Grade Deflation On School Report Cards

Oct 31, 2013

Illinois schools and school districts get report cards Thursday. Many will appear to have suffered a significant drop in student achievement. But state officials say that’s just because they’ve changed how students are evaluated.

At first glance, the news is bleak. In Springfield, for example, last year 73 percent of students “met standards.” This year that number dropped 24 points, to 49 percent. The Illinois State Board of Education says that’s just because it significantly raised expectations.

“The new expectations do not mean that our students know less or are less capable than they were in previous years," says Mary O’Brien, director of assessment at the state board.

She says the change is part of implementing the tougher Common Core standards. It brings elementary school evaluations in line with those used in high schools. O'Brien says it’ll be better for kids in the long run.

“Now Illinois students will be measured against college and career readiness benchmarks earlier, starting in the third grade, to ensure that they’re on track to succeed in high school and beyond," she says.

O’Brien also says if the new measures were applied retroactively, students would have shown at least some improvement in the past few years.

Reports on local school districts and individual schools can be found at