Sent: Friday, December 12, 2003 5:33 PM
To: Regional Superintendents and Special Education Directors District Superintendents
Subject: Weekly Message from State Superintendent Robert Schiller 12-12-03
Good afternoon.


There is a first time for everything. We have seen that this year, in terms of the Adequate Yearly Progress requirement for student subgroups under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), and understanding NCLB overall.


Because this is the first year, it is our benchmark or baseline if you will. It is our starting point, our launching pad from which we need to reach greater goals by 2014.


And, as you are likely now aware, this week we announced that we had identified hundreds of schools which met all federal and state Adequate Yearly Progress criteria, with the exception of test participation rates for student subgroups. The result: “not making AYP.”


It was a reality that created an unstable launching pad.


So we announced that we will rectify this, because if we want to reach these goals, we need to be given an honest chance.


Letters will be sent out to each of the identified schools on Monday informing them of the steps that they need to take to rectify their AYP status. Our effort to contact these schools is simultaneous with our informing the media, so your communities are not misinformed of your school’s status. Some media organizations have already decided not to publish or post online AYP data for subgroups. The memos are posted on the ISBE web home page,


On an additional note, as I wrote to you each last week, our staff and board are drafting our recommended FY 05 education budget. And, we have been discussing how the current budget has forced many of you to do more with less. We fully realize that this attitude of funding education is hurting not helping our districts. Again I ask each of you to ponder the thought: Given the opportunity to make priorities in what the legislature funds, what would you fund first and last, so the needs of all Illinois schools are best met?


Lastly, I want to share with you our intent to soon release the Condition of Public Education Report for 2003. This report will be used to inform your local policymakers of the need to properly fund education, particularly when all schools face additional pressures to meet AYP under NCLB. We will be issuing a series of articles on several issues included in the report, and ask each of you for your editorial support. Please illustrate to your local constituents through a letter to the editor the impact of inadequate funding on your school district and what is needed to alleviate some of these pressures.


I appreciate your support and welcome your insight.


Robert Schiller

State Superintendent

  of Education


Also in this week’s message:



Alternate Assessment Work Group


ISBE convened an Illinois Alternate Assessment Work Group on December 8 and 9th to resume statewide discussions on the IAA.  The Work Group will review and implement recommendations of the Assessment and Accountability Task Force, determine how best to assess students with disabilities given new federal regulations and will assist the state in determining parameters for subsequent requests for proposals for an alternate assessment.  The group is expected to meet monthly over the next year.


Lynne Curry, Director of Policy and Planning and Christopher Koch, Director of Special Education are co-chairing the committee with Sue Ireland of the Illinois Alliance of Administrators of Special Education serving as facilitator.


The first meeting included a presentation from Rachel Quenemoen of the National Center on Educational Outcomes (NCEO), who provided an overview of the current status and research on the use of alternate assessments nationally and who reviewed federal requirements.  Final regulations from the U.S. Department of Education concerning the “1% rule” were released on December 9th and these were discussed briefly at the work group.


Most states are reviewing alternate assessment instruments and practice as a result of this new guidance from the U.S. Department of Education.  NCEO outlined best practice among states for development and maintenance of alternate assessments including:


1)      Careful stakeholder and policymaker development of desired student outcomes for the populations, reflecting the best understanding of research and practice.

2)      Careful development, testing, and refinement of assessment methods.

3)      Scoring of evidence according to professionally accepted standards.

4)      Standard-setting process to allow use of results in reporting and accountability systems.

5)      Continuous improvement of assessment process.


The work group recognized the importance of developing clear alternate standards with access points for all students and a subcommittee was established to review this in more detail.


Ms. Quenemoen’s presentation, a listing of participants, minutes from the first meeting, and final regulations will be located on ISBE’s website early next week at


Irradiated Ground Beef Available To Schools as United State Department of Agriculture (USDA) Commodity


Beginning with the 2004-2005 school year, schools participating in the USDA Food Distribution Program will be able to order irradiated ground beef, as a choice, in addition to non-irradiated ground beef.  While the product has complete USDA approval, it remains somewhat controversial. Therefore, the Illinois State Board of Education is attempting to alert districts so they can become informed and make educated decisions relative to ordering the product.  In addition to messages to food service personnel through established channels, a direct mailing to superintendents of participating schools will be sent shortly. Questions relating to this subject should be directed to Jerry Scranton, Principal Operations Consultant, at 1-800-545-7892 or email to


Appeals Advisory Committee Update


Considerable time and energy has been spent with districts seeking to file an appeal with the Appeals Advisory Committee regarding the recent school report cards. Over 50 appeals had been formally filed, and many more inquired about the process. Following ISBE’s decision to allow districts to verify test participation rate data, the number of appeals (for other reasons) is much smaller.  Staff will be contacting all of the appealing districts regarding status.