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River Forest D90 set to benefit from new ISBE designations of school performance


The State of Illinois created a Balanced Accountability Measure Committee to change standards for State summative designations of school performance. “Summative designations help families and communities understand how well schools are serving all students.” said ISBE, and designations from best to worst include: Exemplary, Commendable, Targeted, Comprehensive. A change in standards comes at a time when ‘equity’ initiatives and learning loss from remote teaching already have impacted student achievement.


News of new performance standards came in the ISBE August 2022 Rundown which said “Annual summative designations will be calculated for 2022 for the first time since 2019”. Summative designations make it easy “to recognize those schools with strong overall performance across a range of academic and student success indicators and to identify schools to be placed in differentiated school improvement status.,” according to ISBE.


River Forest District 90 is one district set to benefit from lower standards. A decline in River Forest District 90 designations stood out among comparable high performing districts in 2019. The decline came after the school board ushered in comprehensive K-8 ‘equity’ reforms. The reforms elevated social and emotional programs above curriculum and instruction, and the effects of ‘equity’ were immediate.


The new ISBE committee has “set new targets by grade span (i.e., 3-4, 5-6, 7-8, 11) for all students enrolled in any grade during or before SY 2020-21”. This year it will “Replace science proficiency rates with science participation. Participation rates of 95% or higher receive 100 points. Participation rates below 75% receive 0 points.”


ISBE believes it is best to “Allow all Els (English as second language) from 2020-21 another year to their timeline” instead of adding programming to accelerate learning so ELs catch up to English standards. This measure was made “permanent”, suggesting ISBE either lacks confidence in its ability to accelerate these students, or it is content to accept learning loss in Els.


Also new to the ISBE reporting system in 2022 is the addition of “District Narratives”, which allow each school to report on the “Equity Journey Continuum”. Here, Principals can use unlimited word count on district report cards “to tell their story beyond the numbers.”


When faced with a challenge, some residents have come to expect State and local school leaders to take the lazy, more expensive, way out.


River Forest District 90 regularly reports “Financial capacity to meet expectations” around 140%, or 40% above what is necessary. It operates two elementary schools and one middle school, roughly 1,400 total students, and had held the summative designation ‘Exemplary’ before the ‘equity’ initiative of 2016. ‘Equity’ elevated social and emotional programs above curriculum and instruction. A move teachers and administrators called “lowering the ceiling” and also included something called “balanced literacy”.


In 2019 the district spent $27,527,103, the same year when all three schools had fallen to ‘Commendable’ performance. The district received $1,143,845 of relief aid or $778 per pupil due to covid, according to Ed Week. With more money and lower standards for school performance, River Forest is one district set to widen the gap between school system wealth and student outcomes.


Time will tell if new performance standards are part of the August 2022 Rundown or just another public-school Runaround.



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