Sent: Friday, August 15, 2003 4:53 PM
To: Regional Superintendents and Special Education Directors District Superintendents
Subject: Weekly Message from State Superintendent Robert Schiller 8-15-03

Good afternoon,

This week’s message contains information on a number of upcoming matters, as well as updates on actions we took in the past week regarding the state’s assessment system, a charter school in suburban Cook County and our non-public school recognition program.

First, though, let me remind you that the State Board’s regular August meeting will be held at 11 a.m. Wednesday, August 20, 2003, at the Chicago Board of Education 5th floor board chambers, 125 South Clark Street. The agenda can be reviewed at

In this message:

  • HB1180
  • Changes in Certification Processing
  • Waivers of School Fees
  • E-Report Card Data Due
  • State Superintendent’s September Regional Conferences      


On August 12th, Governor Blagojevich returned HB 1180 regarding extraordinary claim data     to the General Assembly with a specific recommendation for change to add language that the bill is effective “for Fiscal Year 2004 only”. 

In talking to the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jerry Mitchell, he has indicated that he will file a motion to concur with the Governors amendatory veto (A.V.) in order for school district to receive the benefits of the legislation this school year.  He has also committed to working with the Governor’s Office next session to address his concerns with the legislation.

As such ISBE will not require you to transmit Extraordinary claim data for the 2002-2003 school year by the August 15 statutory due date.  ISBE will calculate and pay an estimated September payment based upon HB 1180 as written.

If for some reason the General Assembly fails to accept the A.V.,  ISBE may require that you to submit Extraordinary claim data for the 2002-2003 school year later this year and we will reconcile the second and later quarterly payments to reflect the final distribution formula.

Reminder: Changes in Certification Processing

Because of the recent cuts to the State Board budget, staff in the Certification and Professional Development Department will no longer be able to personally respond to phone calls from educators.  Effective Monday, August 18, all 800# phone lines as well as the main division phone lines will be modified to provide voice-mail directions for obtaining information about certification, certificate renewal and other related issues. 

The directions suggest that the caller consult the State Board website, the regional offices of education, our new online teacher information system (see below) and other resources

We realize that the elimination of phone access, which has been an important customer service, will be problematic for many who have depended on it.  However, with our very limited staff, our first priority for staff time must be the processing of certification requests.

But the good news is that….

Online Teacher Information System

Beginning sometime next week, and no later than Monday, August 25, we will activate a new Online Teacher Information System that will be known as OTIS.  This will give teachers and administrators greater access to information from State Board certification files and should provide answers to many of the questions that have traditionally been asked of us or the regional offices (e.g., what is the status of my application or what certificates and endorsements does a teacher hold). 

The website address for the new system will be  This site contains two portals or doorways. 

  • The first portal requires the teacher’s SSN and last name and it will allow the teacher (or an administrator with access to the teacher’s SSN) to view information about the certificates and endorsements issued to that teacher, the degrees held, and the individual’s teaching history. 
  • The second portal requires the teacher’s SSN, first and last names, and certificate number. (Note: the certificate number is not required for applicants that have not yet been issued a certificate.)  This portal will allow the teacher to view virtually all certification information on file with the State Board, including the status of certification requests (e.g., “pending”), testing history and documents received.

The website provides directions for accessing each portal.  In addition to this, the system has popup windows to clarify all information being presented.

We expect that there will be the usual problems with system start-up, so we have provided two ways to receive answers to technical questions or problems: by calling 217/558-3600 or by sending an email to  Please note that these should be used ONLY for technical questions and that the staff will not be able to respond to any substantive questions about certification matters.

Please consult the State Board website for additional information about OTIS.  Until OTIS is available, administrators and teachers can continue to view some certification information via the Teacher Certification Inquiry System at

Certification Processing

The staff in the Certification and Professional Development Department is continuing to focus on “job-dependent priorities” as described in last week’s special message.  If you have a teacher or prospective employee whose certification status must be clarified in order to finalize employment or assignment, please contact your regional office of education.  That office will then request a priority review by our staff. 

The volume of messages to the new email addresses announced in last week’s message has been substantial and it has been impossible to answer all of them.  We are trying to identify which requests may be job-critical and responding to those as quickly as possible.  Those emails requesting general information (e.g., how do I obtain a certificate in Illinois if I am certified in Alabama) will be answered as soon as possible.  We will appreciate your patience, and that of your staff, during this difficult period.

“Grow Your Own Special Educators”

A grant has been awarded to Eastern Illinois University to develop a statewide system of university/local district cooperative programs to prepare special education teachers.  The grant will replicate and disseminate a “grow your own” model that has been extremely successful in recruiting paraprofessionals or other non-certified personnel and preparing them for full certification as special education teachers.  The retention rate of the individuals who have completed this program is very gratifying, and we hope statewide replication will address concerns about special education staffing in areas with chronic teacher shortages.  For additional information, contact Joy Russell by calling the Department of Special Education, Eastern Illinois University, 217/581-5315 and asking for Margie.

Waivers of School Fees

As the start of the school year approaches, school districts will be getting requests for fee waivers from families who believe that they are unable to afford such fees.  Sections 10-20.13 and 34-21.6 of the School Code require that fees for textbooks and other fees be waived for children whose families are unable to afford them, including but not limited to children eligible for the federal free lunch and breakfast program.  Each district must adopt a written policy and administrative procedures governing fee waivers; requirements for those policies are contained in agency rules found at 23 Ill. Adm. Code 1.245 (see

Many of you may remember that the criterion to qualify for a fee waiver was changed in 1989 from receipt of public aid to free lunch and breakfast (see P.A. 86-195).  A family requesting a fee waiver only has to provide evidence that it meets the income guidelines below.  Families no longer need additional information showing that they are recipients of aid under the Illinois Public Aid Code.

During 2003-2004, any child from a family whose income falls within the following federal income guidelines qualifies for free lunch and breakfast and, therefore, qualifies for a waiver of textbook and instructional materials and any other fees (as delineated in the district's policy). 

Household Size

Level for Free Meals







$   973






























Each additional family member add:




The following summarizes the fee waiver provisions.

·         All school boards must have a written fee waiver policy.  This policy must at least indicate that students qualifying for free lunch and breakfast are eligible for fee waivers (see next bullet point for limitations).  All foster children are wards of the state and are therefore considered indigent.  They qualify for fee waivers in all instances.

Each school district must notify all parents of its fee waiver policy at the time the parents first enroll their children in school.  Additionally, the first bill sent to parents who owe fees must state that the district waives fees for parents unable to afford them in accordance with the district policy and must provide the name, address, and telephone number of the person to contact about fee waivers.

·         The original law only addressed textbooks and instructional materials for which a fee was charged.  In 1983, P.A. 83-603 required school districts to waive "other fees" in addition to the cost for textbooks.  This created a new mandate, falling under the provisions of the State Mandates Act, which requires that local units of government be reimbursed for the cost of newly created mandates.

The General Assembly, however, failed to appropriate funds needed to reimburse districts for this additional cost, thereby relieving school districts of their obligation to waive “other fees.”  School districts are still required to waive the cost of textbooks and other instructional materials (such as reusable workbooks) for all students eligible for free lunch and breakfast.

If the district's policy stipulates that fees other than for textbooks and instructional materials will be waived, then the district must continue to waive those fees until its board changes the policy.  Fees also must continue to be waived for other students who are eligible to receive a waiver under the district's policy (reduced-price lunch, medical emergencies, etc.).

·         Section 28-19.2 of the School Code prohibits punishment or discrimination of any kind against a student whose parents are unable to purchase required textbooks and instructional materials or to pay required fees.  This prohibition includes lowering of grades and exclusion from classes.

E-Report Card Data Collection Reminder

Just a reminder for those of you who have not completed the online report card data collection process that it is imperative that this information be submitted within the next week.  The procedures require the local Superintendent to verify and approve the data before submitting it via IWAS.  We are encouraging you to check to make sure that the verification, approval and submission process has been completed for all the schools in your district.

State Superintendent’s September Regional Conferences

The centralized Superintendent’s conference traditionally held in Springfield will be split into six regional conferences this year. They will be held on September 3 in Champaign, September 4 in Matteson, September 9 in Galesburg, September 15 in Whittington, September 22 in Naperville and September 23 in Mundelein.

The registration form can be accessed at, and agenda for the meetings at

State Assessment System and the North Greene School District

I initiated action this week that I believe is critical to protecting the integrity of our state testing system – a responsibility about which the State Board could not be more serious.  I have asked two employees of the North Greene Unit District 3 to surrender their state certificates because of allegations that they compromised the Prairie State exam given at the school in April. Further, I am in discussions with my board regarding what responsibility the North Greene board has to compensate ISBE for the cost of replacing compromised test items. You can read our news release on the subject at

Nonpublic school recognition program

Recognition status has been granted to 674 nonpublic schools for the upcoming 2003-04 school year.  As you know, unless funds are restored to next year’s budget, this will be the final year nonpublic schools will receive recognition from the Illinois State Board of Education.  The list can be accessed at

Thomas Jefferson Charter School

We have notified the Thomas Jefferson Charter School in Des Plaines that its request for a charter renewal will not be granted and that the school must discontinue operation by today (Friday, August 15).  Our evaluation of the school found it failed to meet state or federal requirements in the areas of accountability and special education. Further details may be seen at

Robert Schiller

State Superintendent

   of Education


Kentucky Board Approves Dual Testing Systems

Courier-Journal News, August 7, 2003

The Kentucky State Board of Education this week approved the use of two different assessment systems in order to comply with the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), but also to maintain its existing assessment and accountability system, the Commonwealth Accountability Testing System (CATS), which is the descendent of the state's nationally renowned education reforms begun in the early 1990's. NCLB requires states to test all students in grades 3-8 and once in high school in reading and math. The scores are used to determine if a school is making adequate yearly progress (AYP) toward having all students at a proficient level in twelve years based on a statewide timetable. CATS does not currently test in all those grades, but does include measuring student performance on subjects beyond reading and math such as science and the humanities, which include essay and portfolio evaluations. More importantly, CATS measures school performance using two years' worth of scores and against a school's individual past results. State board members admit that the two standards will likely cause some public confusion as some schools are designated satisfactory according to the state's system and unsatisfactory according to federal measures. Nevertheless, state leaders felt strongly that Kentucky's current efforts were worth preserving.

Minnesota Loses Title I Money Due To NCLB Noncompliance

St. Paul Pioneer Press (8/2/03)

Minnesota has become the second state to have federal Title I money withheld due to noncompliance with federal requirements, and the first state to be penalized for failing to adhere to the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige announced that he is withholding ten percent of the state's Title I administrative funds, or about $113,000, because Minnesota is using attendance and graduation rates as the other performance indicators (in addition to state assessments) for determining adequate yearly progress (AYP) for middle and secondary schools. Federal officials warned that they could have withheld a larger amount. In accepting the penalty, Minnesota Secretary of Education, Cheryl Yecke - who worked for Paige at the federal department immediately prior to assuming her current position - explained that a waiver the state had been granted last year allowing it to rely on the attendance and graduation data had been revoked in April. Rather than accelerating their AYP timetable by one year, Yecke opted for the difficult choice of being deemed out of compliance. The loss of funds means two state department jobs, a Title I evaluator and Title I parental liaison, will be vacant this year. Earlier this summer, federal officials withheld $700,000 from Georgia because of the state's decision not to administer a secondary school state assessment after questions were raised about the test's validity. In that instance, however, the test was a requirement under the 1994 ESEA reauthorization and not directly related to NCLB.

Rescoring Of Texas Math Test Gives 4,640 More Students A Passing Mark.  Texas Education Agency Press Release (8/6/03)

After it was discovered that one question on the Texas 10th grade math test could have been read in such a way as to give more than one correct answer, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) decided that "out of a sense of fairness," all students would be given credit for the item. With that change, 4,640 additional students, or 1.8 percent of the 10th grade test takers, achieved a passing score. State officials noted that a "rigorous review process" of test items has made inaccurate questions a rarity in the 23-year history of statewide assessments in Texas.

Parent Files Ballot Measure To Ban Massachusetts Test

Boston Globe (8/7/03)

A parent filed a petition with Massachusetts Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly to ban the use of any "centralized state assessment system" for graduation, allowing school districts to determine their own requirements instead. As of 2003, high school students had to pass the 10th grade English and math sections of the state assessment to graduate.The proposed ballot question would require almost 66,000 signatures by December 3 to reach the 2004 ballot. Both the state legislature and Governor Mitt Romney, strong supporters of MCAS, would have to approve the proposal as well. Yesterday, State Board of Education Chairman James Peyser said it was unlikely voters would approve the measure. Moreover, the measure may run counter to a 1993 Supreme Judicial Court decision requiring the state to provide an adequate public education. "The state's obligation isn't just financial, but it also includes essentially an accountability system that ensures student learning," Peyser said.

New Jersey Board Moves Toward Graduation Requirements In Fine Arts, Foreign Language, And Career Or Vocational Education

Star-Ledger (8/7/03)

Working to develop a compromise among advocates of various subject areas, the New Jersey State Board of Education has given preliminary approval to a new set of requirements that would mean students would need at least one year each of foreign language, fine or performing arts, and career or vocational classes in order to graduate. The plan also includes a proficiency test in technology and would allow students who passed a language assessment to test out of that subject. If final approval is given, seniors graduating in 2008 would be the first class held to the new requirements.

Montana Schools Commission Moves Forward

Montana Board of Public Education correspondence (7/29/03)

The core group of the Montana K-12 Public Schools Commission met on July 11 and selected the entities that will make up the 17 remaining members. The commission, authorized by HB 736, is charged with making improvements to Montana's education funding formula and governance structure. The core group of the commission consists of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, Chairman of the Board of Public Education, President of the Montana State Senate, Speaker of the House, and a balance of representatives of both majority and minority parties in the Montana Legislature. "I am pleased with the gathering of those persons committed to make progress," said Board Chairman Kirk Miller. "I believe everyone came to the table with an open mind and I am looking forward to the work of the commission as we renew the educational process for the students of Montana."

Washington Teachers Sue State Over Lost Training Day

Seattle Times (8/6/03)

The Washington Education Association (WEA), filing on behalf of nine teachers from various districts, is challenging the state legislature after it cut a school day designated for professional development as part of a budget-saving move. The union claims that the cut violated the state constitution and voter-approved Initiative 732, which gave teachers annual cost-of-living salary raises based on the state's Consumer Price Index. Without the pay afforded by the training day, teachers received smaller cost-of-living increases, and the union is hoping to block the legislature from suspending Initiative 732 in the future.

Register Today For NASBE's 44th Annual Conference!

Join us in Baltimore, Maryland at the Wyndham Inner Harbor for our Annual Conference to be held Friday and Saturday, October 17-18!! Preconference activities including the Lost Curriculum Institute, Science Education Institute and golf tournament will be held on Thursday, October 16. There are three ways to register - online at, by fax at 703/836-2313, or by mail (on the form sent earlier this month). Hotel information and conference agenda can also be found on our website. Please contact (800/368-5023) Marsha McMullin (ext. 116) or Doris Cruel (ext. 104) with any questions you may have.

The 'Zero Dropout' Miracle: Alas! Alack! A Texas Tall Tale

By Michael Winerip

13 August 2003

The New York Times

(c) 2003 New York Times Company

HOUSTON -- ROBERT KIMBALL, an assistant principal at Sharpstown High School, sat smack in the middle of the ''Texas miracle.'' His poor, mostly minority high school of 1,650 students had a freshman class of 1,000 that dwindled to fewer than 300 students by senior year. And yet -- and this is the miracle -- not one dropout to report!

Nor was zero an unusual dropout rate in this school district that both President Bush and Secretary of Education Rod Paige have held up as the national showcase for accountability and the model for the federal No Child Left Behind law. Westside High here had 2,308 students and no reported dropouts; Wheatley High 731 students, no dropouts. A dozen of the city's poorest schools reported dropout rates under 1 percent.

Now, Dr. Kimball has witnessed many amazing things in his 58 years. Before he was an educator, he spent 24 years in the Army, fighting in Vietnam, rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel and touring the world. But never had he seen an urban high school with no dropouts. ''Impossible,'' he said. ''Someone will get pregnant, go to jail, get killed.'' Elsewhere in the nation, urban high schools report dropout rates of 20 percent to 40 percent.

A miracle? ''A fantasy land,'' said Dr. Kimball. ''They want the data to look wonderful and exciting. They don't tell you how to do it; they just say, 'Do it.' '' In February, with the help of Dr. Kimball, the local television station KHOU broke the news that Sharpstown High had falsified its dropout data. That led to a state audit of 16 Houston schools, which found that of 5,500 teenagers surveyed who had left school, 3,000 should have been counted as dropouts but were not. Last week, the state appointed a monitor to oversee the district's data collection and downgraded 14 audited schools to the state's lowest rating.

Not very miraculous sounding, but here is the intriguing question: How did it get to the point that veteran principals felt they could actually claim zero dropouts? ''You need to understand the atmosphere in Houston,'' Dr. Kimball said. ''People are afraid. The superintendent has frequent meetings with principals. Before they go in, the principals are really, really scared. Panicky. They have to make their numbers.''

Pressure? Some compare it to working under the old Soviet system of five-year plans. In January, just before the scandal broke, Abelardo Saavedra, deputy superintendent, unveiled Houston's latest mandates for the new year. ''The districtwide student attendance rate will increase from 94.6 percent to 95 percent,'' he wrote. ''The districtwide annual dropout rate will decrease from 1.5 percent to 1.3 percent.''

Dropouts are notoriously difficult to track, particularly at a heavily Latino school like Sharpstown, with immigrants going back and forth to Mexico. Dr. Kimball said that Sharpstown shared one truant officer with several schools. Even so, Houston officials would not allow principals to write that the whereabouts of a departed student were ''unknown.'' Last fall, Margaret Stroud, deputy superintendent, sent a memorandum warning principals to ''make sure that you do not have any students coded '99,' whereabouts unknown.'' Too many ''unknowns,'' she wrote, could prompt a state audit -- the last thing Houston leaders wanted.

A shortage of resources to track departing students? No ''unknowns'' allowed? What to do? ''Make it up,'' Dr. Kimball said. ''The principals who survive are the yes men.''

As for those who fail to make their numbers, it is termination time, one of many innovations championed by Dr. Paige as superintendent here from 1994 to 2001. He got rid of tenure for principals and mandated that they sign one-year contracts that allowed dismissal ''without cause'' and without a hearing.

On the other hand, for principals who make their numbers, it is bonus time. Principals can earn a $5,000 bonus, district administrators up to $20,000. At Sharpstown High alone, Dr. Kimball said, $75,000 in bonus money was issued last year, before the fictitious numbers were exposed.

Dr. Paige's spokesman, Dan Langan, referred dropout questions to Houston officials, but said that the secretary was proud of the accountability system he established here, that it got results and that principals freely signed those contracts.

Terry Abbott, a Houston district spokesman, agreed that both Dr. Paige and the current superintendent, Kaye Stripling, pressured principals to make district goals. ''Secretary Paige said, and rightfully so, the public has a right to expect us to get this job done,'' Mr. Abbott said. The principals were not cowed, he said, declaring, ''They thrive on it.'' Every administrator under Dr. Paige and Dr. Stripling, Mr. Abbott said, has understood ''failure is not an option'' and ''that failure to do our jobs can mean that we could lose those jobs -- and that's exactly the way it should be.''

As for adequate resources for truant officers to verify dropouts, he said individual schools decided how to use their resources, but added, ''Money is not the problem, and money by itself won't solve the issues we deal with every day.''

To skeptics like Dr. Kimball, the parallels to No Child Left Behind are depressing. The federal law mandates that every child in America pass reading and math proficiency tests by 2014 -- a goal many educators believe is as impossible as zero dropouts. And like Houston's dropout program, President Bush's education budget has been criticized as an underfinanced mandate, proposing $12 billion this year for Title 1, $6 billion below what the No Child Left Behind law permits. ''This isn't about educating children,'' Dr. Kimball said. ''It's about public relations.''

If Houston officials were interested in accountability, he said, they would assign him to a high school to monitor the dropout data that he has come to understand so well. Instead, after he blew the whistle on Sharpstown High, he was reassigned, for four months, to sit in a windowless room with no work to do. More recently, he has been serving as the second assistant principal at a primary school, where, he said, he is not really needed. ''I expect when my contract is up next January, I'll be fired,'' he said. ''That's how it works here.''

Few Florida Schools Excel Only 13% Meet Proficiency Standards In Reading, Writing, Math

Dave Weber and Lori Horvitz, Sentinel Staff Writers
9 August 2003
Orlando Sentinel
Copyright 2003,
Orlando Sentinel. All Rights Reserved.

Florida's public schools, including some highly rated campuses around Orlando, were slammed Friday with a bad report card that says only a handful are making enough progress toward educating all students.

Only 13 percent of schools meet standards for proficiency in reading, writing and math set by the state under the federal No Child Left Behind legislation passed by Congress at the urging of President Bush.

In Central Florida, only 78 schools -- about one in eight -- made the grade.

In some of the seven counties, successful schools were few and far between. Only three of 45 Lake County schools and only 17 of 166 Orange County schools met standards.

Friday's showing contrasts sharply with glowing reports from Gov. Jeb Bush, the president's brother, about the progress of Florida schools under his "A-Plus Plan for Education."

About half of Florida schools earned A's and B's in state grading this year based largely on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test. But those same FCAT scores fall short by the federal yardstick, which the governor acknowledged -- and tried to explain -- after Friday's scorecard was released by the state Department of Education.

"The reason we did not fare well under the No Child Left Behind guidelines is because we didn't punt on our standards," Bush said. He said some other states have set lower benchmarks.

Under No Child Left Behind, every schoolchild in the nation must be proficient in reading and math by the 2013-2014 school year. Each state must set its own standards, define what it means by proficiency on tests and ensure that students make what it considers to be adequate progress each year.

It was hard for Florida schools not to trip up. Elementary, middle and high schools were judged on up to 45 standards. Failure to make adequate progress in one area resulted in a mark against the whole school.

That's because the federal law aims to assure that every child, regardless of race, handicap or ability, is educated. Too often, state assessments concentrate on average students and ignore shortcomings of minorities and other groups, U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige has complained.

David Scott, principal of Idyllwilde Elementary in Sanford, said the federal "all-or-nothing type of scoring system" makes little sense. After seeing Friday's results, he was frustrated.

A-rated by the state, with large numbers of low-income children, Idyllwilde missed the federal mark with black students and disabled children in math. Scott said the school will try harder, but said it is unreasonable to expect all mentally handicapped students to score high in academics.

State Education Commissioner Jim Horne downplayed Friday's report cards, saying that pointing out deficiencies would help the schools.

"Even a high-performing school has room for improvement," Horne said.

Statewide, only 408 of 3,177 schools met the state's self-imposed goals for adequate yearly progress under the federal law. Not all schools were graded because there were too few students in some categories.

The state overall and each of the 67 countywide school districts also got failing marks.

Many Florida schools singled out Friday earned an A or B on the state's annual report card this summer. That list includes such highly regarded schools as Winter Park and Dr. Phillips high schools in Orange County, Spruce Creek High in Volusia County, and Lake Mary and Winter Springs high schools in Seminole County. "To me, it's really confusing," said Leslie Grubl, the parent of a Lake Mary senior. "Can't the state and federal governments get their acts together so they can get a point across that makes sense to everyone, rather than confusing the issues for parents and students?"

Experts say her reaction may be common, but people will have to sort out the seemingly conflicting evaluations of many schools.

"They are quite capable of making distinctions between schools that really suck across the board and the schools that are not doing well because of one group," said Kati Haycock, director of the Education Trust, a Washington think tank.

In addition to setting targets for math and reading, No Child Left Behind requires schools to make annual progress in writing. High schools also must make yearly gains in their graduation rates. And all schools must test at least 95 percent of their students in reading and math.

But the new standards are difficult for some schools to meet because students in various racial subgroups, low-income students, those with disabilities and students who do not speak English are evaluated separately. All subgroups must make progress.

At Lake Mary High, for example, 52 percent of students are proficient readers, based on FCAT scores. That earned the school its A from the state.

But as the federal report card shows, only 22 percent of black students read proficiently. Only 16 percent of low-income students can read. And only 12 percent of students with disabilities read as well as they should.

Lake Mary fell short of standards in nine areas. More than half the Florida schools that failed fell short in five or fewer areas, state officials said.

Schools most affected by being named to the list are those that receive federal Title I money to assist low-income students. Out of 3,177 schools statewide, 1,258 on the deficiency list are Title I schools.

High-poverty schools on the list two years in a row must let students transfer to better-performing public schools. Harsher penalties await schools that still don't improve.

Three years on the list and a school gets extra help and is watched. After four years the principal and staff could be replaced. A fifth year of deficiencies could lead to takeover by a private company or the state.

Although the penalties apply only to schools receiving Title I money, other schools branded as deficient face an increasingly critical public.

Many educators say the process is unfair because it tarnishes a school's image without considering such redeeming factors as high-performing advanced-placement programs for high-school students.

Still, Lake County Superintendent Pam Saylor acknowledged that the new evaluation zeroes in on "specific groups of children whose achievement and needs as a group may have gone undetected" in the past.

Nationally, education officials predict that thousands of schools, and up to 80 percent of high-poverty schools, could be tagged as not performing up to par.

So far, 18 states have weighed in, according to the Education Commission of the States, a group of state education leaders that is keeping track.

This week Georgia officials announced a first round of deficient schools, singling out 456 that did not make the grade.

Quincy Schools Must Come Up With About $1 Million To Restore Eliminated Programs

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

A shorter school day could become permanent if Quincy Public Schools cannot come up with about $1 million to restore programs that have been eliminated this year.

The Quincy School Board reduced the school day by 30 to 47 minutes for the 2003-04 school year in February as part of $2.2 million in budget cuts.

Physical education, music, art and most of computer instruction in kindergarten through sixth grade were eliminated. That allowed the district to save about $900,000 by laying off or reassigning teachers who taught those classes and not filling other vacancies caused by retirements and resignations.

It also meant the school day was shortened. High school students will be dismissed at 1:33 p.m. and all students will be dismissed by 2:35 p.m. Start times at all schools remain the same.

New Superintendent Tom Leahy, a former music teacher, hopes the shorter school day will not last beyond this year. He wants to restore the programs that were eliminated because he believes they are important to students.

“I’m making a real personal commitment to try to replace those,” he said.

The problem is finding the revenue to restore the programs and the 33 necessary teaching positions.

The School Board and its ad hoc revenue committee are researching several options that might generate new revenue for the district, but some are unlikely to gain public support, others won’t bring in enough money and others have never been tried locally.

Cost-cutting measures such as resolving the self-insurance fund deficit, which is part of the ongoing contract negotiations with teachers, could free up some money.

“Our first priority with new money is to reinstate the full school day,” Leahy said.

In the interim, regular classroom teachers will be responsible for providing PE, music, art and computer lessons to students. Teachers will receive basic training in these areas during a workshop later this month.

The tightened schedules may make it difficult for some high school students to fit in all the classes they need for graduation or for college acceptance. Many students already have plans to skip lunch in favor of squeezing in a needed class.

Students who fail a class will be more likely to have to make up the credit during summer school to stay on track for graduation.

Students need 23 credits to graduate from Quincy High School. With only six hours in each school day, that leaves little margin for error.

Parents might also find their days interrupted by the schedule shift.

Karen Points, director of the West Central Illinois Child Care Connection, said no area day care providers have reported a dramatic increase in service requests for young students being let out early. However, she said those changes may not have sunk in yet with parents.

Most area day care centers ask parents to pay a set weekly rate, but Points said the rate may increase if centers must bring afternoon staffers earlier to meet the added need.

One of the biggest arguments against cutting the school day is that students will have too much free time. Junior Billy Marquardt, 16, said students apt to cause trouble will do so regardless of when school lets out.

“If kids are going to do bad stuff like that it won’t matter if they have an extra hour in the afternoon. It’s not like they are going to suddenly decide to do something wrong because they’ve got a little extra time,” he said.

Quincy Transportation Director Max Miller said the bus schedules have been arranged so that Quincy parochial schools will continue to have buses available in the afternoons. Miller said their schedules will have no more than a few minutes disruption.

Contact Staff Writer Phil Weber at or (217) 221-3374.