For Immediate Release
Tuesday, April 4, 2017

State Board submits Every Student Succeeds Act State Plan to U.S. Department of Education

Plan outlines new statewide system of support for schools and framework for measuring school quality

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) has submitted Illinois' state plan outlining a new, school-level accountability framework to the U.S. Department of Education (ED). The plan presents a new vision of evaluating and supporting public schools in Illinois under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). 

View a visual one-pager and presentation describing key elements of the plan at

Read the complete plan submitted to ED at

In developing Illinois' ESSA State Plan, ISBE created three drafts; hosted approximately 100 listening tour forums across the state; engaged hundreds of advocates and stakeholder groups representing educators, administrators, school support staff, parents, and concerned citizens; and received and considered more than 3,500 comments online. The State Board unanimously approved the plan March 15. The plan also received Governor Bruce Rauner's signature and support. 

“I am tremendously proud of the collaborative work ISBE staff and stakeholders have engaged in over the past 16 months to create our ESSA State Plan," said State Superintendent of Education Tony Smith, Ph.D. “Submitting our ESSA State Plan to ED is only the beginning. ISBE will remain in constant dialogue with our stakeholders as we continue to implement ESSA in Illinois. We will refine and adjust our plan when necessary and work together to improve all schools and improve outcomes for all students. 

“Our stakeholders identified key principles to guide the design of our new accountability system. Accountability should be educative, providing information the school community can learn from; equitable, recognizing the unequal circumstances of Illinois' students and educators; non-punitive, seeking to support struggling schools; and should consider multiple measures of school quality, beyond just academic attainment," said Smith. “We took every comment and recommendation to heart. 

“Our ESSA State Plan portrays a multi-dimensional picture of learning and supports the whole child as she or he develops," said Smith. “Our accountability system considers school climate, fine arts, chronic absenteeism, college and career readiness, and English Learner proficiency, in addition to academic growth, graduation rate, and attainment. Our plan places new emphasis on growth and focuses on sustaining school improvement through leadership and capacity building, rather than short-term gains. 

“We have an extraordinary opportunity to transform public education in Illinois," said Smith. “I look forward to continuing this journey."  

The 2017-18 school year will serve as a transition year, as ISBE continues to implement ESSA in Illinois. 

Measuring School Quality 

ESSA requires states to measure school quality through two categories of indicators: academic indicators and school quality/student success indicators. ESSA requires the academic indicator group to outweigh the school quality/student success indicator group. 

Based on robust stakeholder engagement and feedback, Illinois' new school quality framework consists of the following indicators and weights: 

​Elementary (P-8)
High School (9-12)
​Core Academic Indicators (75%)
  • ​PARCC and Dynamic Learning Maps Alternative Assessment (2018-19: English Language Arts 10%; Math 10%) (thereafter: ELA 7.5%; Math 7.5%)
  • Growth: Linear Regression (50%)
  • English Learner Proficiency (ACCESS) (5%)
  • Science (2018-19: 0%) (thereafter: 5%)​

  • ​SAT (2018-19: ELA 10%; Math 10%) (thereafter: ELA 7.5%; Math 7.5%)
  • Graduation (4-, 5-, and 6-year rates) (50%)
  • English Learner Proficiency (ACCESS) (5%)
  • Science (2018-19: 0%) (thereafter: 5%)​

School Quality/ Student Success Indicators (25%)
  • ​Chronic Absenteeism (10%)
  • Climate Survey (5%)
  • Fine Arts (2018-19: 0%) (>0% by 2021-22)
  • P-2 Indicator (5%)
  • Elementary/Middle Indicator (5%)​

  • ​Chronic Absenteeism (7.5%)
  • 9th Grade on Track (6.25%)
  • College and Career Ready (6.25%)
  • Climate Survey (5%)
  • Fine Arts (2018-19: 0%) (>0% by 2021-22)​

​​Growth will account for 50 percent of a school's accountability framework. Valuing academic growth over simple proficiency or attainment recognizes equity as the primary driver to closing achievement and opportunity gaps.  

The inclusion of the fine arts indicator in the school quality framework demonstrates the importance of stakeholder feedback throughout the ESSA State Plan drafting process. Weighting the fine arts indicator initially at 0 percent allows ISBE to collect data on fine arts at every school across the state without harming the schools currently lacking sufficient resources to provide fine arts. ISBE will study the data collected in order to determine and implement an educative, non-punitive, and equitable fine arts measure and weight by 2021-22. 

ISBE will build upon its acclaimed Illinois Report Card ( to communicate a multi-faceted picture of school quality to families and communities. 

Summative Designations 

ESSA requires states to provide a single summative designation for each school to help families and communities understand how students and schools are performing as a whole.  

Illinois' summative designations, beginning with the 2018-19 school year, consist of the following four tiers:  

  • Tier 1: Exemplary School: A school that has no underperforming subgroups, a graduation rate of greater than 67 percent, and whose performance is in the top 10 percent of schools statewide. Schools with the Tier 1: Exemplary designation may apply to join the IL-EMPOWER network of partners. 
  • Tier 2: Commendable School: A school that has no underperforming subgroups, a graduation rate greater than 67 percent, and whose performance is not in the top 10 percent of schools statewide. Schools with the Tier 2: Commendable designation may apply to join the IL-EMPOWER network of partners. 
  • Tier 3: Underperforming School: A school in which one or more subgroups is performing at or below the level of the “all students" group in the lowest 5 percent of Title I schools. Schools with the Tier 3: Underperforming designation must receive targeted support, though not exclusively through IL-EMPOWER. 
  • Tier 4: Lowest Performing School: A school that is in the lowest-performing 5 percent of Title I schools in Illinois and those high schools that have a graduation rate of 67 percent or less. Schools with the Tier 4: Lowest Performing designation must receive comprehensive support through IL-EMPOWER. 

Illinois' summative designations explicitly examine academic performance between student demographic groups to ensure overall achievement cannot mask achievement or opportunity gaps. 

In addition to receiving a descriptive summative designation, every school will receive a grade specifically for growth, based on an A through F scale beginning with the 2019-20 school year. ISBE will base the grade on an annual comparison of schools to other similar schools in the state. The grade will highlight the schools achieving remarkable gains and ensure the accountability framework does not disadvantage any school for its local context. 

Supporting All Schools: IL-EMPOWER 

IL-EMPOWER is Illinois' new statewide system of support for all schools. IL-EMPOWER strives to allow the lowest performing schools more flexibility to choose the evidence-based improvement strategies that will work best in their local context. IL-EMPOWER also places greater emphasis on sustaining improvement by building capacity and leadership. Any school accessing support through IL-EMPOWER will: 

  • Conduct an equity audit and a needs assessment to determine opportunities for growth in specific areas: Governance and Management, Curriculum and Instruction, and Climate and Culture;
  • Select a partner from a pre-approved and cost-controlled network;
  • Create a four-year improvement plan with quarterly reporting to ISBE; and
  • Build capacity and leadership, optimize resources, and ensure sustainability beyond the four years of the initial partnership. 

    Schools with Tier 1: Exemplary and Tier 2: Commendable designations may apply to coach other schools as members of the pre-approved network of partners.  

    ISBE, through the IL-EMPOWER structure, can hold both schools and partners accountable for improving student outcomes. Partners that do not meet agreed upon goals may lose pre-approval status.  

    Current Focus Schools and Priority Districts will receive support through IL-EMPOWER for the 2017-18 school year, as the transition to IL-EMPOWER begins. The new school-level summative designations will replace Focus Schools and Priority Districts beginning with the 2018-19 school year.

Opportunities for Educators 

Illinois' ESSA State Plan recognizes teacher leadership as a critical lever to improving student outcomes and sustaining school improvement.  

ISBE will launch two competitive grant programs: 
  • Thirty-, 60-, and 90-day teacher-led research projects, through which educators will investigate a problem of practice important to teacher leadership and report out the findings.
  • Innovative fieldwork partnerships between districts and higher education institutions with approved teacher education programs aimed at providing teacher candidates with diverse and extended opportunities to develop their craft with practicing educators.  ​

​ISBE will continue to develop professional learning resources on critical topics and to connect leaders across districts through the online, on-demand professional learning community Ed Leaders Network. 

Next Steps

​ED has 120 days to facilitate peer reviewing of Illinois' ESSA State Plan and to provide feedback on and/or approve the plan.

ISBE will engage legislators in crafting the necessary legislative changes and rulemaking to operationalize the plan in statute. 

ISBE will initiate work groups to develop specific outstanding components of the ESSA State Plan, including:  ​

  • Reviewing IL-EMPOWER partner applications and awarding pre-approval;
  • Developing the preschool to second grade school quality indicator;
  • Developing the elementary/middle grade school quality indicator;
  • Finalizing the college and career indicator;
  • Developing reporting requirements for the fine arts indicator;
  • Working with the Technical Advisory Council to develop the growth indicator and grade scale;
  • Enhancing data systems to allow for school-level financial data collection and reporting; and
  • Assisting districts in creating local Title I plans.