Illinois to implement new ratings for schools, districts

CHICAGO (AP) — Schools and school districts across Illinois will be subject to a rating system that was recently signed into law and is scheduled to launch this year.

The system will grade schools and districts much like students taking a traditional classroom test — on a 100-point scale with labels ranging from "exemplar" to "unsatisfactory."

The new rating system was developed by a statewide group of top education organizations called Vision 20/20 along with several local superintendents. That led to legislation that was approved in the spring. Gov. Bruce Rauner signed the legislation into law July 30.

The Chicago Tribune reports that 30 percent of a school or district's score will depend on student achievement and academic progress. That will include state exam scores and graduation rates. The other 70 percent will be based on things like family involvement, school atmosphere and decision-making that involves administrators, teachers and students.

Superintendent Todd Koehl of Troy School District 30-C said those elements "lay the foundation for good success in any school." He was one of the administrators who helped develop the scoring system.

The state may need to get federal permission for the rating system because it doesn't fully mirror a rating system that the U.S. Department of Education approved earlier for Illinois. That approved system focused more on academic measures.

"Any time a state changes law, policies or practices that affect the commitments it has made ... it must submit an amendment request to the U.S Department of Education," said department press secretary Dorie Turner Nolt. "We would then review to determine whether these changes are in compliance."

However, Illinois Association of School Administrators legal counsel Sara Boucek said she doesn't believe additional federal approval is needed.

The new rating system is the latest way the state is trying to judge Illinois schools. Other recent methods have proposed awards schools stars among other approaches.