GRADE READING AND 8TH GRADE MATH

RACE STILL MATTERS IN ILLINOIS EDUCATION

In Illinois, students of color still face barriers to quality education. Students of color are less likely than white students to have access to high-quality teachers,1 to be selected for gifted programs and advanced coursework,2 and to have teachers and administrators that look like them.3 They are also more likely than white students to be suspended or expelled for similar offenses.4 These and many other factors have resulted in major opportunity gaps across the state that showcase the dire need for reinvestment in children of color.

Large opportunity gaps persist in 4th grade reading,
despite strong growth among students of color

Source: NAEP 2005-2015

*Only includes English-fluent participants

Illinois' students of color outpace whites with
steady growth in 8th grade math

Source: NAEP 2005-2015

*Only includes English-fluent participants

In the last 10 years, students of color have made significant progress on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), but opportunity gaps persist. Statewide, Black students have outpaced White students in growth on both 4th grade reading and 8th grade math, but still lag in proficiency by as much as 30 percentage points. English-fluent Latino students have also grown steadily, cutting opportunity gaps with White students by over one third in both 4th grade reading and 8th grade math.

While significant gaps remain for English-fluent students of color, language can add an additional barrier to proficiency. Latino English Learners (EL) have remained relatively stagnant in proficiency, demonstrating the need for continued investment in bilingual education.

In 4th grade reading, black students grow faster in Chicago while Latino students do better elsewhere

Source: NAEP 2005-2015

*Only includes English-fluent participants

In 8th grade math, students of color improve faster in Chicago than the rest of the state

Source: NAEP 2005-2015

*Only includes English-fluent participants

Chicago has seen steady improvement on NAEP among students of color. In the last 10 years, Chicago’s Black students have grown by 11 and 8 percentage points in 4th grade reading and 8th grade math, respectively. In the rest of the state, Black students only improved by 2 percentage points in 4th grade reading and 4 in 8th grade math.

While Chicago’s English-fluent Latino students have seen incredible growth in 8th grade math (19 percentage points compared to 7 elsewhere), they have seen minimal growth in 4th grade reading (3 percentage points compared to 18 elsewhere).

Illinois needs to level the playing field to ensure that more students of color are set up to succeed. As a state, we must commit to providing students of color with the resources and supports they need, and guarantee that students of color no longer slip through the cracks of our education system.

1. https://cdn.americanprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/TeacherDistro.pdf

2. http://onechanceillinois.org/oci-wp/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/OCI_Report_UP_Mar2016.pdf

3. Illinois State Report Card, 2016.
(additional resource: https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/2426481/the-state-of-teacher-diversity.pdf)

4. http://ocrdata.ed.gov/Downloads/CRDC-School-Discipline-Snapshot.pdf

Community Spotlight
Aurora

The John C. Dunham STEM Partnership School building itself is a STEM teaching tool. Building mechanicals are on display to show how HVAC systems work, and a wind turbine and rooftop garden help students understand energy and the environment. That’s because the school is focused on real-world learning. And its hands-on, collaborative approach shows how all students of all backgrounds can succeed. The 3rd through 8th grade school, founded in 2014, grew out of a collaboration among Aurora University, faculty, nonprofit partners, four school districts and corporations.

The school’s project-based learning environment offers students classes in a hands-on, laboratory setting equipped with the latest STEM technology. It also has another benefit in that it equips teachers from partner districts with innovative teaching practices. Teachers rotate through the Partnership School every few years and take graduate coursework in STEM content and curriculum during their residency at the school. They then return to their home districts to serve as teacher leaders. Every month, representatives from Caterpillar, Cabot Microelectronics, Exelon, Nicor Gas, Fermilab and Brookfield Zoo meet with teachers and administrators to co-develop curriculum and lesson plans and arrange field trips to work sites.

The Partnership School’s students are selected randomly from four participating districts through a lottery. They must express an interest in math and science to qualify for the school. On the 2016 state PARCC exam, 71% of the school’s students met or exceeded expectations in English Language Arts and 78% did so in math, compared to the statewide averages of 36% and 32%1, even though the school has about the state average in percent of low-income students. According to an external evaluator, Partnership School students have significantly increased their achievement in STEM areas and 90% of parents believe that their student is progressing academically.

Elizabeth Kaleta, a middle school STEM teacher at the Partnership School, has experienced the benefit of the business community’s presence firsthand. During her three years at the STEM School, Kaleta and her students have embarked on an impressive array of field trips, including visits to the Byron nuclear power plant, a Caterpillar factory and Morton Arboretum, where the students collected real data using the Arboretum’s equipment and then analyzed it in class. Last year, Dr. Alma Rodriguez Estrada, the assistant professor of biology at Aurora University, helped Kaleta prepare for a lab during which her students made bacteria glow by genetically modifying it with a gene from a jellyfish. With a smile on her face, Kaleta acknowledges, “there’s no way I would have tried that lab before.”

Dr. Sherry Eagle, the executive director of Aurora University’s Institute of Collaboration, predicts that the school’s impact will only increase as years go by. As Kaleta puts it, “when this third grade class gets to eighth grade, it will be amazing.” Eagle sees the potential for many communities to learn from the process that created the school, emphasizing the importance of collaboration and ownership, advising that communities need to own the program as their own and find a trustworthy and passionate leader who is committed to “building the relationships from a platform of shared decision making.” She adds, “I found that the partnership together will always find themselves making the right decision for the outcome to be reached. It is fascinating to watch what sincerity of purpose can result in achieving for the community as a whole.”

1 Illinois State Board of Education, Illinois Report Card 2016.

Opportunity
the every student succeeds act

Through rigorous new learning standards, an updated teacher evaluation system and tightened requirements for principal preparation, Illinois has many of the building blocks for an effective public education system and now there is an opportunity to add one more. In 2015, Congress passed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to develop an accountability system, providing data on students’ performance and giving schools, educators and parents the tools and information they need to help improve instruction and raise achievement for all students. Visit Advance Illinois’ ESSA web page for more on our approach to the new accountability system.

Rankings

2014 2015
K-12 30 30

Are Illinois 4th graders meeting standards?

Historical Performance Equity
2016 2014 2009 2005 Leading State Leading State's
Performance
IL Rank Rank Change White Black Latino ELL Low
Income
20 NAEP 4th Grade Reading 35% 34% 32% 29% MA 50% 30th 2 46% 15% 23% 4% 20%
21 NAEP 4th grade Math 37% 39% 38% 32% MA 54% 37th 1 49% 12% 24% 8% 21%

20. 4th graders at or above proficient in reading on NAEP: For Metrics 20-24, low income is defined as eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, and students with 504 Plans are excluded from the special education designation. Source: National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) NAEP: 2015, 2013, 2009, 2005.

21. 4th graders at or above proficient in reading on NAEP: Source: NCES NAEP: 2015, 2013, 2009, 2005.

Are Illinois 8th graders meeting standards?

Historical Performance Equity
2016 2014 2009 2005 Leading State Leading State's
Performance
IL Rank Rank Change White Black Latino ELL Low
Income
22 NAEP 8th Grade Reading 35% 36% 33% 31% MA 46% 25th -2 45% 13% 22% 3% 22%
23 NAEP 8th grade Math 32% 36% 33% 29% MA 51% 29th -6 40% 12% 22% 7% 18%
24 8th graders enrolled in college-track math 43% 46% 39% 37% MN 67% 11 out of 48 4 46% 31% 37% 36% 33%
2016 2014
25 8th graders passing algebra 28% 28%

22. 8th graders at or above proficient in math on NAEP: Source: NCES NAEP: 2015, 2013, 2009, 2005.

23. 8th graders at or above proficient in reading on NAEP: Source: NCES NAEP: 2015, 2013, 2009, 2005.

24. 8th graders enrolled in college track math: Students who take and master algebra in the 8th grade do better in high school and beyond. Data is derived from a self-reported survey given to students taking the NAEP 8th-grade math exam. To qualify as being enrolled in college track math, students needed to have taken Geometry, Algebra II, a single-year Algebra I class, or the second year of a two-year Algebra I class. Source: NCES NAEP: 2015, 2013, 2009, 2005.

25. 8th graders passing algebra. Source: ISBE, State Report Card: 2014, 2016

Resources

For more information, including a snapshot of every school in Illinois, visit the Illinois School Report Card.

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