State Board Recommends Public School Choice Policies

For Immediate Release
May 16, 2002
For More Information

Springfield – The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) today recommended that local school boards adopt two policies for students attending low-performing schools -- public school choice and supplemental education services -- as part the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2001.

The Board also authorized that a proposed state policy on public school choice for students in unsafe or “persistently dangerous” schools be distributed for public comment before a final measure is adopted.

Under NCLB, low-performing public schools that have not made adequate yearly progress (AYP) for two or more consecutive years are required to offer families the option of sending their children to a higher-performing public school in the district.  Starting in 2003-04, schools that have not made AYP for three or more years must also provide supplemental educational services to students.

In Illinois, 404 low-performing elementary and middle schools in 65 districts receive Title I funds and would be required to offer choice this fall if they fail to make AYP on their 2002 state assessment results.  The districts will receive these results in early August and then must notify families of their option to transfer their children to a higher-performing school in the district.  Families will then have 30 days to take advantage of the choice option.  If space is limited, first priority will be given to low-achieving, low-income students.

Of the 893 school districts in Illinois, many do not have multiple schools with the same grade level, so offering public school choice may be difficult.  If no higher-performing school is available, districts are required to the extent practicable, to have intergovernmental agreements with neighboring school districts to educate their children. 

Students transferring to a higher-performing school must have access to the same classes and activities as those currently enrolled.  If the new school is placed on improvement status, students have the option of transferring to yet another higher-performing school in the district.

The State Board recommends that each local school board establish and implement a public school choice policy for schools on improvement status.  It is especially important and timely that the 65 Illinois districts that may be among the first affected approve a policy now, while remaining districts complete a policy during the 2002-03 school year.

Supplemental Educational Services

In addition to public school choice, schools that do not make AYP for three or more years must provide supplemental educational services (SES) to students.  This provision will take affect with the 2003-04 school year.  ISBE recommends that districts also adopt a policy on supplemental

educational services, which are defined as tutoring and other academic enrichment services offered in addition to instruction provided during the school day. 

Supplemental educational services can be provided by a variety of community-based organizations with a demonstrated record of effectiveness in helping students to improve academic achievement.  Once ISBE approves a list of SES providers during 2002-03, parents will be able to select the service and provider for their children, as applicable in 2003-04.

Public School Choice for Unsafe or “Persistently Dangerous” Schools

The State Board is also seeking input from local educators, parents and citizens on draft language to define a school as unsafe or “persistently dangerous” as federally required and thus qualify students for public school choice to a safer school.  

Two conditions would allow students to transfer to a safer school.  One is the individual option in which students who have been victims of a violent crime while in or on the grounds of the school they attend can transfer to a safe public elementary or secondary school in the district, including a public charter school. 

The second public school choice option applies to all students who attend a school that is defined as unsafe or “persistently dangerous,” based on the proposed definition below.

ISBE is seeking public comment on the components and timeline of the proposed definition of an unsafe or “persistently dangerous” school as outlined below:

A “persistently dangerous” school must meet the following criteria for three consecutive years:

  • Three percent of the student enrollment expelled for violence-related incidents, and/or
  • One or more students expelled for bringing a gun or weapon to school, and/or
  • Three percent or more of the student enrollment taking the individual option for a violent criminal offense can exercise the public choice option.

Comments on the proposed definition should be e-mailed to