Illinois State Board of Education
May 18, 2000

The State Board of Education engaged Achieve, Inc., to help focus its efforts on strengthening agency service and support for school improvement.   Achieve, Inc.   was created by the nation’s governors and business leaders to follow up on commitments made at the 1996 National Education Summit.  Like other states (e.g., Indiana and Ohio), we asked them to visit us and review our efforts – first with the Illinois Learning Standards and then with other priority areas where we are trying to bring improvements.  We will use this report to adjust our improvement plans, just as we ask local schools to modify their strategies in line with internal and external reviews.

Listed below are the specific recommendations from the Achieve report and a brief statement about the status of these issues at ISBE :

Standards and Assessment

1.      Leave the Learning Standards in place until 2002, as promised, but move immediately to develop new performance standards for each grade, pre-K-12.

·        Committees of Illinois teachers are already working on grade-by-grade performance standards that will be available for pilot use in all grades in fall 2000.

2.      Preserve the trend data provided by the Illinois Standards Achievement Tests (ISAT), but begin
      making selective improvements to the assessments.

·        ISBE has a process to annually improve test quality, including assessing more of the Standards, and to review contract specifications and evaluate contractor capacity..

3.      Revise the statutory limits on testing time and open-ended items.

·        ISBE is gathering input from educators and stakeholders regarding the need to test the Standards more broadly and deeply, and the need to provide year-to-year information about individual student progress.  So far our feedback indicates general support for eliminating the 25-hour testing limit, adding a greater variety of question types to the tests, and testing each year to provide better progress data to students, parents and schools.  This will  require statutory changes.  We will include a proposal for this as part of a larger package of accountability improvements we will propose for legislative activity in the next session .

Teacher Quality and Organizational Capacity

4.      Fund district-based induction programs that are focused on helping beginning teachers develop the classroom knowledge and skills required for the Standard Teaching Certification.

·        Agency staff are working with representatives of the education community to design a mentored novice teacher induction system (Illinois Induction Initiative), and develop legislative language and a funding appropriation to support the effort.

5.      Create a statewide network of subject matter-based professional development academies.

·        We will be revisiting the academy plan that was jointly developed with the Governor’s Office and other stakeholders, to create a viable work plan for statewide professional development delivery.

6.      Create a statewide leadership academy that is focused on helping current and prospective principals become more effective leaders of instructional improvement.

·        The State Superintendent has targeted the Illinois Administrator’s Academy for redesign.  An external review is currently underway.  In conjunction with the professional development academy design cited in #5 above, we will be developing a plan for an improved academy model.

7.      Focus the quality assurance and improvement Planning (QAIP) program on schools “above the line,” and clarify the purpose of this program.

·        The Quality Assurance program is becoming more focused. School reviews for next year will concentrate on schools in which students are performing mostly at “Meets Standards” levels, but which are prepared to undergo meaningful school improvement with feedback from the external review team.  Schools in which students are consistently under-performing will be served by our more intensive “system of support” which includes case managers, school audits and intensive technical assistance.


8.      Simplify the proposed school rating system by reducing the number of publicly reported school designation categories, and incorporate attendance and dropout rates into the rating criteria in all categories.

·        The Superintendent has appointed a School Designation Task Force to design and communicate new school and district accountability designations that incorporate student performance data and other school quality indicators.  Recommendations will be ready by August, after public input is gathered during the summer.  The State Board will seek legislative support in the next session to make necessary adjustments in statutes and rules.

9.      Develop a school rewards program that acknowledges absolute performance as well as improvement, and that rewards schools only if all groups within the school show performance gains.

·        The School Designation Task Force will also make recommendations to establish school and district incentives, rewards and sanctions within the new designation structure and to blend existing incentives with new ones (e.g. Blue Ribbon Schools, Those Who Excel, deregulation, funding preferences).

10. For schools “below the line” (i.e., on Academic Warning, Watch or Distress), replace the Quality Assurance and Improvement Planning process with an ISBE-appointed consultant team that is charged with providing on-site advice and assistance.

·        QAIP visits have already been diverted from low-performing schools for the 2000-2001 school year.  As referenced in our response to Achieve Recommendation  7, a comprehensive system of support for schools with large numbers of under-performing students  is now emerging.  It includes on-site assistance to districts and schools in the form of case managers, school audits,  Educators-in-Residence and other technical support.

11. Allow parents to opt out of schools that remain in the lowest performance category for three consecutive years and to enroll their children in other public schools at state expense.

·        This aspect will be included in our application for Title I School Improvement dollars.  This option is a requirement for schools choosing to accept these funds, and will be administered according to federal law.

12. Engage the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE) and the Illinois Business-Education Coalition (IBEC) in a public review of the proposed Prairie State Achievement Exam (PSAE), with the goal of aligning the exam with higher education admissions requirements and employers’ entry-level hiring standards.

·        This is being handled through the Joint Education Committee, which focuses on P-16 alignment issues and education’s relationship to the workforce.  Public involvement will be broad and deep, with the goal of firm commitments to use the PSAE results from both business and higher education.

Public Leadership

13. Create a single, high-level, cross-sectoral leadership group for standards-based reform in Illinois and launch an ongoing public information and communications campaign.

·        The State Board will study the operation of such leadership groups in other states, and will determine its appropriateness for Illinois.

·        ISBE has planned a series of Schoolhouse Meetings around the state this summer and fall. These proactive meetings will represent the beginning of the new way of communicating with our customers.  We will listen to our customers (the parents, teachers, administrators, businesses, community leaders and the public) and educate the community on what everyone can do to improve the quality of public education and help all students achieve the Learning Standards.