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State of Illinois - Governor Blagojevich 

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January 17, 2002

Special Education Plan Sets Five-Year
Goals for Continuous Improvement

Improving the achievement of students with disabilities is the focus of a Continuous Improvement Plan for Special Education approved by the State Board of Education Thursday.

The result of a state self-assessment combined with the efforts of a 50-member State Steering Committee and input gained from public hearings last October, the plan establishes specific, measurable objectives for improving state and local efforts to serve students with disabilities in special education programs. The Improvement Plan is a required component of the U. S. Department of Education's (USDE) Office of Special Education Programs Continuous Improvement Monitoring Process for Illinois.

Illinois receives an annual federal grant of about $300 million from the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) that is contingent upon compliance with federal requirements covered by the Monitoring Process.

The state self-assessment identified critical issues in special education and was submitted to the USDE in December 2000. A steering committee of 50 representatives of parents, teachers, administrators and others with interests in special education service delivery reviewed those issues and submitted a draft improvement plan in Oct. 2001. The subsequent hearings produced hundreds of comments on the implementation of the IDEA legislation.

The Continuous Improvement Plan for Special Education approved by the State Board sets the following five-year goals:

Goal 1: Illinois will increase by 4.5 percentage points per year, the percentage of youth with disabilities who exit school with a standard diploma (reaching 90% in the year 2007) and increase employment and/or post-secondary education opportunities. The baseline is 63% in 1998, the most recent year available.

Goal 2: Illinois will increase by 4.5 percentage points per year, the number of students with disabilities (3-21) who are provided Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) in general education classrooms (80% or more of the school day) in the school they would attend if not disabled. The baseline is 36.4% of students in December 2000.

Federal law (IDEA) requires that students with qualified disabilities be educated in the Least Restrictive Environment, which for many students can be in general education classrooms with appropriate supports. National statistics indicate that Illinois had among the lowest rates of students with disabilities educated in general education classrooms. A child's placement is determined by an Individualized Education Program developed by a team of local school officials, with parental participation, to meet his or her educational needs.

Goal 3: Illinois will increase by one percentage point per year, starting in 2003, the number of fully-certified or licensed general and special education teachers, administrators, and related services personnel who are prepared to provide FAPE in the Least Restrictive Environment with individualized supplementary aids and services to students with disabilities. The baseline is 95.5% of personnel who are fully certified or licensed.

Goal 4: Illinois will increase the meaningful, effective involvement of families in the educational process of children with disabilities as measured by analyses of survey data and progress from baselines to be established in 2002-2003.

Goal 5: Illinois will have a general supervision and monitoring system that improves student outcomes, as measured by a) the percentage of Local Education Agencies (LEAs) monitored who are identified as being in the lower quartile on a goal measure, and b) annual progress of monitored LEAs on the Critical Indicators (e.g., as standardized test data, drop-out rates, graduation data, etc.).

In presenting the Plan to the Board, State Board staff said it would "increase accountability for special education services in Illinois and compel the State Board to use data in decision making prior to interventions and monitoring."

Expected results of implementing the plan, according to the staff report, include

  • decreasing the dropout rate for students with disabilities;
    increasing the percentage of students with disabilities who participate in the state assessment system.

  • increasing the percentage of students with disabilities who meet or exceed state standards on state tests; and

  • decreasing the percentage of students with disabilities who are suspended or expelled.

Activities under the plan would also help districts improve services through

  • increased training and support from the state;

  • increase the involvement of parents in determining appropriate services for children and in program improvement;

  • increase the percentage of fully-certified special education teachers as well as the percentage of general education teachers who are prepared to instruct students in the least restrictive environment; and

  • increase collaboration among other state agencies and higher education institutions on issues addressed by the plan.

The Plan must be submitted to the U. S. Education Department for review and approval, and will also be submitted to the parties in the Corey H. special education lawsuit.

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