Taking Stock

Why Statewide Standardized Achievement in Illinois is Flat

Standards-based assessment under No Child Left Behind (NCLB) promised to make test information more meaningful and useful for parents, educators and the public at large. But arbitrary grading and shoddy reporting practices destroyed the credibility of the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) and created deep confusion about what standardized tests actually assess. In the end, reporting practices under NCLB made it harder than ever, even for insiders, to get a clear picture of what was actually going on.

This study clarifies achievement trends that occurred under NCLB and explains why NCLB reporting practices made those trends so hard to see.  It concludes by describing important contributions that new PARCC exams can make and warns of new reporting problems that threaten to squander those contributions before they see the light of day.

Read the report

Authors:  Paul Zavitkovsky, Denis Roarty and Jason Swanson


Recent Research

Center Research in Progress
  • External Evaluation of the Ounce of Prevention Fund's i3-Funded Professional Development Initiative (PDI). January 2012 through December 2014.  CUEL is conducting a 3-year impact and implementation evaluation of an innovative, job-embedded design for ambitious professional development for community-based early childhood educators in Chicago, based on the Ounce of Prevention Fund's highly-regarded EduCare early childhood education model.  The project is funded through the US Department of Education's Investing in Innovation (i3) grant program.

  • School Leadership Program Grant. U.S. Department of Education Office of Innovation and ImprovementSchool Leadership Program Grant. U.S. Department of Education Office of Innovation and Improvement. $1,000,330, funded 2013-2017. Principal Investigator, Steve Tozer, Department of Educational Policy Studies. Co-principal investigators Sam Whalen, Shelby Cosner, Andrea Evans, and David Mayrowetz.

  • Examining pre-service preparation of school leaders. Finnegan Family Foundation, $30,000, funded 2013-2014. Lead Researcher: Shelby Cosner

  • Examining the principal residency experience and its impact on candidate competency, role, and identity development. Lloyd A. Fry Foundation, $200,000, funded 2013-2015. Principal Investigator: Sam Whalen, Center for Urban Education Leadership. Lead Researcher: Shelby Cosner.

  • Building a suite of measures for assessing the development of leadership capacities for transformational school leadership. Two years, $200,000 from an anonymous donor. Principal Investigator: Steve Tozer, Director, Center for Urban Education Leadership. Research couples with the Fry Foundation project above. 

UIC Faculty Research: Selected Recent Publications
  • Cosner, S., Kimball, S., Barkowski, L. Carl, B., & Jones, C. (under review). Principal roles, work demands, and supports needed to implement new teacher evaluation. Research on Urban Education Policy Initiative.

  • Cosner, S. (in press). Advancing a phase-based model of school leadership for the support of collaborative data practices as a school-wide improvement strategy. Journal of School Leadership.

  • Cosner, S. (in press). Strengthening collaborative data practices in schools:  The need to cultivate developmental perspectives and diagnostic approaches. In A. Bowers, A. Shoho, & B. Barnett (Eds.), Using data in schools to inform leadership and decision making. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.

  • Cosner, S., Tozer, S., & Smylie, M. (2012). The Ed.D. Program at UIC: Using cycles of inquiry and improvement to advance leadership preparation. Planning and Changing, 43(1-2), 127-148.

  • Cosner, S. (2012). Leading the on-going development of collaborative data practices: Advancing a schema for diagnosis and intervention. Leadership and Policy in Schools, 11(1), 26-65.

  • McDonald, J. P. with Christman, J. B., Corcoran, T. B., Fruchter, N., McLaughlin, M. W., Pradl, G., Reich, G., Smylie, M. A., & Talbert, J. (in press). Cities and their schools. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

  • Murphy, J.; Smylie, M.; Mayrowetz, D.; Louis, K.S. (2009). The Role of the Principal in Fostering the Development of Distributed Leadership. School Leadership & Management, 29 (2), p181-214 Apr 2009

  • Shoho, Alan R.; Barnett, Bruce G.; Martinez, Peter (2012). "Enhancing 'OJT' Internships with Interactive Coaching," Planning and Changing, 43(1-2). Illinois State University

  • Superfine, B. M., Gottlieb, J. J., & Smylie, M. A. (2012). The expanding federal role in teacher workforce policy. Educational Policy, 26(1), 58-78

  • Superfine, B. M. (2013). Equality in education law and policy: 1954-2010. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

  • Smylie, M. A., (2009). Continuous School Improvement (Leadership for Learning Series). Newbury Park, CA: Corwin Press. 

  • Smylie, M. A. (2010, June). Never good enough: Tips for continuous school improvement. The Leader’s Edge (a monthly publication of the American Association of School Administrators).

  • Superfine, B. M. (2010). New directions in school funding and governance: Moving from politics to evidence, Kentucky Law Journal, 98(4), 653-701.

  • Superfine, B. M., Smylie, M. A., Tozer, S.E., & Mayrowetz, D. (2009). "Promising strategies for improving K-12 education in Illinois: Improving the educator workforce," The Illinois Report 2009 (pp. 49-64). Urbana-Champaign, IL: Institute of Government and Public Affairs, University of Illinois.

  • Tozer, S.E., B. Gallegos, & A. Henry, eds. (2011). "Handbook of Research in the Social Foundations of Education," New York: Routledge/Taylor Francis, Inc.  

School Leadership Knowledge Base Exemplars
Policy Briefs
  • Wallace Foundation: Research Findings to Support Effective Educational Policies: A Guide for Policymakers, 2nd Edition. March, 2011. Illinois cited as an example in multiple areas. Read the full report here

  • Göncü, A., Main, C., Perone, A. & Tozer, S. A. (2012). "Crossing the Boundaries: The Need to Integrate School Leadership and Early Childhood Education." UIC Research on Urban Education Policy Initiative, Vol. 1, Book 2. November 2012. 

Assessment and Cycles of Inquiry
  • UIC data model adopted by Evanston school district - UIC's principal preparation coach Paul Zavitkovsky inspired the school district to become the first in the state to adopt UIC's model of test-score interpretation. The model is one of many innovations developed by UIC's EdD program and supported by the Center to help leaders transform education.

  • UIC report shows how school leaders can better slice test scores to improve teaching and learning - 2009 presentation before the American Educational Research Association