Sent: Friday, October 31, 2003 4:25 PM
To:Regional Superintendents and Special Education Directors District Superintendents
Subject: Weekly Message from State Superintendent Robert Schiller 10-31-03

Good afternoon,

In this week’s message I need to share with you the status on this year’s Report Cards. First, we expect to provide you with access to your School Report Card information next week via a secured website. Since you will not be receiving the Report Card this week, ISBE will not be enforcing the October 31 mandated deadline this year.

I want to emphasize that our priority throughout this process has been to insure the accuracy of the data released. Given the high stakes for school and district accountability, accuracy is of primary importance. I am grateful for your understanding and support regarding the need for accuracy, and know that it is important that you have sufficient time to share your Report Card data with the public prior to state publication.

As you may remember from previous messages, ISBE has in the past months been migrating to a new “e-report card” whose aim is to provide a faster, more efficient, integrated electronic system of gathering and reporting the annual data. We believe there will be great long-term benefit from this new system that replaces a cumbersome paper process with online data collection, calculation and publication. Further, we envision that this integrated database will eventually be able to correlate with various other educational databases – which should result in eliminating multiple and redundant data collections.

Several factors entered into this year’s report compilation. As you know, the process was done in-house in past years. This year it was outsourced as part of a larger “data warehouse” initiative that applies better technology for data management. The agency efforts also include development of the e-grant management system and student identifier system.

The Report Card relies on a variety of separate databases: the Fall Housing Report, the Teacher Service Record, annual financial data, and state testing data, to name a few. As with all complicated data projects, the initial transfer of multiple databases to a single system, along with coding for various interrelated calculations, has multiple design and testing steps. Until all data is final and complete, a full test run of the Report Card system could not occur.

Additionally, this year was the first time that additional data entry related to student subgroup data. This was specified by NCLB which also required desegregation of data. The database, therefore, required a new and expanded design. The new coding system also posed problems for some districts, as a result of the added requirements.

I encourage you to review the data as soon as possible. ISBE also provides the same information to the media and will make all the Report Card data public 30 days after you receive it. As always, you should release your own information between the time of receipt and the end of the embargo period.

Again, thank you for your support and understanding in this year’s process. Please extend my appreciation to all who worked diligently to review and provide necessary information. I hope this information will assist you in communicating with your parents and staff.

Also included in today’s message:

  • Statewide Clean School Bus Program Begins
  • Invitation to Comment on Rules
  • Release of State Assessment Pools
  • Title I Comparability Report Reminder
  • Update on Competitive Grant for Schools
  • Illinois Art Council Showcase
  • Newsclips

Statewide Clean School Bus Program Begins

Governor Blagojevich recently announced the kick-off of his “Illinois Clean School Bus Program” to significantly reduce emissions from existing diesel-powered school buses.

The program includes providing assistance to Illinois school districts in replacing existing buses with cleaner models, retrofitting existing buses with advanced emission control technologies and implementing cleaner fuels.

The Illinois State Board of Education is partnering with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) and the Governor’s office to promote the program to Illinois school districts. Implementation of the program will be provided by the IEPA.

Options available include installing after-market retrofits such as oxidation catalysts or particulate filters; replacing existing diesel fuel with cleaner burning fuels such as ultra-low sulfur diesel (ULSD) or 20 percent biodiesel; and utilizing clean diesel technology, including engines that can meet the more stringent emission standards set for 2007 or natural gas and propane powered engines.

The IEPA will also work with school district personnel and commercial school bus contractors to provide resources on the potential health and environmental impacts and to reduce or eliminate unnecessary idling of school buses.

Funding for the program has been initially provided by a supplemental environmental project, under terms of an Illinois enforcement case. This initial funding is restricted to twenty-four counties in the state (a map is available at

For additional information on the Illinois Clean School Bus Program contact the Illinois IEPA at 217-524-4947.

Invitation to Comment on Rules

At its October meeting, the State Board of Education released two sets of proposed amendments for public comment. These rulemaking items have been posted on the agency’s web site at; choose “Proposed Rules and Amendments.” Please submit any comments or suggestions you may have to

Part 27 (Standards for Certification in Specific Teaching Fields)

This rulemaking will remove a provision from Part 27 that was inappropriately included in the standards for Technology Education Teachers when these rules were originally promulgated. The language being struck (Section 27.460(k)) describes inputs rather than competencies and thus is inconsistent with a standards-based approach. Further, there is concern in the technology education field that the requirement for 2000 hours of work experience (see Section 27.460(k)(2) on the last page of the rules) blurs the distinction between certification in vocational areas or trades that is based on work experience with certification to teach exploratory technology education programs. Representatives of approved technology education programs have also indicated that this standard is incompatible with the NCATE standards to which the programs must conform. As such they indicate that its inclusion places their institutions in an untenable position. Subsection (k) of the rule should be deleted so that it will not be a factor in the review of these approved programs.

It should be noted that this set of standards is for a specific credential – Technology Education Teacher – as distinct from the technology standards that are applicable to all teachers and are found in Part 24 of ISBE’s rules (Standards for All Illinois Teachers). The individuals affected are teachers of exploratory technology courses.
Deadline for Public Comment:      December 22, 2003

Part 120 (Pupil Transportation Reimbursement)

This rule has been developed in response to a problem revealed through a district’s application for a modification of an existing rule on pupil transportation reimbursement through the waiver process established under Section 2-3.25g of the School Code. The rule that was the subject of the request is similar to the requirement for districts that own and operate their own transportation services to prorate their total transportation costs across all categories of transportation services, based on the ratio of miles traveled in each category to total system miles (Section 120.90(d) of the rules). The same approach is used when a district chooses one contractor to provide all of its transportation services and expressed in Section 120.90(e).

Earlier this year, Oak Park District 97 petitioned to be allowed to treat each category of transportation services separately for the purposes of calculating its reimbursement, even though the district employs only one contractor to provide both regular and special education transportation. The district requested that the types of transportation be kept separate because separate, competitive bidding had occurred for each type. That is, there were two separate contracts, but the procurement process had resulted in issuance of both to the same contractor because that entity submitted the low bid in each case.

Agency staff understood that using the pro-ration mechanism provided in the rules would reduce the district’s annual transportation reimbursement from the State by more than $60,000 (because the higher rate of reimbursement for special education transportation would be “diluted” by combining the two categories). Nevertheless, waiving that requirement could not result in meeting the intent of the rule (cost containment) more effectively or efficiently, a criterion for approval of the request. Other factors related to the effect on other districts also played a part in the agency’s denial of the request.

This is not to say that the Board and the staff did not accept the premise behind the district’s request. It was agreed that the agency should explore a revision to the rule to accommodate the situation that had been brought to light. The amendment presented here delineates the ability to treat categories separately even when there is a single contractor, provided that each contract is let based on the lowest bid among at least two. It is hoped that this provision will resolve the issue faced by Oak Park for that district and potentially for others, without creating unintended incentives that would compromise cost containment.
Deadline for Public Comment:      December 22, 2003

Release of State Assessment Sample Item Pools

Sample ISBE-developed reading, mathematics, science, and social science test items from past ISAT, PSAE, and IMAGE tests are now available to schools and districts. These item pools contain valid and reliable items from previous ISAT and IMAGE test administrations and the ISBE-developed portions of the PSAE. Teachers can select items from these pools to help construct formative, on-going assessments to check for student understanding using the same types of items that are administered on the state assessments. ROEs, ISCs, districts, and schools throughout Illinois may make additional copies of these materials as needed.

You may access these items by going to the ISBE assessment Web site at and clicking on “State Assessment Sample Item Pools.” The test-development software and item pools can be downloaded in either Windows or Macintosh versions. Be sure to read the instructions in the file called READ ME first so you will know how to install the item pools.

You may also access these item pools by using the State Assessment Sample Item Pool CD-ROMs which are scheduled to be sent in November 2003. ISBE will send packets of these CD-ROMs to each non-Chicago district office (containing enough copies for 1 per building), to each Chicago school (1 copy), and to every ROE/ISC (1 copy).

The item pools and test-development software replace ISBE’s previous paper copies of the ISAT and IMAGE sample booklets which will no longer be available in paper format from ISBE when existing supplies of these booklets run out. ISBE will continue to produce and provide to schools the PSAE teacher’s handbook and test-preparation materials for grade 11 students. Both the Item Pool CD-ROMs and the assessment Web site ( also contain PDF versions of past sample booklets which schools may download and copy as needed.

The item pool and test construction software will be enhanced during the coming year with additional released items from the ISAT and PSAE. In future years, the items in these pools will be aligned with the Illinois Assessment Framework ( which is the blueprint for the state tests that will be administered beginning in spring 2006 as part of the Illinois Enhanced Assessment System. For further information about the State Assessment Sample Item Pools, please contact

Title I Comparability Report reminder

External Assurance would like to remind those districts receiving Title I funds this fiscal year that they must complete and return there forms by November 14, 2003. The forms and instructions for completing them can be accessed via the Web at

Update on the Competitive Grant for Schools

Information on the Healthy School Nutrition Environment grant for Illinois schools has been delayed slightly. If you would like a copy of the grant application mailed to you, please call Illinois Nutrition Education and Training at 800/466-7998 (or email NET at to be placed on the mailing list. The notice for this grant opportunity will also be mailed out to all district superintendents in Illinois. The due date is December 1, 2003.

Illinois Arts Council Showcases Artists For Touring and Educational Opportunities

Chicago --- The Illinois Arts Council (IAC), in cooperation with the Hinsdale Center for the Arts, will host an Artist Showcase on Monday, November 10, 2003 at the Holiday Inn Select Convention Center in Tinley Park. This annual event, which draws participants from throughout Illinois, provides an opportunity for potential applicants to meet professional artists from the IAC Arts-in-Education (AIE) and Artstour rosters, view samples of their work and hear first-hand what they do in the classroom and the community. This includes artists in the following categories: creative writing, dance, ethnic and folk arts, interdisciplinary arts, multi-disciplinary arts, media arts, music, theater, visual arts, puppetry and storytelling.

The IAC’s AIE and Artstour programs offer financial support to primary and secondary educational institutions, community colleges and community organizations throughout the state for artist residencies and performances. This event is especially beneficial for anyone interested in increasing arts activities in their community, particularly K-12 educators, parents, volunteers, community college faculty, staff from libraries, schools, churches, civic, service, community and arts organizations. The Showcase is always a good opportunity to meet other educators, artists and arts administrators from all regions of the state.

Organizations more than 150 miles from the Showcase site may be eligible for a travel stipend. Teachers participating in the full event will be eligible for CPDU credit. Registration before October 31st is $25; thereafter $30. For more information on the Artists Showcase please visit the IAC website at or contact IAC staff at 312/814-6780.

The Illinois Arts Council is committed to the cultural, educational, and economic growth of the diverse people and communities of our state through support and encouragement of artists and the arts.