Want to know how your kid's school is performing compared to others? The Illinois State Board of Education today released graduation rates, test scores, and other metrics through its online school report cards. Results show that standardized test scores, graduation rates and participation in advanced placement courses are all inching upwards.
But one metric that continues to decline is the percentage of African-American teachers. In 2003, 10.2 percent of teachers were African Americans. That figure has fallen every year, and is now just 5.8 percent. State Superintendent of Schools Tony Smith acknowledges that — with a student population that’s 17 percent black — the lack of minority teachers is a problem.
“Clearly we have a significant teacher diversity issue, with growing diversity in the student population, and we’re not seeing the same trend in terms of diversifying the teacher workforce,” he says. He says that’s one reason ISBE will be focusing on improving the teacher workforce this year.
The website illinoisreportcard.com provides all sorts of data — demographics, teacher retention rates, how many students are homeless, and each school's average score on the SAT. Statewide SAT averages show that 39.8 percent of 11th-grade students achieved proficiency in language arts and 36.4 percent achieved proficiency in math. Illinois’ average SAT score was 1015.3.
The 2016-17 school year marked the first time Illinois used the SAT instead of the ACT as its statewide assessment tool for high school students, so it can’t be used to handily compare whether the state overall made academic gains. The data also doesn’t show whether schools could give their kids a leg up by having them practice with the PSAT — the preliminary test typically administered two years before the SAT.
Smith says until now, only districts that could afford it administered that test. This year, the state will pay.
“So districts that have had resources have paid for multiple assessments. But this is the first time paying for the PSAT for all, all districts,” he says.
Taking the PSAT gives students a slew of benefits. They can link their test results to Khan Academy (a free, online resource for academic courses, lessons and guided practice) and receive a personalized study plan. Taking the PSAT also makes students eligible for certain college scholarships.