Illinois Association for Gifted Children

IAGC Response to ISBE Survey

06/11/2019 10:22 PM | Julie Luck Jensen (Administrator)

Your Participation is Needed Now!

This blog has been updated to reflect the online survey whose format is somewhat different than the downloaded survey.

The Illinois State Board of Education is currently asking for input on proposed changes to Illinois’ Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plan. The proposed amendment will guide how public schools across the state are evaluated and rated as well as establish priorities and support for school improvement.  

Illinois’ ESSA Plan is available online. Proposed changes to the plan begin on page 47 of the document at https://www.isbe.net/Documents/ESSA-Amendment1-20190422.pdf . Several potential ESSA Plan changes could significantly impact educational opportunities for gifted and advanced students. Some of our members have spoken to these changes at the recent ISBE listening tour meetings across the state. Now we are asking our members to complete an online survey on the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) website, https://www.isbe.net/Pages/ISBE-ESSA-Amendment-Feedback.aspx

IAGC’s participation in similar ISBE requests for comment has had a positive impact. Please  consider IAGC’s positions as you take a few minutes to complete the online survey:

First Page:

Question #1: Should the weighting of academic indicators remain at  75%?

  • IAGC supports maintaining the weighting of “academic indicators” at 75%. Maintaining the weight of these indicators and implementing an approach to measuring “growth” that values progress of students beginning both below and above minimum “proficiency” thresholds would help encourage more schools to provide quality learning opportunities for high-ability students and help ensure that more bright minority and low-income students have access to advanced learning options at school.

Second Page:

Question 1: What are indicators for a well-rounded education?

  • Academic Indicators: IAGC supports heavily weighting “growth” among the “Academic Indicators.” Old No Child Left Behind-era school accountability frameworks focused schools’ attention almost exclusively on basic grade-level proficiency. Consequently, schools had little incentive to ensure that students who had already attained basic proficiency received the challenge and support they needed to continue to grow. That framework contributed to the elimination of many gifted education and academic enrichment programs across the state, disproportionately impacting bright low-income students in rural and urban schools. Emphasizing “growth” over “proficiency” will help ensure that the progress of all students is valued in the accountability framework, thereby creating an incentive for schools to restore and improve opportunities for enrichment and advanced learning. (For a primer on advanced students in growth models, see: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1CTq2EgoJ32X4dsCW5GGLpIOdEps43OWrqh81F7_wpnY/edit?usp=sharing )
  • 3-8 SSSQ Indicators
    • IAGC supports giving weight to the “P-2 Indicator” and the “Elementary-Middle Grade Indicator,” provided that participation in enrichment and accelerated learning options are components of these indicators. IAGC supports including the “Access to Acceleration and Enrichment” indicator recommended by ISBE’s P-2 and 3-8 School Quality Indicators Workgroups and assigning weight to this indicator. Meeting this indicator would be based on at least 5% of students participating in enrichment and/or acceleration in these grade bands.  IAGC also supports a weighted fine arts indicator at this level.
  • 9-12 SSSQ Indicators
    • IAGC supports prioritizing “College and Career Readiness” and a weighted fine arts indicator at the high school level. IAGC also encourages ISBE to develop a dedicated indicator for Grades 9-12 that focuses specifically on the percentage of students in these grades successfully participating in pre-college and college-level coursework such as Pre-AP courses, AP courses, and “dual credit” courses provided by community colleges, colleges, and universities.
  • Section 2, Part 3: “Should ISBE add growth as an indicator at the high school level?”
    • IAGC supports adding growth as an academic indicator at the high school level and supports weighting this indicator.

Third Page: 

Question 1: What should be the testing policy for newly arrived English learners?

  • Of the options presented on the survey, IAGC is least opposed to the third option. However, IAGC would recommend and support a fourth option where only growth scores are used in the second year and third year (vs. growth AND proficiency in the third year). This is consistent with IAGC’s position  that growth should be the focus overall. Focusing on growth does not endorse neglecting the progress of these students in the accountability framework. Further, it would allow schools to get credit for progress of EL students and would not put schools with large EL populations at a disadvantage for earning a good rating if they effectively serve EL students who enter school  very far below proficiency but make strong progress. Finally, unusually rapid growth can be an indicator of intellectual gifts among EL students who may otherwise be overlooked. In recent years, more than ¾ of Intel/Regeneron Science Talent Search students have been immigrants or children of immigrants. And, more than ⅓ of America’s 21st Century Nobel Prize winners were themselves born in another country. Emphasizing growth may help avoid the tendency to view EL students exclusively through a deficit lens and help schools recognize and cultivate the talents of these students earlier so they can reach their full potential.

Fourth Page:  Summative Designations

Question 1:  Should ISBE change the number of summative designation categories?

  •  IAGC has not taken a position on the ideal number of designation categories. However, reducing the number of categories to 2 would literally create a “binary” rating system with no room to represent trajectories of change over time. There would likely  be no opportunity to differentiate between schools where students are attaining basic proficiency with only a few students excelling from schools that are exceptionally effective in helping more students reach the highest levels of achievement.
  • Question 2:  Should ISBE change the names of the summative design categories?

  •  IAGC has not taken a position on preferred naming of the designation categories. However, we believe that earning the highest designation should require schools to demonstrate growth of students across the achievement continuum and progress toward closing disparities among racial and economic subgroups in the percentage of students participating in enrichment and accelerated learning options and reaching the highest achievement levels.

  • Question 3: Should ISBE modify criteria for an Exemplary designation? To address Illinois’ “Excellence Gaps”,  IAGC recommends that ISBE modify the criteria for a school to receive an “Exemplary” designation to include indicators of growth and equitable access to advanced learning options. These should reflect meeting the school quality indicator for “Acceleration and Enrichment” (for the P-2 and 3-8 grade bands); year-over-year increases in the percentage of high school students successfully participating in Pre-AP, AP, and dual credit courses (in high school grades), and narrowing “excellence gaps” indicated by year-over-year increases in the percentage of low-income and minority students performing at the “Exceeds” level.
  • Last section -other possible feedback: Illinois should enact an ESSA Plan that emphasizes opportunities for growth for all students and values all growth equally. Therefore, Illinois should implement either a simple linear regression growth model as recommended in Illinois’ original ESSA Plan or a “student growth percentiles” model. IAGC strongly opposes enacting a “growth to proficiency” model that would effectively endorse neglecting the growth of more than ⅓ of Illinois students. (For more information on why “growth to proficiency” models harm bright students and are unfair to schools serving large numbers of disadvantaged students, see https://fordhaminstitute.org/national/commentary/why-states-should-use-student-growth-and-not-proficiency-rates-when-gauging)
    • Access to gifted education and advanced academic programs declined in Illinois in the NCLB era in part because gifted and high-ability students were invisible in the accountability framework and report card system. This should be addressed by creating an additional student subgroup representing high-ability students parallel to existing subgroups that highlight the unique learning needs of students with disabilities and English learners. This would allow ISBE, local school leaders, researchers, and policymakers to disaggregate the growth and achievement of high-ability students to better identify and spread practices that support growth and close excellence gaps.


Once you have completed the ISBE ESSA survey, please also take a moment to forward this email to colleagues, relatives, and neighbors who care about ensuring that high-ability students in all Illinois communities can develop their talents. 


Thank you in advance for speaking up for high-ability students!



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Illinois Association for Gifted Children

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