Illinois Honor Roll

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2004 Illinois Spotlight Schools

In Fall 2003 the Illinois State Board of Education launched a recognition program, Spotlight Schools, for high poverty schools where high academic performance is closing the "achievement gap." Located throughout the state in urban, suburban, and rural locations, 85 Spotlight Schools earned honors in 2004. They exhibit achievements that are contrary to the conventional wisdom that test scores will reflect demographics despite local efforts.

Criteria for selecting these schools are rigorous. All schools must be making Adequate Yearly Progress. At least half the students are from low-income families and at least 60% must be passing the state achievement tests in both reading and in mathematics.

The Spotlight Schools demonstrate that low-income students and schools with limited resources can show impressive academic performance. These schools know how to help all students succeed. See Billman's study of Spotlight Schools Award winners, Mission Possible, for Illinois principals' stories on how they do it.


Total Number by Year

In 2004 = 85

In 2003 = 27

Starting in 2004, criteria for Spotlight Schools have been simplified to use the composite, building-wide percentage of students meeting or exceeding state standards, resulting in more schools being eligible. In 2003, the 60% criterion applied to test scores in both reading and math at every grade tested in the school. The number of award winners in fall 2003 was also smaller because otherwise eligible schools had unclear AYP status that was not resolved until March, 2004.

School Types

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Chart showing types of schools receiving awards


Low-Income Enrollment ("Low-income" is designated by eligibility for free or reduced lunch.)

  • Ranges from 50% to 99% among the 85 schools
  • 2/3 of students qualify as low-income at more than half of the Spotlight Schools
  • "Low income" is designated by eligibility for free/reduced-price lunch.


Geographic Distribution of 85 Spotlight Schools

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Chart showing geographic distribution of schools


School Size

  • Fewer than 300 students in nearly half of the Spotlight Schools
  • The largest elementary schools, all in Chicago , range from 1330 to 1460 students.
  • Lane Technical High School is the largest secondary Spotlight School with 4214 students.

Repeat Winners

  • 19 of the 27 Spotlight Schools in 2003 are eligible for a second Spotlight award this year.
  • Reasons why 7 schools dropped off the list include drop in low enrollment students (3 schools), drop in test scores (2 schools), and reorganization to serve different grades (2 schools).

Double Winners

  • 0 schools earned both Spotlight Schools and Academic Improvement Awards.
  • 1 Schools earned both Spotlight Schools and Academic Excellence Awards.

Districts with 3 or More Spotlight Awards in 2004

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Chart showing school districts with 3 or more awards