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First-of-its-Kind Chamber Report Details Business Community Perceptions of Springfield Public School

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May 16, 2016
After 11 months of research and evaluation conducted at the request of Superintendent Jennifer Gill, tonight The Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce delivered a report to the Board of Education of Springfield District 186 detailing the business community’s perceptions of the District and its test of the validity of those perceptions.

The school system and the business community have a vested interest in each other’s success. Schools benefit from community partnerships, and today’s students become tomorrow’s pipeline of local workforce talent. Existing and prospective businesses need a strong community in order to recruit and retain employees – and a strong school system is the backbone.

Understanding this unique relationship, in the spring of 2015, Superintendent Gill asked The Chamber to survey the business community to better understand the perceptions around the K-12 public school system. With approval from its Strategic Leadership Council, The Chamber allocated funds from the Q5 initiative to hire a professional market research firm to conduct the survey in June 2015. Once the perceptions survey was completed, in keeping with Gill’s request, The Chamber engaged a task force of local business leaders, led by an outside consultant, to evaluate the data and stories behind the perceptions and test how they align with reality.

After months of information gathering and study, The Chamber’s final report focused on four key areas of interest to the business community: staff evaluation, student achievement, facilities and finances. In each area, the report details the perceptions of the business community, how the perceptions were evaluated, and the conclusions drawn by the task force.

“We found this process to be incredibly informative, and we are eager to now share what we’ve learned with the community,” said Chamber President and CEO, Chris Hembrough. “This report provides a solid foundation for community members to gain a better, more accurate understanding of the Springfield public education system.”

A top-level summary of the perceptions and task force conclusions is as follows. Please refer to the full report by clicking here for greater detail.

  • Staff Evaluation: Survey respondents had positive opinions about teachers, but had concerns regarding the teacher evaluation process.
​Conclusion: The task force concluded that District 186 currently utilizes an in-depth, rigorous evaluation process that is consistent with the principles used by many businesses and corporations today.
  • Student Achievement: Survey respondents felt the District had adequate core courses, but had concerns regarding elective opportunities and were unsure if students were prepared to graduate with workforce or college readiness.
Conclusion: The task force concluded that District 186 provides a quality education, including a substantial number of advanced placement and dual credit courses, providing the kind of rigor that helps prepare students for both college and the workforce. The task force concluded that the top 25% of District 186 ACT scores compared favorably with suburban Sangamon County schools and private schools.
  • Facilities: A majority of respondents had concerns about school facilities, but were unsure how this impacted student learning.
Conclusion: The task force concluded that highly efficient facilities create spaces to conduct 21st century learning practices, which can enhance student learning and employee satisfaction. They encouraged the District to consider a comprehensive facilities study.
  • Finances: Survey respondents did not think the District is adequately funded, and a little more than half were unsure if funds are spent wisely.
Conclusion: The task force reviewed District finances in three areas – revenue, expenses and fund balances – and found that the District financial data compares consistently with other Central Illinois urban school districts. In fact, over the last three school years the District has not only used its resources efficiently and wisely, eliminating deficit spending, it is making strides to increase its fund balance to a minimum level of 15% of annual revenues as recommended by ISBE.
The Chamber’s full and final report is available by clicking here.  

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