Sent: Friday, January 17, 2003 11:37 AM
To: 'Regional Superintendents and Special Education Directors District Superintendents '
Subject: Weekly Message from Superintendent Robert Schiller 1-17-03


Good Morning


This week’s message will focus primarily on issues discussed by the State Board during its meeting in Chicago.  Topics include:



Meeting Paraprofessional Requirements


As you know from previous communications, the No Child Left Behind Act requires that paraprofessionals with teaching duties be qualified through one of three options:

Paraprofessionals who were employed after the effective date of the law (January 8, 2002) to work in a program supported by Title I funds are already required to meet these criteria; all paraprofessionals employed before January 8, 2002 and working in programs supported by Title I funds will be required to do so by January 2006.


Yesterday, the State Board adopted recommendations designed to help you and your staff meet these requirements.  These recommendations, which were developed based on feedback from districts and regional offices of education, provide both short- and long-term solutions.


For the short term, the Board endorsed the use of three options to meet the requirements.

  1. The “ParaPro” assessment developed by the Educational Testing Service (ETS), using standards or cut-scores to be established for Illinois within the next two months;
  2. A newly-developed version of the ACT “Work Keys” assessment that adds the component of the candidate’s “ability to assist in instruction” (pending State Board verification of its appropriateness); and
  3. Local assessments that meet the guidelines established by the U.S. Department of Education and adopted by the State Board of Education.

The guidelines for local assessment are provided at the end of this message and will be available on the State Board website. 


The longer-range option will allow paraprofessionals to meet the NCLB requirements by participating in a new training program based on paraprofessional standards developed by the American Federation of Teachers.  Completion of this program, which is expected to be available in community colleges across the state later this year, will result in an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree and recognition as a Paraprofessional Educator.


Once these paraprofessional options are in place (final action is scheduled for late spring), they will provide Illinois districts with maximum flexibility while still meeting the new federal requirements.  We are grateful to the many individuals and organizations that have provided feedback and comments on the development of these options.  We also appreciate the commitment of those groups, including the teacher unions, regional superintendents and community colleges, that are planning to provide mentoring classes and workshops for teacher aides to help them prepare for the paraprofessional assessment. 


Additional information about this topic and our progress to date can be found in the State Board press release at and/or the State Board meeting materials at  If you have specific questions, please call Pat Ryan at 217/782-4123.



Accountability Planning


Part of the mission of the Assessment and Accountability Task Force is to review and make recommendations regarding the state’s  accountability system.  The goal is to assure that it is comprehensive, fair, and useful, and that it meets the basic requirements of federal law.  During its meeting this week, the State Board revisited the work of the previous Designation Task Force (2000), reviewed the new federal requirements and renewed its endorsement of a “multiple-indicator comprehensive accountability system.”  Next week, the Assessment and Accountability Task Force will begin its work on developing such a system by examining the earlier work in Illinois and newer accountability models developed in other states.  We will keep you posted on the progress of these discussions.  Meanwhile, for additional information, see the State Board meeting materials at



2003 Cumulative Waiver Report Recommendations


The State Board’s annual cumulative waiver report to the General Assembly must include recommendations regarding the repeal or modification of waived mandates.  The recommendations in this year’s report, which were given final Board approval yesterday, call for amendments to the School Code to do the following:

Both of these recommendations reflect a large number of waiver requests and, if adopted, would give you increased flexibility in scheduling while honoring the intent of the original laws. 


Proposed Rulemaking


The State Board took final action yesterday on two sets of proposed rules that had been submitted for public comment.  The certification rules were amended to reflect legislative changes to the stipend and incentive payments available to NBPTS-certified teachers, changes to certificate renewal requirements and LPDC procedures, requirements for speech-language pathologists and teacher preparation institutions’ use of test results.  The certification rule changes also clarify expectations for electronically mediated professional development.  If you did not have a chance to review these rules in draft form, you may want to do so now, especially since the changes add two additional options through which teachers can earn CPDUs for certificate renewal.

The second set of rules adopted yesterday put in place a new credential that will eventually be required of all individuals who wish to serve as directors or assistant directors of special education. 


The Board also authorized distribution for public comment of proposed amendments to the bilingual education rules.  These amendments are technical revisions to implement legislation that changed the requirements for notice to parents whose children are enrolled in bilingual education program and strengthened parents’ right to have their children removed from such programs on demand.


Copies of these rules and the relevant background materials can be found at


Special note: both of the rule sets adopted this week were modified as a result of the public comment we received.  We appreciate the time and attention you give to helping us ensure clarity and appropriateness in the rules and look forward to your continued comments in the future. 





2002 Educator Supply and Demand Report


This year’s report on educator supply and demand shows the lowest growth in the educator workforce in ten years, a leveling off of teacher attrition and a continued upward trend in administrator attrition.  I encourage you to read the full report, which can be found at

 or to see the highlights in the press release at


Medicaid Testimony


Because we believe the draft guidelines for Medicaid School-Based Administrative Claims would have a significant and negative effect on Illinois school districts, we have provided testimony to the appropriate federal agency, Speaker Hastert, the members of the Illinois delegation and Secretary Paige.  I am attaching a copy of the letter at the end of this message.


To give you some perspective on the importance of this issue, Illinois districts were able to secure over $200M in reimbursement three years ago.  It is now down to $130M and under the proposed rules, it will go down to about $60M.


Middle Level Endorsement Requirements


Earlier this year, the State Board ended a two-year study of middle-level certification issues by deciding to enhance the middle level endorsement requirements rather than develop a new middle level certificate.  To secure your views on what the enhanced requirements should be, the Middle Level Advisory Panel will host an open forum on February 10, 2003 at the Bone Student Center on the campus of Illinois State University.  The discussion will last from 10:00 a.m. until noon.  If you are interested in participating in the forum and/or you wish to share your ideas in writing, please contact Dr. Deborah Curtis, chairperson for the Panel, at


Attachment A


Guidelines for Local Assessment of Paraprofessionals

(adopted by the State Board of Education)


  1. The paraprofessional assessment is expected to evaluate paraprofessional candidates at a level equivalent to the second year of college.
  2. For a paraprofessional hired after January 8, 2002, the assessment must be administered and passed before an individual is hired to work as a Title I paraprofessional.
  3. The law does not require a paper and pencil test, but there must be evidence that the assessment is valid and reliable.
  4. The assessment results must be documented (i.e., a record of the assessment and an individual’s performance on the assessment).
  5. The assessment must ensure that more than just basic skills are assessed.  The law requires that the test cover subject knowledge of reading, writing and math as well as “the ability to assist in instruction.”
  6. LEAs have flexibility in the determination of the content and format of any assessment of paraprofessionals, although the expectations cited in NCLB must be observed.  While an appropriate assessment might be entirely a written test, it alternatively could be a combination of a written test on content (reading, writing and math) and a demonstration of competence in instruction (assessed through observation via a series of rubrics).
  7. The content of the assessment should reflect both the State academic standards and skills expected for a child at a given school level (elementary, middle, or high school) as well as the ability of the candidate to assist in instructing students in the content.
  8. The assessment should be rigorous and objective; each evaluation should have a standard that the candidate is expected to meet or exceed.  These standards for evaluation must be applied to each candidate in the same manner.
  9. The results of the assessment should establish the candidate’s competence as a paraprofessional relative to the standards in Section 111 (c ) (2) (C ), or target the areas where additional training and staff development may be needed to help the candidate succeed at meeting the standard before they are hired.  The results must be documented and the LEA must retain the documentation.


LEAs that choose to develop local assessments for paraprofessionals will be expected to meet the above criteria and electronically submit an assurance statement to ISBE that all criteria have been met. 



Attachment B


                                                                                                January 10, 2003



Mr. Richard Strauss, Director

Division of Financial Management, FSQC, SMSO

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

7500 Security Boulevard, Mail Stop S3-13-15

Baltimore, Maryland  21244-1850


Dear Mr. Strauss:


This is in response to your recent release of the draft Medicaid School-Based Administrative Claiming Guide.  The changes contemplated in these guidelines will have a significant and deleterious effect on Illinois school districts and their ability to provide appropriate Medicaid outreach to the school children of their district.


Moreover, it would appear that many of these changes will apply only to the administrative claims filed by school districts.  This would be unfortunate, since the school is the best place for Medicaid outreach to occur.  By placing restrictions that apply only to schools, these changes will ultimately hurt our economically-disadvantaged students.


Illinois’ specific concerns are as follows:



Considering the harmful effects that these rules would have on our children, I respectfully request that you revise your guidelines to ensure that schools are placed on equal footing as others who are reimbursed for administrative claims.


Thank you in advance for your consideration. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at 217/782-2223.






                                                                                    Robert E. Schiller

                                                                                    State Superintendent of Education


cc:    Speaker Dennis Hastert

         Members of the Illinois Congressional Delegation

         Secretary Paige


Robert Schiller

State Superintendent

  of Education