Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Message From State Superintendent Tony Smith, Ph. D.

On Friday the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) released the 2015 Report Card, available at As I shared last week, this year’s rollout is unique as we await the district-, school-, and student-level results from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test. The initial Report Card data still tells an important story and gives us valuable insight into the performance and demographics of our student body and schools.

Graduation rates are on the rise since 2012 as the four-year rate increased by 3 percent to 85.3 percent for 2015. The five-year rate is 87.6 percent, a 3.6 increase from 2012. This data shows the strides our high schools are making to successfully connect with students. I’ve seen this firsthand as principals have taken me through high schools and I’ve talked to students who “love” their schools. Great work!

Our 12-month college enrollment rate also increased slightly from 68.7 percent in 2014 to 69.6 percent this year. For the Class of 2013, data revealed 97,209 (69.6 percent) students enrolled in college in the subsequent 12 months after graduation. This figure is an increase from the 93,575 (68.7 percent) that enrolled in college for the Class of 2012. We’ve also seen a slight increase in the percentage of students who met the ACT benchmark for college readiness (a combined score of at least a 21) in all four subjects (English, mathematics, reading, and science) to 24.9 percent in 2015, compared to 24.2 percent in 2014.

This progress is commendable as our student body continues to become more diverse and less economically secure. For the second consecutive year, white students are no longer the majority in Illinois, making up only 49.3 percent of the state’s student body, a slight decrease from last year. Meanwhile, the state’s rising number of Hispanic students now makes up more than a quarter (25.1 percent) of the student population. And more than half of our state’s students continue to come from low-income households.

Illinois most closely mirrors the country’s demographics as a whole, so understanding our data and how best to use it can have national implications. It’s clear we still have much work ahead of us to improve equity and outcomes for all students, and this won’t happen overnight. The Report Card is an important tool to help us better identify our students’ and schools’ unique needs and how we can better organize resources to help our children be better prepared for the future. 

There is also good news to report from Illinois’ performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), often called “The Nation’s Report Card.”  This test is the only national assessment of what America’s students should know and can do in various subject areas. The 2015 results for mathematics and reading were released last week and showed that Chicago Public Schools’ improvement was among the strongest in the nation among large school districts. Illinois also exceeded the national average score in grade 4 reading and grade 8 reading and math. For more information,   

I’ve been in the job for six months now. I am already working on my message for next week, which will include a collection of appreciations and recognitions. I look forward to sharing my thoughts and reflections with you.


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