Letter to ISBE on long-term goals for student learning

Posted on May 17, 2018

May 16, 2018

Chairman James Meeks
Dr. Tony Smith, Superintendent
Illinois State Board of Education
100 North First Street
Springfield, IL 62777

Dear Chairman Meeks and Superintendent Smith:

We are driven by the twin beliefs that all kids can learn and that we should have high expectations for our education system. With school funding reform and a new ESSA plan, Illinois is at a launching point to dramatically move the state education system towards equity and excellence for all students, all schools, and all communities.  We applaud you for developing a robust accountability system. But that progress will be hindered if Illinois districts and schools do not understand the state’s goals or believe they are credible. Like a good personal trainer, goals can help us stretch to do more than we ever thought possible.

We believe in accountability and growth. But we also believe that goals should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Reasonable, and Time bound).  We are concerned that the current goal to achieve 90% proficiency by 2032 will only work to guide interim targets in the near term and then will diverge dramatically.  For example, the current goal structure would require third graders to improve proficiency from 37% to 57% by 2023, in 5 years.  It would also require starting next year the statewide average to be six years of academic growth in five years. This is possible, but not next year.

We urge the State Board to revisit in the next two years the 2032 proficiency goal.  We would focus attention instead on the state’s ultimate goal that 90% of students will achieve college and career readiness.  Interim goals derived from that would target three actionable levers for improvement.

  • Within the next 10 years improve third grade performance by one grade level. This would mean having third graders performing at the level of fourth graders today.
  • Within the next 10 years improve the growth rate from third through eighth grade by one grade level. This would mean achieving six years of growth in a five year span, what the best districts in Illinois are currently doing.
  • Set 90% college and career readiness as the ultimate goal. Achieving 90% college and career readiness by 2032 would include  assessments, grades, and GPA  This goal still requires that most students reach proficiency, perhaps up to 70%, but it also takes into account GPA and requires students to participate in career readiness activities. Reaching 70% proficiency would put Illinois on par with the most well-educated state in the nation, Massachusetts.

As the Technical Advisory Committee has noted, ISBE should be cautious about instituting a proficiency goal of 90% by 2032. We should avoid a goal that we know we will miss before we even start. We ask that in the next two years you revisit this long-term proficiency goal and instead focus on long-term college and career readiness as the goal we seek.

Thank you for your consideration,

Carmen Ayala, Berwyn North School District 98

Laraine Bryson, Peoria, Tri-County Urban League

Dan Cox, Staunton School District

Caroline Crozier, LULAC Council 5238

Jennifer Garrison, Vandalia School District

Mary Havis, Berwyn South School District 100

Josh Kaufmann, Teach Plus Illinois

Brian Minsker, Illinois Parent Teacher Association

Ginger Ostro, Advance Illinois

Brad Skertich, Southwestern School District

James Stelter, Bensenville School District #2

Shari Runner, Chicago Urban League

Rebecca Wattleworth, Teacher, Advance Illinois Board and Educator Advisory Council Member

League of United Latin American Citizens of Illinois

Equity First Executive Alliance for Equity in Education

MINDS: Mid-Illinois Network of District Superintendents

John Gordon, Voices for Illinois Children




Ms. Ruth Cross
Ms. Lula Ford
Mr. Craig Lindvahl
Ms. Susie Morrison
Mr. Eligio Pimentel
Ms. Ceslie Price
Mr. Kevin Settle