Sent: Friday, October 03, 2003 4:17 PM
To: Regional Superintendents and Special Education Directors District Superintendents
Subject: Weekly Message from State Superintendent Robert Schiller 10-03-03
Good afternoon,


NCLB has caused a great many questions as it pertains to several subgroups, including students with disabilities. During my recent round of meetings with Superintendents, many of you have been asking good questions about how students with disabilities taking the Alternate Assessment will be counted for purposes of Adequate Yearly Progress.  While the U.S. Department of Education is working on finalizing the rules regarding alternate assessment and AYP, certain aspects have been determined.  On June 27, 2003, Secretary of Education Rod Paige sent a letter indicating an interim plan for transition in calculating AYP.  This letter may be found at: and, in part, states that:


To calculate AYP for schools and districts a State may use alternate achievement standards for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities who take an alternate assessment. Those alternate achievement standards must be aligned with State academic content standards and reflect professional judgment of the highest learning standards possible for those students. Moreover, in order to calculate AYP, the percentage of students held to alternate achievement standards at the district and the State levels may not exceed 1.0 percent of all students in the grades assessed. For assessment data from the 2002-03 school year, States may determine which students have the most significant cognitive disabilities. This is the same transition policy that was communicated to States through the State accountability system approval process.


Many questions have arisen as a result of this letter and proposed rules from the U.S. Department of Education. My staff has been in regular contact with the U.S. Department of Education, other states, the National Center for Education Outcomes, and other national organizations to address many complex issues which have arisen as a result of the proposed rules and letter. 


The Illinois Alternate Assessment is a way to measure the performance of students with disabilities who are unable to participate in general large-scale assessments used by districts or the state, even with accommodations. In Illinois, the Alternate Performance Indicators (APIs) developed for the alternate assessment have been accepted by the U.S. Department of Education for the interim.


Alternate assessments are designed for a small number of students.  Most students should be taking the general state or district-wide assessment with accommodations, as needed.  Although the alternate assessment provides a good way to demonstrate learning for students with the most significant disabilities, most students will benefit more from access to the general assessment. 


The decision on who can participate in alternate assessments should remain with the IEP team in making individualized decisions, and should be made according to the ISBE guidelines.  The federal transitional policy and proposed rules indicate that an Alternative Assessment should be given to only students with the most significant cognitive disabilities. 


Please review carefully the ISBE guidelines that are to be used by the IEP teams in determining how students with disabilities are to participate in the assessment system. 

Those may be found at


The proposed NCLB regulations impose no explicit limit on the percentage of students who can participate in alternate assessments, but the proposal does limit to 1% the proportion of students who can be counted as proficient in Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) calculations based on alternate achievement standards.


All schools are required to be judged under AYP but a cooperative school that is not receiving Title I funds would not be subject to Federal requirements.  The proposed rules set the number of students with disabilities who may be included in accountability measures using alternate achievement standards at not more than 1 percent of all students assessed in a State or LEA.  For accountability purposes, the performance of all other students with disabilities (including any other students with disabilities who take an alternate assessment) must be assessed against the grade level academic achievement standards. 


These proposed rules raise many issues for states and districts particularly when weighed against our state’s new assessment legislation.  The issue regarding score reporting to special education cooperatives and private schools, for example, are under review. 


Once again, the determination of IEP Team is critical in ensuring that students are receiving an appropriate education.  Principals and local administrators who would like to learn more about the alternate assessment can consult the National Center for Education Outcomes at  We will continue to pursue direction from OSEP regarding the proposed regulations and will be exploring the waiver provision for districts in those proposed rules.  As soon as final rules are issued, we will provide more specific guidance to you. 


Also included in today’s message:


  1. State Board October meeting in Rock Island
  2. Pooled Warrant Program Announced
  3. NCLB Appeals Advisory Committee Meeting Set
  4. Receipts=Educator’s Deduction
  5. Newsclips


State Board October meeting in Rock Island; reception planned

Each year, the State Board tries to hold at least one of its meetings some place other than Springfield or Chicago. The visits give educators and citizens around the state in the regions we visit a chance to meet members of the Board.  This month, the Board’s meeting will be held October 22-23 in the Rock Island High School library and is tentatively scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. on Oct. 22nd and at 9:00 a.m. on the 23rd.  For details and agenda please watch the ISBE website prior to the meeting.


For those of you in nearby districts, the Rock Island School District and the Regional Office of Education will host a reception for the Board from 5 to 7 p.m. on Wednesday the 22nd to which all are invited. In addition, the board is planning a breakfast meeting on Thursday the 23rd with Regional Superintendents in the area. We will communicate further details of these events to you soon, but if you know now that you can attend either one, please call my assistant, Nicole Gales, at (217) 782-7497, and let her know.


Pooled Warrant Program

Applications for the Pooled Warrant Program (PWP) for Illinois School Districts operated by the Illinois Rural Bond Bank (IRBB) are now available at under “programs.”  The deadline for applications is October 31, 2003.


This program “pools” the needs of multiple school districts into one bond issue resulting in reduced fees and lower financing rates.  Bonds issued by the IRBB are also exempt from state and federal taxes.  The Bond Bank has successfully administered pooled lending programs since it was created in 1990, providing more than $250,000,000 to 250 local governments throughout the state. 


This program is aimed specifically to school districts needing short-term borrowing solutions.  IRBB anticipates an all-inclusive rate of 2% or less.  The Pooled Warrant Program will be offered twice each year, one in fall/winter (December) and one in the spring/summer (June).  The timeline for the December issue is as follows:


            October 31:                  Application Due

            Oct. 31 – Nov. 26:       School Districts Adopt Authorizing Resolutions

            Dec. 9:                         IRBB Sale of Tax Anticipation Warrants

            Dec. 17:                       Issue Closes

            Dec. 18:                       Funds distributed to School Districts


If you have any questions regarding the Pooled Warrant Program or need assistance in completing the application or worksheet, please call (800) 897-6306. 


NCLB Appeals Advisory Committee Meeting Set


The Appeals Advisory Committee, created by Public Act 93-470 (SB 878 of 2003), will meet again on October 9, 2003.  They are scheduled to discuss appeals on behalf of three school districts that day.  Three additional districts have filed appeals and will be heard later in October by the Committee.


Receipts=Educators’ Deduction

Please remember that teachers and other educators should save their receipts for purchases of books and classroom supplies.  These out-of-pocket expenses may lower their 2003 taxes.


The deduction is available to eligible educators in public or private elementary or secondary schools.  To be eligible, a person must work at least 900 hours during a school year as a teacher, instructor, counselor, principal or aide.


Taxpayers may subtract up to $250 of qualified expenses when figuring their adjusted gross income (AGI) for 2003.  This deduction is available whether or not the taxpayer itemizes deductions on Schedule A.


The IRS suggests that educators keep records of qualifying expenses in a folder or envelope with a label such as “Educator Expenses Deduction,” noting the date, amount and purpose of each purchase.  This will help prevent a missed deduction at tax time.


This is scheduled to be the last year for this deduction.  Last year’s Job Creation and Worker Assistance Act put it in place for 2002 and 2003 only.


For more information, call the IRS Tele-Tax system toll-free at 1-800-829-4477 and select Topic 458.  Or go to the IRS website at and use its search engine to find Tax Topic 458.





Robert Schiller

State Superintendent

  of Education