Back to School 2015-16
School Year 2016

ISBE Hot Topics

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The 2015-16 school year will be one of significant progress toward new ways of measuring, recognizing, and supporting student and educator achievement to foster high-quality, meaningful instruction that ultimately prepares all students for college and careers. The Illinois State Board of Education is moving forward with our state-developed plan to close achievement gaps, provide appropriate supports to struggling districts, and promote effective teaching and leadership. This plan includes an improved accountability system based on multiple measures that more accurately reflect schools’ progress, learning environments, and needs for improvement. Our efforts to date have paved the way for this new system, including a review and update of all learning standards and new state assessments aligned to these new standards and expectations. Below is an overview of the current efforts shaping teaching and learning in Illinois:

  • The Kindergarten Individual Development Survey (KIDS)— KIDS is a tool for measuring school readiness across various developmental domains.  ISBE has modified the KIDS implementation plan to collect and report school readiness data for all kindergartners over the next three school years.
  • 2015-16 State Assessments— ISBE has developed a toolkit to help administrators and educators explain the results from the 2015 administration of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) exam. The PARCC exam will return for the second year in spring 2016 with a shorter, easier-to-administer format. ISBE is also developing a new assessment aligned to the new Illinois Learning Standards in science to be administered to students during the 2015-16 school year. A college entrance exam for students is also planned for spring 2016.
  • Progress and Supports— Illinois now has a deeper, more descriptive process to report on the progress that our schools and districts are making toward all students graduating college and career ready. Foundational and other support services, from general to more intensive, are available to school districts to improve student achievement and implement turnaround principles and practices.
  • Teacher Evaluations— Districts continue to implement, or plan to implement, a new comprehensive educator evaluation system that incorporates multiple measures of student growth and professional practice.
  • Learning Standards Review— Illinois continues to make progress on a complete review and update of all learning standards, including science, physical education and health, arts, and social studies. Illinois is also a national leader in social and emotional learning and provides technical assistance and professional development to help schools address the individual needs of students.
  • Family Engagement – ISBE has developed guidance to promote the vital partnership between parents and the school community to achieve student success.

 Kindergarten Individual Development Survey (KIDS)


School readiness in kindergarten plays a crucial role in putting children on track for academic success throughout elementary school, high school, postsecondary school, and beyond. Children enter kindergarten from different backgrounds and with a variety of early childhood education experiences. To facilitate smoother transitions from early childhood programs to kindergarten and from kindergarten to first grade for all children, ISBE has launched the Illinois Kindergarten Individual Development Survey (KIDS).  KIDS is a statewide initiative that will give teachers, parents, administrators, and policymakers a better understanding of childhood development and the opportunity to close school readiness gaps by identifying and addressing students’ needs early. The survey is based on observations of the student in typical daily activities with familiar people. Teachers monitor kindergartners’ progress across different developmental domains, including language and literacy development and social and emotional development. The observation data will be used to rate students three times during the year. The process recognizes that young children develop at different rates and that a single observation cannot provide an accurate portrayal of a student’s capabilities.

After a three-year pilot process, ISBE has decided to extend the implementation of KIDS over the next three school years, with all schools collecting and reporting school readiness data for all kindergartners during the 2017-18 school year. This school year districts should be training administrators and teachers so they become familiar with the KIDS process and practice and strengthen their observational skills.

KIDS Fact Sheets

Three Things You Need to Know About KIDS

KIDS Talking Points


  State Assessments 2015-16 (9/28/15)

Illinois needs assessments that line up with the rigor and scope of higher expectations focused on college and career readiness as the state continues its comprehensive review and update of all learning standards. We also need assessments that better reflect classroom learning and students’ real-life experiences outside of the classroom as well.  In spring 2015, Illinois schools successfully completed the first administration of the new Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) assessment in English language arts and math. More than 75 percent of students took the PARCC assessment online and no major statewide technical outages were reported. The goal is for all schools to eventually administer the exam online.

ISBE has developed a toolkit to help administrators and educators understand and explain what to expect for the district, school, and individual student results from the 2015 PARCC exam administration. The PARCC assessment score toolkit is available below and provides FAQs, talking points, fact sheets, sample score reports, and other materials that outline what the results will look like, what they will mean for schools and students, and how educators and parents can use the results to tailor instruction and supports for each child at an earlier age to promote college and career readiness.

In response to feedback from school districts, the PARCC exam will return in spring 2016 with a shorter, simpler format to improve the testing process while still providing reliable and valid information about student achievement. Click here for more information about the PARCC exam. Click here to visit PARCC Place, our new central page for everything new about PARCC.

ISBE is also developing a new science assessment that will be administered to students during the 2015-16 school year. The test will align to the new Illinois Learning Standards in science, which are based on the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and will provide students a more engaged and hands-on science education that instills a deeper understanding of the core concepts of science and the ability to apply these concepts to real-world situations. A new college entrance exam is also planned for spring 2016.

Assessment Fact Sheets

Assessment FAQs

Three Things You Need to Know About State Assessments in 2015-16

State Assessment Update 2015-16 Talking Points

PARCC Score Toolkit 

PARCC Primer

Other Documents

Click here to access PARCC Assessment Webinars and Presentations

Click here to access PARCC Assessment Video Series


 Progress and Supports

Illinois has a new state-developed plan to ensure all students are on track for college and career readiness. With receipt of our flexibility waiver to the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) in 2014, the Illinois State Board of Education can focus its aid on the state’s neediest students and provide districts greater flexibility to use federal funds. The Illinois State Board of Education has also worked with educational leadership groups to write and support the new Illinois Statewide Balanced Accountability Measure. This accountability system will use a deeper, more descriptive process to report on the progress Illinois schools and districts are making toward all students graduating college and career ready. In 2015-16, the first phase will be implemented with a report on student outcomes as required in the flexibility waiver. The professional practice components will be phased in over the next two years. The professional practice portion includes whether a district is using best practices in teaching and leadership or implementing improvements.

All districts can utilize support services from ISBE, their Regional Offices of Education/ Intermediate Service Centers (ROE/ISC), and the Illinois Center for School Improvement (Illinois CSI) to help meet their progress goals. Districts that need the most support will undergo comprehensive changes and be listed in “Priority” or “Focus” status.

Click here for more information about the NCLB Waiver.
Click here for more information about the Illinois Statewide Balanced Accountability Measure.

Progress and Supports Fact Sheets

Three Things You Need to Know About Progress and Supports

Progress and Supports Talking Points


 Teacher Evaluations

Signed into law in 2010, the Performance Evaluation Reform Act (PERA) requires new teacher and principal evaluation models that consider student growth as well as professional practice. The new evaluation systems provide statewide consistency for what outstanding teaching and leadership should look like.

Implementation is phased, with all school districts to incorporate student growth into their educator evaluation ratings no later than the 2016-17 school year. PERA allows districts local control as they form agreements with teachers/union representatives to develop their own evaluation systems that meet minimum state standards. A district defaults to the state model regarding the use of data and indicators of student growth for those aspects that cannot be agreed upon.

Under the new evaluation systems, standardized test results do not determine a teacher’s future in Illinois as student growth is only a portion of an educator’s evaluation rating. Districts may choose between national, state, and locally developed assessments and must use at least two types of assessments.

Click here for more information.

Teacher Evaluations Fact Sheet

Three Things You Need to Know About Evaluations

Teacher Evaluation Talking Points


  Learning Standards Review

The Illinois Learning Standards in English language arts and math were adopted in 2010 and have since transformed the way teachers engage and challenge their students through their emphasis on critical thinking and real-world application. The higher expectations of the updated learning benchmarks paved the way for a complete review and update of all learning standards. In January 2014, the State Board adopted new science benchmarks, known as the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), which will be fully implemented by schools during the 2016-17 school year. The revised Illinois Learning Standards for physical development and health are now in place, with full implementation slated for the upcoming school year.

A review of the state’s arts and social science standards is also in progress. More challenging learning standards that are relevant to 21st-century careers and experiences will provide our students with a well-rounded education that fosters their development into critical and creative thinkers, collaborative problem solvers, and healthy, civic-minded citizens.

Learning Standards Fact Sheets

Three Things You Need to Know About the Learning Standards

Learning Standards Talking Points


Family Engagement (9/24/15)

ISBE believes meaningful family engagement is a cornerstone of effective schools. Meaningful family engagement is based on the belief that parents, educators, and community members all share responsibility for a child’s education and well-being. Families have a stake in all aspects of our education system and are key partners in every area of school improvement.

In the response to the need for more support with family engagement, the agency has brought together research, best practices, and trainings to give districts, schools, and families tools to help build and expand school-family partnerships. At the center of ISBE’s efforts is a set of principles and strategies, called the ISBE Family Engagement Framework.


 2015 Report Card (10/30/15) new

On Oct. 30, the 2015 Report Card was posted at, with data including student and teacher demographics, enrollment, district-level financial information, Illinois 5Essentials Survey information, graduation rates,Report Card postsecondary enrollment, and the percentage of freshmen on track. This year’s Report Card showcases new metrics and features to show a more complete picture of school climate and students’ progress toward college and career readiness.

Data involving student academic growth and achievement is not included in the Oct. 30 release. This data will be based on student-, school-, and district-level PARCC test results, which ISBE expects to receive later this year. Once the PARCC results are available and districts and schools have had time to review their data, the Report Card will be updated with district- and school-level scores.