Sent: Friday, March 21, 2003 3:46 PM
To: 'Regional Superintendents and Special Education Directors District Superintendents '
Subject: Weekly Message from State Superintendent Robert Schiller 3/21/03

Good afternoon. This week’s message updates you on several important decisions made at the regular State Board meeting held this week and also includes guidance provided by the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) regarding the effect of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) on foreign student exchange programs.


One topic of interest to all of you is the State Board’s approval of qualifications for paraprofessional educators. That information is now available on our Web site at Other Board actions include the following:



Other issues in this message include




Release of the State’s Financial Profile for School Districts


As you know, the State Board released its new state Financial Profile for School Districts at this week’s meeting. It is the first list compiled using a system of multiple measures – for years we used a single measure – and the Board and I believe it gives a clearer picture than ever before of school district finances.


The profile is not meant to embarrass school districts or to “fix blame.” It is a tool designed to help school administrators and communities plan the fiscal future of their districts. It is also a tool for informing the public at large regarding the significant financial challenges facing public education in our state.


In that connection, let me say that no one plays a more important role in convincing our elected officials that they need to address this situation now than district superintendents and their board members. Whatever time you and your board members can spare to meet with your representatives – either at home or here in Springfield – is well worth the effort.


Additional information about the financial profile is at You may download the profile from





Academic Early Warning and Academic Watch Lists Amended


The State Board amended the 2002 Academic Early Warning List to remove four schools and add five others that were miscoded when the list was released in December. The final total for the 2002 AEWL is now 664 schools from 124 districts. The 2002 Academic Watch List now totals 50 schools in five districts after being amended to remove two schools. For more information, go to

The amended Academic Early Warning List is at, and the amended Academic Watch List is at


USDE Guidance on Foreign Exchange Programs with Respect to NCLB


Maria Hernandez Ferrier, Ed.D., Director of USDE’s office of English Language Acquisition, Language Enhancement, and Academic Achievement for Limited English Proficient Students, has provided guidance to states regarding foreign student exchange programs in relation to the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. Following are excerpts from Dr. Ferrier’s letter:


“Foreign student exchange programs have been very successful at helping our students learn about the language, culture, history, and government of other nations. In addition, the foreign students who come here to attend school learn about America, and bring a better understanding of our nation back to their home countries. I strongly support these programs because they are educationally effective and help foster international understanding.


“Recently, I have learned that some school districts are concerned that requirements of No Child Left Behind might make it more difficult for them to accept foreign exchange students. I want to assure you that the overriding purpose of No Child Left Behind is to provide American students with the best education possible. Consequently, No Child Left Behind does not seek to discourage school districts from participating in a foreign student exchange program. In fact, we believe that foreign exchange programs enrich the education of our students.


“An important goal of No Child Left Behind is to help English language learners who reside in the United States attain English proficiency, develop high levels of academic attainment in English, and meet the same challenging content standards expected of all students. The requirements of No Child Left Behind, however, should not deter a school district from accepting foreign exchange students.


“Assessment results for foreign exchange students who are enrolled in a school in the United States for less than a year, even if they are limited English proficient, are not to be included in the school-level measurement of adequate yearly progress required by No Child Left Behind.


“No Child Left Behind does not prevent or make it more difficult for school districts to participate in foreign student exchange programs. A school district’s decision on whether to participate in a foreign student exchange program, therefore, should only be based on the educational value of that program.”



Reporting Disruptions of the 2003 State Achievement Tests


The Illinois State Board of Education is asking districts and schools to notify its Student Assessment Division of any local situation that might disrupt state testing. If events such as natural disasters, teacher strikes, or other disruptions occur immediately before or during testing, they could jeopardize the administration, security, or confidentiality of the state tests.


If such situations arise, please contact the Student Assessment Division of the State Board at 217/782-4823.



Homeland Security Information


With the beginning of the Iraqi War and the consequent high alert levels, I will reiterate the Homeland Security information that was included in the February 14 weekly message. We are advised that every county has an emergency management person who is responsible for coordinating the county’s disaster preparedness plans. The best preparation for any potential disaster is to review your school and district disaster plans regularly, to coordinate your plans with the county’s emergency management plan, and to have a designated person to keep in contact with the county emergency management staff and with local law enforcement and fire department officials.


You can also find a large amount of additional information on Governor Blagojevich’s Homeland Security Web pages at Included are American Red Cross guidelines for recommended action at each of the threat level classifications, which were adopted by the Illinois Terrorism Task Force, as well as “County and Municipal Government Guidelines for Implementation of the State of Illinois Homeland Security Advisory System,” developed by the Illinois Terrorism Task Force.


The Illinois Emergency Management Agency also has a good Web site for further information about emergency planning:



Deadline for Illinois Rural Bond Bank Survey Extended to April 3


As I reported to you last week, the Illinois Rural Bond Bank is developing a pooled tax anticipation warrant program to provide short-term finance solutions for Illinois school districts with reduced issuance costs and low interest rates. If you have not yet filled out the survey that was included in last week’s message, please do so now. The deadline has been extended to April 3, 2003. For further information about the Illinois Rural Bond Bank, visit their Web site,


Robert Schiller

State Superintendent

  of Education