MCGEE WON'T SEEK EXTENSION OF CONTRACT

                            Will remain State Superintendent until December 31

MEDIA PACKET

August 29, 2001

Attached:         Statement of State Board of Education

Statement of Supt. McGee

Highlights of McGee tenure

TO TALK WITH RON GIDWITZ:

Board Chairman Ron Gidwitz will be available by conference call from 3-3:30 p.m. today to talk with reporters. A maximum of 30 lines are available at any time. To connect, call 888-311-0082, then dial 7317838 and the "pound" sign.

Supt. McGee will not be available for interviews today. For further information, call Wade Nelson or Lee Milner, 217-782-4648.

Statement of the Illinois State Board of Education

August 29, 2001

The members of the State Board of Education are committed to making significant and continuous improvements to the state's educational system - improvements that will ultimately ensure that every Illinois student is prepared to succeed in an increasingly complex world.

During the past several months, we have talked extensively with State Superintendent Glenn W. "Max" McGee about our progress, which has been substantial; about the challenges of the future; and about what will be necessary to meet those challenges.  We have concluded that new leadership will be required for success in the next, much more difficult stage of school reform.

As a result of these discussions, State Superintendent McGee has informed the State Board that he will not seek renewal of his current contract, which expires on December 31, 2001.  In his letter to the Board, Max indicated that he believed that "change needs to happen more rapidly" and "...the State Board would be better served by a new leader who can bring different experiences and skills to the table."  The Board will immediately begin the process of searching for his successor. 

Dr. McGee was appointed as State Superintendent in 1998 and charged with building on the reform foundation created by previous state boards and superintendents.  Three years later, he has clearly helped to move the state forward.  The Illinois Learning Standards have been implemented in schools throughout the state; the new state assessment system has been put in place; and high-impact programs such as early childhood education and reading improvement have been emphasized.  The state education agency has increasingly focused on teaching and learning, and it has provided support for local district efforts through innovations such as the ILSI website, the Illinois Snapshot of Early Literacy and the Illinois Virtual High School.

On behalf of the citizens of Illinois, we are grateful to Dr. McGee for his energetic and passionate leadership for this phase of educational reform.  We are also grateful for the clarity with which he has articulated the challenges of the next stage.

Despite all the progress, despite all the accomplishments, more than forty percent of Illinois students are not meeting the Learning Standards.  That is simply unacceptable in a world in which post-secondary education is becoming a requirement for all but the most menial of jobs.  Equally unacceptable is the achievement gap among groups of students, a gap that finds many minority students and students from low-income families consistently achieving well below their peers. 

The State Board of Education is absolutely committed to eliminating this achievement gap and to increasing the academic performance of all students.  Those are formidable goals under any circumstances, but they are particularly so in the face of increasingly serious teacher shortages and vast differences in resources among districts.  Meeting them will require the collective will of all Illinois citizens, close collaboration among state and local policymakers and increased sensitivity to the needs of local communities and their schools. 

During the next several months, the State Board of Education will consult with a broad range of community members about the search for a new State Superintendent and the leadership qualities needed for the next stage of educational improvement.  A panel of three Board members, including the Chairman, will oversee the transition processes.  A new state superintendent will be appointed as expeditiously as possible.

Dr. McGee will remain as State Superintendent through December 2001 and will work closely with the Board to assure continuity of direction during the transition process.  He will announce his future plans at a later date.

We thank Max for all that he has contributed to improving education in Illinois and look forward to working with him in other roles in the years ahead.  Max is a marathon runner but he and we understand that sometimes it is necessary to hand off the baton in order to accelerate the pace and master the next part of the course.

August 29, 2001

Dear Members of the State Board of Education,

During the past three years, I have been honored and humbled to provide leadership for our state's two million students, 150,000 educators, and nine hundred school districts.  It has been a privilege to work with you, our dedicated staff, our educational and business partners, the Governor and his staff, and the members of the General Assembly to move an educational agenda that holds such hope and promise for all of our children.

Public education in Illinois is stronger than it has ever been.  From preschool through high school, we have much for which we can be proud.  Our early childhood education programs provide a model for other states, and the Advanced Placement scores of our high school students are the best in the entire country!

I am particularly proud of our success in providing resources, support and leadership for improved teaching and learning.  Here are just a few examples:

As your leader, I have worked closely with our state legislators and members of our Congressional delegation on behalf of our students.  We have been able to generate a record amount of federal funds for Illinois schools and the State has targeted support for kids who need it most.  Our early childhood students, our struggling readers and our troubled teenagers have received enormous financial and legislative support from the General Assembly.

Despite all that, I am perhaps most proud of the doors we have opened for our high school students who never thought they had much of a future.  Despite many skeptical objections, we incorporated the ACT into our capstone high school test, the Prairie State Achievement Examination.  Our juniors took the Prairie State test seriously, our teachers prepared them well and consequently, more than 10,000 students who never would have taken the ACT -- students who did not have someone to get them to a Saturday test, who could not afford to pay the fee, or who had been led to believe that higher education was for someone else - received scores that will make it possible for them to enroll in most colleges and universities in Illinois.  These students have opportunities and a future they would not have otherwise considered. 

Despite these accomplishments, I am the first to admit we have a long way to go in making education "second to none" for all Illinois students.   Closing the achievement gap must top the educational agenda, and we must foster a collective will to rectify the funding inequities that will perpetuate a stratified system of achievement.  Some of the programs we have put in place will help -- the Illinois Snapshot of Early Learning, the Illinois Virtual High School, a visionary child nutrition program and the Futures for Kids/SBE website for parents and childcare providers of preschool children-but we must engage all of our partners and all of the public in solving this tough problem.   Their engagement and commitment are necessary for find the resources to address the teacher shortage, to reduce the dropout rate and to have EVERY parent involved in the education of their child.

With that said, I am writing to inform you that I will not be seeking a renewal of my contract for a second term.  At this point in my career, I believe that change needs to happen more rapidly, and in that vein I believe that the State Board would be better served by a new leader who can bring different experiences and skills to the table.  It has been frustrating not to give our agency and my employees the time and attention they need and deserve, and it has been frustrating trying to maintain the focus needed to excel while balancing far too numerous competing demands on my time.  I appreciate the opportunity you have afforded me to be a leader, and I trust I have served you, our staff, our teachers and our children well.  I stand ready to assist in the transition so that we can maintain the momentum while finding a new leader who will take education in Illinois to the next level, a level that will be "Second to None."

                                                                        Sincerely,

                                                                        Max McGee

                                                                        State Superintendent

                                                                        of Education

Illinois State Board of Education

Superintendent Glenn W. "Max" McGee

Educational Agenda and Accomplishments

Dr. McGee was appointed as State Superintendent in 1998 and charged with building on the reform foundation established by previous boards and superintendents.  Three years later, he has clearly succeeded in moving the state forward in important educational endeavors.

Standards

The Illinois Learning Standards adopted in 1997 have been infused into K-12 curriculum and instruction and embedded into students' daily lessons.   Standards for Early Childhood Education provide guidance for quality programs; they have been endorsed by respected national experts.  The State Board adopted teaching standards for both content and teaching skills that now anchor teacher preparation, certification and certificate renewal.

ISAT

The State Board made a successful transition from the Illinois Goals Assessment Program (IGAP) to the Illinois Standards Assessment Test (ISAT) upon the adoption of the Illinois Learning Standards.  For the third year, these tests in grades 3, 4, 5, 7 and 8 are providing students, parents and educators with important information regarding student achievement of the Standards.

Prairie State Achievement Examination (PSAE)

In 2001, the state administered the first PSAE tests to all 11th graders.  This ground-breaking capstone examination embeds the ACT test, used by most Illinois colleges for admissions decisions.  Preliminary test results indicate that students took the tests seriously and that some will have the potential to attend college who otherwise may not have had the opportunity to show their knowledge. 

Reading

Improving reading ability has been of highest priority to the State Board and the Superintendent for the past three years.  Reading kits with resources and research were put into the hands of all public school kindergarten, first and second grade teachers.  In addition, ISBE is piloting a comprehensive diagnostic reading assessment, the "Snapshot of Early Literacy,"  that kindergarten and first grade teachers can use to identify and remediate reading problems.   The Illinois Reads website was developed for the Governor by State Board staff.  It provides important information and resources on reading instruction at www.illinoisreads.com.  In the Spring of 2001, the Superintendent and State Board successfully advanced important statutory changes to the Reading Block Grant  in the General Assembly, with the result that reading funds will now be directed to proven,  research-based reading instruction, especially in the early grades.

ILSI and ILEARN Websites

The Illinois School Improvement Website developed in conjunction with the Illinois Business Roundtable and NCREL, provides educators, parents and taxpayers with a means to compare their schools' achievement with that of any other school in the state, and to schools with similar demographics-all with the click of a mouse.  The site also leads users through School Improvement Plans and to resources related to the teaching and learning of the Illinois Learning Standards.  The ILEARN website allows anyone to compare financial data from one district to another (www.isbe.net - click on ILEARN).

Customer Service

Last year, the Superintendent established a Customer Service department and deployed staff to field positions to respond immediately to problems, needs and issues from school districts and constituents.  Response time for problem solving has decreased from a few days to a few hours.  In addition to this permanent customer service presence, nearly 750 ISBE employees spend a full day in school, learning how their work affects schools and to identify ways to improve service and products.  At Schoolhouse Meetings around the state, Superintendent McGee brought information on education issues and initiatives straight to communities, and listened to their priorities, needs and concerns first-hand.  Regular services to schools and educators have also improved markedly; for example, the time for issuing a teaching certificate has been reduced from several weeks to a few days.

Access to Educational Opportunities

Working closely with the Governor's Office, ISBE has launched several programs to provide students with important new learning opportunities.  The Summer Bridges program provides students with summer classes that boost reading performance, while training teachers in better teaching methods they can use throughout the school year.  In three years, Summer Bridges has grown from serving 5,000 to serving  nearly 30,000 students.  For high schoolers, the Illinois Virtual High School (IVHS)  now provides on-line courses to supplement the offerings they take on their regular campus.  As more students strive to meet and exceed the Illinois Learning Standards, IVHS will become a key option for pursuing challenging coursework and even college credit through on-line Advanced Placement classes.

Performance Management and E-government

Over the past three years, ISBE has moved to a performance management model, with integrated business plans, budgets and performance measures for every division in the agency.  Extending this model to the broader education system, in 2000 the State Board for the first time tied its annual report and budget request to performance goals and measures.  ISBE continues to improve its management processes through applying internationally accepted business models and processes, converting to electronic data collection and reporting, and internal management accountability.

Advocacy

Superintendent McGee has been, and continues to be, an impassioned advocate for educational improvement.  He has raised the issue of achievement gaps among students to state prominence.  He has shepherded Early Childhood Education to the forefront of state and national discussions.  He has been diligent in his pursuit of state and federal funds for special education, reading and mathematics.   He is well-known throughout Illinois for his ability to clearly illustrate and passionately convey important needs for children, educators and schools