- Associated Press - Thursday, October 16, 2014

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - The Illinois State Board of Education released statistics showing that more than half of public school students in the state are considered low-income, and for the first time, less than half of public school students are white.

The agency said Wednesday that the state’s white public school student population has dropped to 49.9 percent, while its Hispanic population has grown to 24.6 percent. It also said 51.5 percent of all Illinois public school students are considered low-income.

The state board will release its annual report card later this month. It will include the usual test scores and demographics, as well as a dozen new categories of data about Illinois public schools, according to officials.

“These improvements allow for more informed … discussions about individual school improvement efforts and each school’s capacity to equip students with the knowledge and skills necessary to meet the challenges of higher education and a competitive, global marketplace,” State Superintendent Christopher Koch said in a press release.

The new metrics, including principal retention, college readiness and current college enrollment, aim to give parents and members of the community a better understanding of how the state analyzes the numbers.

“We say we’re making students college-ready. Now they’ll be able to see how many students went to college at least,” board chairman Gery Chico said.

Illinois will now provide the kind of information that some schools have paid private services to track, according to a state researcher. This includes freshman on-track rate, which is considered to be the most accurate indicator of a student’s potential to graduate. The rate analyzes how many students pass their freshmen year with five full-year course credits and no more than one failing grade.

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