Jake Arrieta and Illinois Schools Aim High

arrieta-efhsIn April, Jake Arrieta visited Arcadia Elementary School in Olympia Fields, Illinois. His message to the students there: “Aim high, practice, and test yourself.”


This mantra holds true both on the field and in the classroom. And Illinois schools, teachers, and students have been working toward that goal.


Over the past few years, Illinois schools have been working hard to implement high standards for students. They are using the PARCC assessment to measure their progress and the results are in: It’s working.


This past spring 3rd graders – who have had these high standards for their whole academic careers – took the PARCC test and improved their math scores by 5.1 percentage points!

What do high standards look like in Illinois classrooms?  


At Arcadia, teachers are empowered to develop creative approaches and methods to teaching, and to expose their students to wide variety of learning experiences.


Arcadia credits its success to the conviction that failure is not an option for the almost 500 students. The school maintains a commitment to setting high expectations, and refusing to lower the bar. As Principal Patricia Ransford says, “If the kids don’t get it one way, we have to figure out a different way.” Arcadia believes that in a nurturing and inspiring environment, children can learn and succeed. Arcadia is proof that setting high standards – and empowering educators to teach their students to meet those standards – has the ability to foster a creative and successful learning environment.


In Illinois, Strong Tests Lead to Strong Students


How do you know you are reaching your goals if you don’t test yourself and measure your progress? High-quality assessments that are aligned to a state’s academic standards are an important part of the learning process.  Pam Reilly, 2014 Illinois Teacher of the Year, explains that that strong assessments like the PARCC assessment help teachers understand exactly where students need support in learning, equipping them to help kids aim high.  Strong assessments also help kids practice – they create an environment in which “the best preparation will be instruction aimed at content understanding,” essentially eliminating “teaching to the test.”


Students and teachers at Edward “Duke” Ellington Elementary School in Illinois know that statewide assessments are just one of many tools that can be used to measure success. But at Ellington, students are fearless about testing their skills, and for good reason. Two years after integrating students from closed neighborhood schools, the Duke Ellington progressed to its highest level of student achievement across a full range of performance metrics. In fact, the school has progressed upward in student achievement each year under Principal Scott’s tenure, and breaks the normal curve with student achievement at national averages and rising.


Illinois schools really are knocking it out of the park!