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TO:          Editors and Appropriate Education Reporters

FROM:      Karen Craven, Director
               Department of Public Information
               Illinois State Board of Education

DATE:       December 10, 2003

SUBJECT:  School Report Card Embargo Request

The Illinois State Board of Education's Department of Public Information is asking all members of the media who are currently working with school report card data to continue to honor the December 19th embargo.

The purpose of the embargo is to allow all 892 school districts in Illinois to disseminate their own data in a timely manner, as well as provide the schools ample time to honor state law requiring them to report it to the public.

Many of you have rightfully begun to publish reports on the school report cards because districts in your coverage area have already released their data, and have subsequently reported on questions that administrators have with their own school report cards.

All of you familiar with the No Child Left Behind Act know that its impact on school assessment this year is monumental. It is an understatement to say that this is a transition year. It is the first year that participation rates for subgroups has been calculated, and consequently has created new areas of accountability.

In the two weeks since the state began distributing the data, ISBE staff has identified more than 300 schools which met all federal and state Adequate Yearly Progress criteria, with the exception of the test participation rates for student subgroups. The result is that these schools are classified as "not making AYP." For example, a student who may have been classified as being low-income in the enrollment data was not identified as such on the test forms themselves. Therefore, the enrollment numbers don't match the participation numbers for that subgroup. This mismatch is primarily a result of not properly cross-matching the data and/or not making changes during the 45 day correction period. The consequence is a school not making AYP. We believe this can be rectified.

Again, because this is the first year that Adequate Yearly Progress has been calculated for subgroups, all correspondence from ISBE to administrators beginning in April through August included words stressing the fact that accuracy matters. It should be made clear that the current data included in the schools' report cards was generated from the schools themselves.

Our message consistently to the schools is that accuracy does matter and that there are consequences to failing to make AYP. Therefore, ISBE will offer a verification period, allowing these identified schools the opportunity to corroborate their test participation data or negate it. The schools that ISBE has identified will be contacted and the verification process is currently being structured. As a result of the verification, the AYP calculation for these identified schools may very well change. You should consider this potential change as you work on your current stories.

At this time, the Department of Public Information is asking all members of the media who plan to publish or air reports on the data upon release of the December 19 embargo that they include words to the following effect in their news stories:

"The Illinois State Board of Education has identified more than 300 schools whose test participation data adversely affected their Adequate Yearly Progress calculation and therefore the school's AYP status. ISBE is working with these schools to verify the data."

The Department of Public Information appreciates your assistance in this matter, and assures you that the list of schools that we have already identified as well as the process that will be used to verify their data will be forthcoming.

ISBE has received more than 200 phone calls, and additional correspondence from school administrators whose primary concern has been about their AYP status. Further, ISBE has already discussed with the Illinois Association of School Administrators and several other organizations how to prevent this in the future and will keep you abreast of progress on that front.

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