Diane Rado of the Chicago Tribune has described how Illinois plans to meet the obligations ensuing from the No Child Left Behind waiver they’ve applied for — assuming it is granted by the US Department of Education.
Illinois has joined 37 other states in realizing that they will be unable to meet the requirements of the original law and applied for a waiver; however, these waivers come with the condition that the state concerned must come up with its own acceptable alternative assessment system. Major changes in Illinois include mandatory testing for every grade from 3-11 and raising the score required to pass grade-school exams. The proposal from Illinois plans to rank schools out of five stars.
Under No Child Left Behind, schools can fail federal standards and face sanctions if too many students flunk state tests. The new rating system would include more assessment categories, such as whether students are making yearly progress and how prepared they are for college. Each major category would be worth 100 points — points that would be the basis of the star ratings.
While some commentators, like Julie Woestehoff, are derisive about the new system it isn’t that different from approaches used in other opt-out states: Florida uses an A to F grading system. Others have argued that using stars trivializes the subject matter and is more suitable for reviewing movies than schools. However, the key isn’t the letter grades or the stars themselves, but simply using a visual solution to provide the public with an easy way to gauge school performance. Indiana is planning to switch to the letter grade system itself soon:
The letter grades beat the previous rating system, which included five hard-to-follow performance labels, said Indiana State Department of Education spokeswoman Stephanie Sample.
“The public really likes it, because they understand it,” she said. Realtors also like it, she said, because when they’re selling a house, they can say, ‘This is an A school district.'”