ISBE Results for Chicago International Charter School (CICS) Shows Growth Outpacing Illinois Schools

Written by Allison Sussna and Luke McShane
02 November 2023
Posted in Spotlight

This week, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) unveiled its latest Illinois School Report Card summative designations, which are designed to help school communities better understand how well a school is serving its students. The designations are a key component of Illinois’ school accountability system and they allow networks, like CICS, to understand better our strengths, areas for growth, and performance of all public schools across Illinois.  

We are incredibly proud to share that 11 of our 13 tuition-free public charter schools - operated by Civitas Education Partners, Distinctive Schools, and ReGeneration Schools - have received “Commendable” ratings, a significant increase from 2022, demonstrating strong progress in our recovery since the pandemic. 

Join us to learn how ISBE Annual Summative Designations are vital for CICS' commitment to continuous improvement and how we've made remarkable progress toward our goals. 

Unveiling ISBE Designations: What’s At Stake? 

The ISBE school summative designations serve as a comprehensive reflection of our campus’ progress towards various educational objectives. Despite the immense challenges faced by our students, educators, and families since 2020, we see these designations as a marker of growth and steady academic recovery at CICS, and we are proud of all those in our community who helped us get here. 

The ISBE summative designation is given annually and is based on the prior year’s performance; our 2023 designations are based on each school’s performance during the 2022-2023 school year. ISBE has five annual summative designations: Exemplary, Commendable, Targeted Support, Comprehensive Support, and Intensive Support. ISBE’s policy for measuring school performance considers factors such as test score data, student growth, chronic absenteeism, and school culture. For high schools, the rating also includes factors such as graduation rate and our percentage of Freshmen who are “on track” for graduation. Targeted, Comprehensive, and Intensive Schools receive additional funding and support to build local capacity and improve student outcomes. The visual below shows you the metrics that make up each school’s designation.

Unveiling ISBE Designations: How Are Designations Processed? 

The process of assigning ISBE designations involves several steps to evaluate and assess school performance thoroughly. First, ISBE connects each student to their respective school and gathers important data about each student’s performance compared to students at other schools across the state of Illinois. Then, a School Performance Level is calculated based on how well all students perform compared to peers in each of the metrics listed above. These Indicator Scores are combined and weighted to create School Group Index Scores, also ranging from 0 to 100. The Index Score is subsequently converted into the Summative Designation by comparing and rank-ordering each campus across the state, utilizing statistically determined, relative cut scores for comparison. Finally, ISBE monitors and updates a school's Support Status to ensure they receive the necessary assistance for continuous improvement. These sequential steps are instrumental in providing a holistic assessment of a school's performance and guiding its journey toward excellence.

Raising the Bar: A Leap in Commendable Campuses

In the 2021-2022 school year, CICS had six (46%) of its thirteen campuses recognized as commendable. Fast forward to the 2022-2023 school year, and the number has jumped to eleven (85%) commendable campuses. We nearly doubled the number of schools that are Commendable and we seek to grow even further because we are committed to providing the best fit education for students in their communities. In the same year, every targeted campus in the CICS network moved its targeted subgroup to commendable status. This accomplishment speaks volumes about the focus on individual student growth, support, and the unwavering commitment of our educators. 

In the same year, all comprehensive campuses in CICS that were part of the lowest 5% of schools in Illinois made a remarkable transformation; their hard work and dedication propelled them out of that category in just one year, a testament to their commitment to excellence. 

Furthermore, ten out of the thirteen campuses, nearly 80%, surpassed the average growth observed in Illinois schools. This highlights the collective efforts of CICS students, educators, and staff to outperform the state's educational institutions. 

Leveraging Real-Time Data Systems for Continuous Improvement Across the CICS Network

CICS Schools Team, in partnership with Civitas, Distinctive, and ReGeneration Schools leaders, has built a responsive data system that provides real-time progress monitoring for the most important metrics aligned to ISBE Summative Designations. Network-wide school performance data is converted to data visualizations in a Tableau Dashboard. Network and school leaders can now utilize these real-time progress monitoring tools for ongoing analysis and school improvement efforts. Our commitment to data-driven decision-making empowers school leaders to identify targeted areas of improvement while promoting differentiated network-level support. This comprehensive and aligned data system works in service of the ambitious goals our SMOs set in support of the students, families, and communities we serve.

We've also established collaborative spaces where leaders across our diverse school models can join together to learn from one another. A pivotal part of this process includes our quarterly CICS Collective Response to Data meetings that bring together stakeholders across CICS, our SMOs, CPS, and other key partners in this important work. Working collaboratively ensures all CICS stakeholders gain a comprehensive understanding of the educational landscape and allows for a rich exchange of insights and best practices. This collective approach to data reflection brings our most important data that impacts schools front and center for all CICS leaders and further enhances decision-making centered around what is best for our students and schools.

Our Unique Model: A Closer Look

At CICS, our SMOs provide the foundation for our academic excellence and innovation, allowing us to offer diverse educational programs tailored to the needs of our communities. Our educational model stands out for its diverse approach, driven by a unique structure that revolves around three SMOs. Our achievements are rooted in a blend of academic rigor, innovative instructional methods, and our unique model that recognizes there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to educating our diverse students across our diverse city. But our true strength lies in our commitment to community, collaboration, and a network-wide approach. Through our model of partnering with other educational non-profit organizations, CICS creates a supportive ecosystem where knowledge, resources, and best practices can be shared across our campuses and networks. 

Challenges and Commitment to Improving Our Campuses 

While many campuses have experienced significant growth, we also face challenges that demand urgent action. For the campuses that didn't achieve a Commendable status in SY23, plans are already in motion to address key metrics like graduation rates, chronic absenteeism, and proficiency in ELA and Math for all students, including student sub-groups. CICS Wrightwood and CICS West Belden will also receive additional IL Empower funds over a four year cycle ending in 2027 to support growth for our diverse learners (CWD subgroup). 

Leaders across CICS and our SMOs will ensure we are “inspecting what we expect” and responding to what matters most - the student experience. 

CICS: Leading the Way

CICS’ campuses have achieved growth that outpaces many other schools in the state, with nearly 80% of them showing exceptional progress. This is a testament to our commitment to educational excellence. 

Moving forward, the CICS Schools Team is focused on maintaining this momentum and supporting improvements across the network. We will continue to work collaboratively to ensure the transformational success of all CICS students. Our SY23 ISBE designations serve as a guide on our journey toward educational excellence for all, reflecting campus growth and our collective dedication to academic achievement. Moving forward, our SMOs and campuses will collaboratively implement strategic, responsive, and students-first approaches to address targeted areas, ensuring our work toward our SY24 ISBE designations propels us toward a brighter, more promising educational landscape, offering a world-class education for our students today and into the future.


Allison Hansen Sussna is CICS' Chief of Schools, Dr. Sussna's primary responsibility, in partnership with academic leaders across CICS,  is to ensure significant student achievement is gained across our diverse portfolio.

Allison has spent her career building academic systems that promote equity and maintain a laser focus on the instructional core, ensuring all students have access to a rigorous, high-quality education. She previously served as the Principal Officer of Donald J. Marquez K-8 Charter School located in Brighton Park. Before this position, Dr. Hansen partnered with Washington, D.C. Public Schools where she was a member of the Principal Effectiveness Team and analyzed, trained, supported, and retained excellent school leaders.


Luke McShane is CICS' Managing Director of Teaching and Learning. Luke leads continuous improvement processes to support school performance across CICS' diverse portfolio of 13 campuses. Utilizing data, progress monitoring, and customized learning experiences, he authentically engages with leaders to ensure equitable student outcomes. 

Luke holds a Bachelor's in Chemistry, a Master’s in Educational Leadership from the University of Illinois, and a National Board Certification in High School Chemistry Teaching. As a school leader, he has navigated charter renewal and successfully exited multiple schools from remediation by achieving transformational academic outcomes. 

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