Eye on Education: Message from State Superintendent regarding education proficiency and standards

This week’s topic is a message from State Superintendent Dr. Tony Sanders, in which he discusses education proficiency and standards.

In his message, Dr. Sanders said, “According to U.S. News & World Report, our state ranks #6 in the nation for prek-12 education. So why does Illinois have an average proficiency rate of 30.1%? What does that mean? Illinois has the most rigorous standards in the nation. Each state measures ‘proficiency’ differently. It’s like comparing homeruns across ballparks with vastly different outfields or comparing someone’s mile time on a flat track versus mountain terrain. Being ‘proficient’ in Illinois requires much more than reading on grade level.

School context also matters. National research shows that schools’ proficiency rates strongly correlate to the income levels of the families they serve. The schools that serve historically under-resourced communities, students in alternative schools, and high numbers of English Learners (who take these federally required accountability assessments in English, even though they have not yet mastered the language) have a steeper hill to climb to reach ‘proficiency’ but are often achieving incredible things, as measured by graduation rates, the Seal of Biliteracy, participation in Advanced Placement, and other indicators.  

That does not mean each school does not have room to grow. And we are growing. During the pandemic, the starting line got moved back significantly, but last school year, Illinois schools experienced accelerated growth, meaning they learned more and faster than in a typical pre-pandemic year. They may not have crossed that ‘finish line’ into proficiency, but they made enormous progress given where they started.”

To read the full message from Dr. Sanders, go to https://tinyurl.com/ycyammt4.