2023 Illinois Report Card shows strong progress in some areas
The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) released the 2023 Illinois Report Card Monday showing strong progress in students' recovery from the pandemic – with increased proficiency rates and the highest graduation rate in 13 years.
ISBE says gains for Black students, who were disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, led the significant improvement in many indicators.
The annual Illinois Report Card provides a snapshot of academic achievement; student and teacher information; and financial data at the state, district, and school levels. The data released today also shows record-high teacher retention, continued growth in the number of students participating in advanced coursework and Career and Technical Education, and a promising decrease in chronic absenteeism.
Strong Gains in Proficiency
Data from spring 2023 assessments shows a major increase in the English language arts (ELA) proficiency rate. The ELA proficiency rate increased nearly 16% year-over-year from 29.9% to 34.6%, which translates to more than 39,000 additional students mastering grade-level standards on the Illinois Assessment of Readiness, SAT, or Dynamic Learning Maps Alternate Assessment. Black students notched the biggest gains in ELA with a 33% increase in the proficiency rate.
Data also shows an encouraging but comparatively smaller increase in the math proficiency rate, which increased by 4.3% from 25.8% in 2022 to 26.9% in 2023.
The overall proficiency rates in both ELA and math remain below pre-pandemic levels. However, Illinois has some of the most rigorous standards for proficiency in the nation. Illinois’ benchmark for proficiency is higher than that of 45 other states, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Record-Breaking High School Graduation Rate
The Class of 2023 achieved the highest high school graduation rate in 13 years at 87.6%, driven by gains for Black and Hispanic students, whose four-year graduation rate increased by 4.7% and 4%, respectively. One of the most effective strategies for increasing the high school graduation rate is to identify and intervene with students who are not on track to graduate by the end of ninth grade.
Illinois’ rate of ninth graders on track to graduate, as measured by the percentage of students who have earned at least five full-year course credits and no more than one semester F in a core course, continues to climb and now exceeds pre-pandemic levels at 87.4%. Research from the University of Chicago shows that students who finish ninth grade on track are nearly four times as likely to graduate. Illinois includes the graduation rate and the rate of ninth graders on track to graduate as metrics in the accountability system and the Equity Journey Continuum, bringing focus to the importance of closing gaps in these outcomes.
Rising Participation in Career and Technical Education and Advanced Coursework
The number of students participating in Career and Technical Education (CTE) and in advanced coursework, including dual credit, Advance Placement, International Baccalaureate, and honors, increased in 2023. Illinois expects to see the number of students enrolling in advance coursework continue to rise as Public Act 101-0654 takes effect. The law requires school districts to automatically enroll students in the next most rigorous level of coursework if the student meets or exceeds state standards on the state assessment.
The continued increase in participation in Career and Technical Education reflects the $2.5 million increase for CTE in the fiscal year 2023 budget. The FY 2024 budget increases state CTE funding by another $2 million to further expand access to high-quality career-connected learning.
Students Growing Faster than in Pre-Pandemic Years
Whereas proficiency rates show what percentage of students have hit the target, growth recognizes progress toward and even past the target. Students on average grew more in the 2022-23 school year than they did pre-pandemic. Students’ gains in proficiency reflect this accelerated rate of growth.
In ELA, students grew even more than they did in the 2021-22 school year, achieving growth in the 57th percentile, compared to the 2018-19 school year’s baseline 50th percentile. In math, students maintained the accelerated rate of growth seen in the 2021-22 school year, achieving growth in the 53rd percentile.
Black students saw the largest acceleration in growth in both ELA and math from the 2018-19 school year, reflecting state and local efforts to boost the recovery of the students most impacted by the pandemic. However, Black students’ growth and proficiency rates still lag behind other students as a result of being served disproportionately in underfunded schools. The state’s investments in Evidence-Based Funding have dramatically increased the equity and adequacy of school funding across the state.
State Initiatives Successfully Reducing College Remediation Rate
Statewide implementation of high school Transitional Math and English courses has cut the percentage of Illinois graduates in community college having to enroll in remedial courses by 26% from 39.1% in the Class of 2019 to 28.8% in the Class of 2021. Remedial courses cost money to take but do not earn students college credit. Passing transitional courses guarantees students placement in credit-bearing coursework at Illinois colleges.
Historic High in Teacher Retention
Teacher retention reached an all-time high in the 2022-23 school year, with a retention rate exceeding 90%. The retention rate for Black and Hispanic teachers improved the most, by 4.8% and 5.9%, respectively. The retention rate for Black teachers still lags behind the overall rate at 85.3%. ISBE, in partnership with Teach Plus, has invested federal pandemic relief funds to create affinity groups for teachers of color. The number of teachers in the profession overall also held steady with the prior year.
While Illinois’ teacher recruitment and retention numbers show more and more teachers are joining and staying in the profession, severe teacher shortages still exist. Such shortages are concentrated in underfunded, hard-to-staff, and chronically struggling schools and in special education and bilingual education. The FY 2024 state budget includes a new $45 million Teacher Vacancy Grant to strengthen the teacher pipeline in the 170 districts with the greatest teacher shortages.
Chronic Absenteeism Rates Improve
Chronic absenteeism, which skyrocketed during the pandemic, improved modestly in the 2022-23 school year, dropping from 29.8% to 28.3%. Black students, who saw the greatest increase in chronic absenteeism during the pandemic due to having disproportionately less access to in-person instruction, saw the greatest year-over-year improvement. While headed in the right direction, chronic absenteeism remains alarmingly high.
ISBE has dedicated $12 million to Regional Offices of Education to combat absenteeism and more than $100 million for Community Partnership Grants that are designed to improve mental health, regional Social-Emotional Learning Hubs, and programming to support trauma-responsive practices in schools.
Schools Enrolling More English Learners and More Hispanic, Asian, and Multiracial Students
Illinois schools enrolled greater numbers of English learners and more Hispanic, Asian, and multiracial students in the 2022-23 school year than in the year prior, despite an overall declining enrollment trend. The number of English learners increased by 6.5% since 2022 to 271,983 students. The increases in Hispanic, Asian, and multiracial students suggest an increasing diversity in Illinois schools. Declining enrollment overall tracks with the declining birth rate nationwide.
Updates to Accountability
As required by federal accountability law, Illinois assigns an annual summative designation to each school. The law requires states to provide more rigorous support to schools that have not improved in the initial school improvement cycle. Schools designated as Targeted in 2018 that have the same student group(s) still performing in the bottom 5% now move into Comprehensive Support. Schools designated as Comprehensive in 2018 still performing in the bottom 5% and high schools with a graduation rate of 67% or below now receive a new designation of Intensive Support.
Additionally, ISBE has added new visuals to the Illinois Report Card website to increase transparency pertaining to how the summative designations are calculated. The public can now see how many points a school earned for each accountability indicator. The public also can see a school’s total index score, how that score compares to other schools statewide, and the thresholds for the top 10% (Exemplary designation) and bottom 5% (Comprehensive and Intensive designations).
School districts can find resources for communicating about their data and designations on the ISBE website here under Resources.