Illinois Honor Roll

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2005 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, 316 Spotlight Schools earned honors in 2005. 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 2005 = 316

In 2004 = 85

In 2003 = 27

In 2005, rules for the Illinois Honor Roll simplified criteria for Spotlight Schools to focus more on achievement in the award year, which is 2005 in this case.  The rules still require that 60% of students meet or exceed standards in reading and mathematics, based on the composite, building-wide scores.  Starting in 2005, schools can qualify for this award if at least 50% of students passed the state tests in the prior year, rather than 60%.  Another continuing criterion is that 50% of students are low-income; that is, they qualify for free and reduced lunch.  This requirement applies only to the award year, not to prior years.  All schools made Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) in 2003-5.

Nearly 80 schools that enrolled fewer than 50% low income students in 2004 constituted the largest source of increase in the number of Spotlight Schools. Two other factors may also have contributed. Effective in 2005, the State Board lowered the cut-score for meeting standards in 8th grade mathematics. Since only 22% of the Spotlight Schools included 8th grade, the change in the cut-score did not make a major difference. Another and possibly more important source of the increase is good old-fashioned hard work by students, teachers, and parents in high poverty schools. They earned this award.

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 98% among the 316 schools
  • In 106 schools (34%), more than 2/3 of students qualify as low-income
  • "Low-income" is designated by eligibility for free/reduced-price lunch.


Geographic Distribution of 316 Spotlight Schools

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Chart showing geographic distribution of schools


School Size

  • Fewer than 300 students in 60% of the Spotlight Schools
  • The largest elementary schools, all in Chicago, enroll 1271 to 1488 students.

Repeat Winners

  • 50 of the 85 Spotlight Schools in 2004 are eligible for a third Spotlight award this year.
  • 15 schools are winning a fourth Spotlight School award.

Double Winners

  • 38 schools earned both Spotlight Schools and Academic Improvement Awards.
  • 2 Schools earned both Spotlight Schools and Academic Excellence Awards.

Districts with 3 or More Spotlight Awards in 2005

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Chart showing school districts with 3 or more awards