From:                     STATE SUPERINTENDENT

Sent:                      Friday, September 20, 2002 5:18 PM

To:                         'District Superintendents, ROEs, Directors of Special Education'

Subject:                 Weekly Message from State Superintendent Robert Schiller  9/20/02

Good afternoon.  It was great to have the chance to see and meet so many superintendents this week at the Annual Superintendent’s conference in Springfield.  Those of you who were not there can view excerpts from my remarks by going to Speech Excerpts.


The agenda for the State Board’s meeting on Wednesday and Thursday addressed several substantive items with significant impact on local school districts.  I have outlined most of them below, but elected to use links to send you to the actual documents rather than try to include them in this message.  If you have problems accessing the documents through the links, you might first select a different web browser and try again.  If problems persist, contact Public Information at 217/782-4648 for assistance.


In today’s message:

§ Research shows teaching Standards yields higher achievement

§ External reviewer says ISAT technically reliable, valid

§ Board defines “highly qualified” teacher, expectations for SES providers

§ Board offers opportunities for feedback on budget, assessment/accountability

§ State Board explores school improvement success stories with new agenda item

§ Board approves Title II Institutional Report Card, fall Waiver Report




Research Shows Teaching Standards Yields Higher Achievement

Students score higher on state tests in schools that are farthest along in implementing the Illinois Learning Standards.


That may appear to be conventional wisdom, but the State Board of Education today received a research study that, for the first time, documents the connection between Standards implementation and student achievement.  This may be the first study in the country to document the correlation between standards implementation and test results, powerful information for schools that are trying to improve student achievement.


University of Illinois researchers Lizanne DeStefano and Nona Prestine conducted the research study, “Evaluation of the Implementation of Illinois Learning Standards, Year Four Report.  The State Board has commissioned the studies for the last four years to gauge the progress of schools in implementing the Illinois Learning Standards that were adopted in 1997.  The entire study is available at Standards Implementation Study.


The researchers found that students in schools with higher overall ILS implementation levels scored higher in grade 3 reading and grades 5 and 8 mathematics.  Schools with higher district and school infrastructure supportive of the ILS were found to have greater numbers of students meeting or exceeding Standards in grade 3 reading and grade 5 writing.  While greater professional development was found to be associated with lower performance in grade 5 writing, the researchers theorize that schools with lower-scoring students used professional development to try to raise scores.


The evaluation also showed that there is greater belief among local educators that the Standards are “here to stay,” and greater buy-in for the concept of standards-led teaching and learning.  Local educators particularly emphasized their belief that the ILS provide a means for assuring a more equitable education for all students “by asserting that schools are accountable for certain levels of content mastery for all their students.”


Four Effects of Standards Implementation

The most frequently mentioned effect of ILS-implementation efforts was that the Standards have brought a new focus and clarity to school improvement efforts.   The report noted that “this focus is critical as it promotes serious systemic alignment, and helps to bring all elements of schooling into a cohesive, comprehensible, connected whole.”  The researchers also noted that the Illinois Learning Standards have “allowed the focus of improvement efforts to move to instructional issues, rather than the plethora of detractors that can undermine change.”


ILS implementation has also brought more meaningful involvement and engagement of teachers’ and administrators’ work toward the goal of student learning.  As teams of educators worked to align curriculum with the ILS, they developed a greater understanding of the “big picture” of student learning and a stronger commitment to shared goals, the reported stated.


Respondents also noted that ILS implementation is associated with a growing acceptance and understanding of standards-based reform.  Resistance to the ILS was found to be low among educators with a general acceptance and appreciation of the ILS. Educators also reported that the Illinois Learning Standards provide a means of assuring a more equitable education for all students.




External reviewer says ISAT technically reliable, valid

Earlier this year, the State Board of Education commissioned an independent evaluation of the technical soundness of the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT). The study, “Independent Assessment of the Technical Characteristics of the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT)” performed by John Wick, a professor emeritus of education at Northwestern University.  Below is an executive summary of the report, its findings, and recommendations.  The entire document, available on line at ISAT Technical Evaluation, will be a resource for the Task Force on Assessment and Accountability that begins its work on September 23.


The audit contained in the report concludes that ISAT is technically sound, meeting the 1999 Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing of the American Psychological Association.  Specifically:


q ISAT is valid.  (The test measures the skills and knowledge it purports to measure.)

q ISAT is reliable.  (Similar levels of performance on the test produce consistent scores over time.)

q ISAT equates well.   (Scores are comparable from year to year.)

q ISAT is appropriate for all levels of student performance.  (It avoids “floor” and “ceiling” effects.)


This report compared ISAT with the widely accepted Stanford Achievement Test, 9th Edition (SAT-9).  The validity and reliability of ISAT match or exceed those of the Stanford Achievement Test.


The data produced by ISAT present a potentially rich source of guidance for school administrators and policy-makers.  To make this advantage fully available, the reporting and analysis of scores for ISAT should be improved.  This report outlines proposals for improvements to ISAT score reporting.


Technical Soundness of ISAT.  This report provides an independent audit of the ISAT statistics and psychometrics for the 1999 and 2001 testing.  The analysis was based on the original student scanned item-strings.  Using the keys, scales, and test booklets provided by ISBE, the data were re-analyzed, from the beginning.  Two questions are answered in the first three chapters:


q  Are the statistical and psychometric data provided by ISBE accurate?


q  Is the quality of the ISAT similar to well-known, norm-referenced, and commercially-available published test?


The answer to both questions is affirmative. 


q  No marked deviation was found from the data reported in the Technical Manual for 1999 and 2001, as provided by the Illinois State Board of Education, Standards and Assessment Division.


q  From the perspective of overall test statistics (mean percent correct, availability of floor and ceiling, overall reliabilities, inter-correlations of tests) and item quality (point biserial correlation coefficients), the ISAT tests must be deemed at least as good, and in places superior to, the SAT-9.


Proposed Improvements to Score Reporting.  Appendices A and B analyze how the data are reported back to the schools.  Here the conclusions are considerably more critical.  The points made in the appendices are:


q  The primary scale used by ISBE to report (number of students in each of the four categories Academic Warning, Below Standards, Meets Standards, Exceeds Standards) provides good validity information against the background of the Illinois Standards.  Cut points were set for those categories by the extensive studies done in 1998-1999. 

q  While required by the No Child Left Behind Act, that information is more properly used as diagnostic feedback than as the testing system’s primary scale.

q  A primary scale—a continuous scale spanning—should be used as well, followed by reporting on the diagnostic categories.


In Appendix B, the usefulness of the state’s “standards sets” was reviewed.  Reading has six such sets, math has eight, and both science and social science have five.  Since these standard sets are inherently highly correlated, suggestions are made for some alternate feedback methods.  These feedback systems were based on types of errors students actually make rather than types of items tested. 


ISAT Benefits for Policy-Makers.  The ISAT data contain a wealth of information potentially useful for Illinois policy-makers.  To take advantage of this information, the state should issue each student a unique student ID number.


If the entire IGAP/ISAT data set were used, some very important policy questions could be answered.  Here is just the beginning of questions which could be answered:


q  What is the impact of changing buildings at each level (versus staying in the same building)?  How does this vary over initial performance levels and enrollment?

q  What is the impact of changing from a small school to a larger one?  From a small to one three times as large?  Five times as large? 

q  What are trends in improvement as a function of building size?  Most of these “size” studies have been done on the basis of Status measures.  With those two groups (PSAE test takers of 2001 and 2002) having been previously tested in 3rd, 4th, 6th, and 8th, there is substantial information available to answer this always-vexing school size question.

q  What are the performance characteristics of students who move out of Cook County?  Are they the “high flyers”?  How far do they migrate?  What proportion stays in the state? 

q  Are students who are moving from the southern regions of Illinois going out of state, to the next community, to the state’s center, or north of Interstate 80?

Speculation about these issues makes little sense when the data set exists that can provide answers.  The data set includes a lot of good information and it should be “mined.”




Board defines “highly qualified” teacher, criteria for SES providers

All Illinois teachers – some sooner than most –  must meet the definition of a highly qualified teacher approved by the State Board of Education on September 19, as part of its responsibilities in implementing the federal No Child Left Behind Act.


The initial impact is on teachers newly hired this school year to work in programs supported by federal Title I funds.  They must meet the definition immediately, while all other existing public school teachers in any of the core curriculum areas would have until the end of 2005-2006 school year to comply.  The core areas are English/language arts, mathematics, science, civics, government, economics, history, geography, foreign language and fine arts,


Generally, an Illinois teacher would be “highly qualified” if the individual meets all the certification criteria for early childhood, elementary or secondary or special (or special pre-K through age 21) certificate; and holds the certificate(s), and is teaching in the corresponding subject(s) and grade level(s).  Under NCLB, states must establish specific qualifications that are consistent with the federal definition.


There are three notable exceptions to the highly qualified definition – it does not apply to individuals who hold a Type 29 transitional bilingual education certificate; a type 39 substitute teacher certificate; or a provisional Illinois certificate for teachers who are licensed in another state and want to teach in Illinois.


To address the Type 29 issue, ISBE will have to seek legislation to

ü make the Type 29 valid for four years with a possible two-year extension;

ü require persons seeking the certificate to pass the language proficiency and basic skills test;

ü require that, after two years, the individuals must be enrolled in and making progress toward full certification in an approved teacher education program;

ü require the individuals, at the end of four years, to pass the content area test and the new Assessment of Professional Teaching which goes into effect in 2003;

ü allow individuals who fail those tests to continue teaching for an additional two years as long as they are making progress in an approved program.


Individuals who hold the Type 39 Substitute certificate could only be highly qualified if they also hold a valid early childhood, elementary, secondary or special certificate and are teaching in the appropriate grade level(s) and subject matter(s).


To become highly qualified, individuals who are licensed in another state and hold a provisional Illinois certificate must follow current procedures – do whatever necessary to meet the requirements for a comparable Illinois certificate and pass any applicable teaching exams


For the specific details of the highly qualified definition and also new parent notification requirements at

Highly Qualified Teacher .


In a separate motion, Board members also adopted criteria for approving Supplemental Educational Services (SES) providers that will serve students in Title I schools that have failed to make adequate yearly progress for three consecutive years. 


The criteria will be used to solicit proposals and create a list of approved providers that will that will provide tutoring, before- and after-school programs and other academic support outside the school day to low-performing students.  Parents whose children are eligible for SES will use that list to select both the academic services they want for their children and the entity that will provide them.


School districts must notify parents about what supplemental education services are available and who is eligible to provide them, as well as a brief description of the services, qualifications, and demonstrated effectiveness of each provider.  Parents should get the information from the district at least annually in a language and format they can understand.  After parents choose the services and provider they want, the school district enters into a contract with the provider.  Parents must then work with the district and provider to identify specific goals and a timetable for improving student achievement, and how progress will be measured.


During their discussion, Board members raised a concern about the cost of SES programs and the financial burden it might place on districts even though they can use a portion of their Title I dollars to pay for SES.   They called for staff to build in some kind of assurance that the cost of the supplemental services will be relatively uniform across the state and, if necessary, even capped to protect school districts from additional financial burdens.


The current timetable calls for the State Board to approve a providers list in November so that SES can begin in early 2003.  More information and the final criteria can be found on line at SES Provider Criteria.




Board offers opportunities for feedback on budget, assessment/accountability

The State Board has scheduled public hearings on assessment/accountability and budget recommendations for FY04.  The hearing schedules are below.


September 23Task Force:  Springfield, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. Alzina Building, 100 North First Street, Board

          Room, 4th floor.


September 24 – Task Force and Budget: Wheaton, DuPage Regional Office of Education, DuPage

                                                                                    Government Complex, 421 North County Farm Road.

                        Task Force:      6 p.m. – 8 p.m. in ROE Library, 2nd floor

                        Budget:             4 p.m. – 6 p.m. in ROE Library, 2nd floor


October 1 – Task Force:  Mt. Vernon, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m., K-3 Primary Center, 401 North 30th Street.


October 17 – Budget: Collinsville, 1 p.m.- 2 p.m., Collinsville Holiday Inn, 1 Gateway Drive.


October 25 – Budget:  Chicago, 9 a.m. – 10 p.m., James R. Thompson Center, 100 West Randolph,

         ISBE Conference Room, 14th floor.




State Board explores school improvement success stories with new agenda

Representatives of Quincy School District 172’s Irving Elementary School joined in a dialogue with State Board members about successful school improvement strategies they have used to increase student achievement. 


A “School District Showcase and Dialogue” will be the regular first item on the Board’s monthly meeting agenda.  As the State Board addresses the challenge of how best to support local districts so that all Illinois students receive the best education possible, there is no better place to look for ideas and answers than in the communities whose children are learning.


The Board’s two-way dialogue with people who have taken significant steps that help students meet and exceed the Illinois Learning Standards allow those local educators to open the door for state level policy discussions about how their methods might be broadly adapted.


Irving Elementary has faced tough challenges in its efforts to improve achievement.  The 2001 school report card shows the district with a poverty rate of 84 per cent.  According to the school’s principal, Carol Frericks, this year’s report card will show a rate of 88 per cent.  Frericks, who is beginning her fourth year as principal, says staff and administrators have worked diligently for the past three years to reach this level of success:  “We based our focus on a systems approach.  By that I mean we looked at the families and students needs and began there.  Our entire philosophy is based on doing whatever it takes to meet the needs of the kids.”


She also attributes the school’s success to the fact that their staff development model and school improvement plan are based on a needs assessment approach that is data driven.  When she talks about assessment and data she is quick to point out, “I am not just talking about IGAP and ISAT results.  We set these kids up for success and every part of the system was engaged.  We knew that by the time these kids reached third grade their scores on ISAT were going to be good.”


Carol Mickle, the district’s Assistant Superintendent of Instruction, adds, “Yes, we have made a tremendous amount of change in three years and we made a lot of tough decisions along the way.  We also recognize that without the extra state and federal funding we received through the Reading Excellence Act grant and the Summer Bridges grant, we would not have been able to reach that goal.” 


Joining Mickle and Frericks for Wednesday’s dialogue will be District Superintendent Joe Bocke, District 172 Board President Herb Jackson, and teachers Rose Platt and Christie Dickens, who also serve as Reading Demonstration Coaches who coach teachers in ways to develop and improve reading skills.




In other action, the Board approves Title II Institutional Report Card, fall Waiver Report


Teacher pass rates remain high, certificate waivers up in 2000.  Students in Illinois’ poorest school districts continue to be taught by a disproportionate number of teachers who have been waived from fully meeting state certification requirements, according to a report to the U.S. Department of Education that covers 2000-2001 school year data.


Illinois’ draft 2002 Title II Report Card on Teacher Preparation, a requirement of federal law, shows that the percentage of teachers with provisional and emergency certificates who were teaching in high-poverty schools increased from 5.4% in 1999 to 6.5% in 2000.  In non-high-poverty schools, the percentage grew from 1.2% to 1.5% during that same year.  For more information, go to Title II Report Card.


State Board forwards fall Waiver Report to legislature

The State Board of Education today forwarded the fall Waiver Report to the General Assembly with 33 requests, including two that the Board recommend be denied and one that would be limited to only two years instead of five.  For specific information, click on Waiver Report.



Robert Schiller

State Superintendent

 of Education