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August 7, 2002

Illinois one of six states selected to lead in implementing No Child Left Behind law

Washington, DC – Wednesday, August 7, 2002 – Education Leaders Council (ELC) today announced that Illinois is among the six states asked to lead the first phase of the Following the Leaders project designed to increase student achievement and the quality of public education in America. Funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Following the Leaders provides states with technology and hands-on guidance to enable teachers, administrators and policymakers to implement the dramatic changes in educational quality mandated by the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).

“We look forward to entering into this unique partnership with the Council and these other states,” said State Superintendent of Education Robert E. Schiller. “Illinois has already undertaken many of the initiatives required by No Child Left Behind, and we are pleased to be selected as a national leader in implementing NCLB.”

“ELC is eager to work with Illinois in this first phase of Following the Leaders to realize the goals of the new law,” said Lisa Graham Keegan, CEO of the Education Leaders Council. “Last month, 28 states applied to participate in this project. Each applicant showed great enthusiasm and a ‘can-do’ spirit. Illinois has an infectious enthusiasm and commitment to students and we have the tools to help them put the promise of NCLB into practice,” she said.

Following the Leaders includes a combination of standardized tools and reports, as well as teaching aids and other features that can be customized to particular school needs. Teachers and principals will benefit from direct assistance as they begin to employ new resources that not only help them to align their lessons to state standards, but also to determine individual student progress. Parents also play a significant role, as they will now receive regular updates about their child’s performance, ensuring that all stakeholders are informed and responsible for student achievement, a hallmark of NCLB.

Illinois will be required immediately to mobilize a leadership team, including a project coordinator; identify and prepare 10 to 15 of the 435 Title I schools identified by the state as eligible to participate; provide detailed technical specifications for each of the schools and state offices that will be involved; and begin a comprehensive needs assessment.

Alaska, Illinois, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and West Virginia were selected for their immediate capacity to use Following the Leader tools effectively for realizing the goals mandated by the NCLB, the landmark statute enacted in January 2002 that requires dramatic increases in the quality of public education. The law calls for all students to be tested annually in grades three through eight beginning with the 2002-2003 school year. School ratings will be based on tests of individual student performance, rather than on average class scores, to allow parents, teachers and policymakers to better address student needs so that “no child is left behind” in pursuit of a quality education. Schools not meeting minimum standards for student achievement must provide parents and students with a wide range of supplemental learning and instructional services.

The six states chosen for the first phase represent a broad cross-section of the U.S. education landscape. Some states are well on their way to compliance; still others recognize that there is more work to be done. The six states are small and large, spread across the geographic, economic and political spectrum.

Throughout the selection process, all 28 states that applied were informed that there are no winners and losers. September 2002 is simply the beginning of the first phase with the second rollout of states scheduled for January 2003 and yet another later in the year. Expansion of the program to additional states is dependent upon future appropriations, as is the extension of Following the Leaders services to other schools and districts within existing states. The first phase of the project does include capacity-building features necessary to sustain reform and build for the future. Furthermore, ELC and its partners are committed to action and the need to deliver a model with workable solutions for the nation to follow.

About Following the Leaders
Following the Leaders is a nationwide initiative coordinated by ELC in partnership with Project Achieve, AccountabilityWorks, the Milken Family Foundation and the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation. Funding for Following the Leaders was awarded by the U.S. Department of Education on June 28, 2002. Applications for the project were received from 28 states on July 19, 2002, including: AL, AK, AZ, AR, CA, CO, FL, GA, ID, IL, IO, LA, MA, MI, MN, MS, NH, NJ, NM, OK, PA, TN, UT, VT, VA, WV, WI, WY.

For more information visit:

About Education Leaders Council
Washington DC-based Education Leaders Council (ELC) is a not-for-profit, policy “action tank.” It is comprised of reform-minded state leaders who are committed to make a difference in education and student achievement. As advocates for school choice, teacher quality, accountability and standards, ELC is actively engaged in regional and national debates focused on these issues, maintaining that “good enough” is not good enough. ELC shares the belief that the time is now for no child to be left behind, continuing to exert pressure and provide the resources necessary to ensure excellence in education for all.

For more information visit:

Following the Leaders – Fact Sheet
August 7, 2002

  1. Following the Leaders (FTL) engages participating states, districts and schools in a rapid deployment of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). It provides all participants not only with the tools they need to put the essential elements of reform into place, but also with the constant guidance, expertise and reform-oriented philosophy they need to ensure that these goals are fully and permanently achieved.

  2. Education Leaders Council received $3.5 million from the U.S. Department of Education Fund for the Improvement of Education to lay an immediate groundwork to ensure the success of the project.

  3. FTL funding will ultimately determine the number of states participating in the program, as well as the opportunities to extend the program within existing states.

  4. FTL garnered an overwhelming initial response with 28 states that submitted applications to participate in the project. 12 states were invited for interviews and six states were selected to participate in the first phase of the project. These six states include: Alaska, Illinois, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and West Virginia.

  5. FTL does not award cash grants. It offers states and schools a comprehensive system for analyzing the extensive data that is required to be collected and reported under NCLB, and then using that information to set policies that will improve classroom instruction and school management, ensure state assessments are rigorous and meaningful, and that data (and the resulting analysis) are readily available to parents, schools, districts, and policymakers.

  6. FTL builds upon work that has already been done in the states and helps them improve their own systems of assessment. It does not dictate to states what their standards should be or what tests it should use. Rather, it provides states with the best information about their current assessments to allow states to determine their needs and what changes, if any, are needed.

  7. FTL provides a comprehensive system of data analysis for the Congress and US Department of Education to gauge progress toward meeting high academic standards, closing the achievement gap, and realizing that ambitious goals of NCLB.

  8. FTL provides State education agencies, governors and other state policymakers with the ability to closely monitor progress in districts and schools toward meeting the requirements of AYP. It also provides them with an idea of what a quality assessment system looks like, allowing them, if they so choose, to continually improve the State assessment.

  1. FTL provides Classroom teachers with the ability to assess the effectiveness of their instruction, see the academic progress of their own students on any given day, and access best practices and effective instructional resources.

  2. FTL provides the technology framework to facilitate communications between teachers and parents, ultimately holding all stakeholders responsible for individual student improvement.

Illinois State Board of Education
100 North First Street
Springfield, IL 62777