NEWS

Report: Schools Show Signs of Progress on Adopting Standards

 

For Immediate Release
September 21, 2001

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Illinois schools have taken an important step toward implementing the Illinois Learning Standards (ILS), a report by two University of Illinois researchers says.

Lizanne DeStefano and Nona Prestine found that the state has reached the level of transitioning to an ILS-led system.  Teachers rated the level of implementation at their schools, with 43 percent of responding schools falling in this category, more than doubling over the previous year's 18 percent.

The Illinois State Board of Education heard a report on the study Wednesday at its September meeting in SpringfieldThe same researchers conducted similar studies of ILS implementation in 1999 and 2000.

"Thousands of Illinois citizens participated in the development of the Illinois Learning Standards to define what students should know and be able to do throughout their school years," said State Superintendent of Education Glenn W. McGee.  "This is the highest level of implementing the Standards that we've ever seen.  Now it's time to accelerate that process and move activities in every school, every classroom, closer to the Learning Standards."

The University of Illinois study was based on surveys of a random sample of 2,422 teachers at 71 Illinois schools.  The findings were validated by cases studies conducted at some of the participating schools.

There are several characteristics common among schools transitioning to an ILS-led system, including:

  • Established plans and policies for ILS implementation that are well known at the district, school and classroom levels.
  • Linkages between curriculum and the ILS.
  • Teachers and administrators who believe the ILS are the "way to go" to improve student learning.
  • Widespread impact of the ILS on teaching, lesson planning, textbook selection, resource allocation and professional development.
  • University preservice and continuing programs that incorporate the ILS.
  • Evidence that new programs and policies are shaped by the ILS.
  • Beginning awareness of the ILS among students and members of the community.

Successful schools have developed complete assessment systems that measure the ILS on a continuing basis.

Board members also received a report on the Standards-Aligned Classroom Initiative, a program to provide training and support to teachers by establishing teams of teachers and administrators in implementing the ILS.  Teachers who took part in the initiative showed a significant increase in their confidence in working with the ILS and implementing them in their classrooms.

The teams - which included both teachers and administrators - helped participants understand the principles of a standards-led system; the knowledge and skills embedded in the ILS; and the value of student involvement in classroom assessment.  Coaches in the Regional Offices of Education worked with and assisted the school-based teams.  

According to the report on the initiative, written by Michigan State University researcher Edward Wolfe, the approach of building teams gave teachers more confidence in their ability to use the ILS.  The increase in confidence was evident for new teachers and veterans, whether in elementary schools or middle and high schools.

Not only did Wolfe find that teachers had more confidence in working with the ILS after participating in the program, he also found several specific steps that helped raise teachers' confidence even further.  The greatest increases were for teachers at schools where the team meetings took place more frequently and schools where the meetings regularly included an administrator.

McGee said the Standards-Aligned Classroom Initiative highlighted an approach that schools and districts around the state can adapt for use in their own efforts to bring rigorous standards into the classroom.

In the University of Illinois report, DeStefano and Prestine noticed several factors that seemed common to schools that are further along in implementing of the standards.  One factor was teachers having "ownership of the standards."  In other words, high levels of teacher involvement in defining and refining the standards caused teachers to see the standards as "theirs," rather than as an intrusive mandate imposed from outside.  

Another important factor was changes in classroom instruction.  In other words, schools recognized that the standards would lead not only to changes classroom instruction as well as in the curriculum.  The focus of instruction moved away from rote memorization and basic drill and toward problem-solving and high-order thinking.  

As a result of their study, DeStefano and Prestine made several recommendations.  One of the key recommendations is to build capacity at the district level for effective implementation of the ILS.  Successful implementation of the ILS most often came where district administrators helped to drive change in schools and classrooms.

McGee pointed out that the key findings of each report supported and built on the key findings of the other report.  

"We are learning what works best," said McGee.  "We're working to make sure that educators at every level - from the State Board down to the classroom - have the training, tools, support and materials they need to help every student reach the Illinois Learning Standards."

Both reports are available on line: the year three report from DeStefano and Prestine at www.isbe.net/news/pdf/ils0901.pdf and the Standards-Aligned Classroom Initiative evaluation at www.isbe.net/news/pdf/sac0901.pdf.