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TO:          District Superintendents
               ROE Superintendents

FROM:      Dr. Robert Schiller
               State Superintendent of Education
               Illinois State Board of Education

DATE:       December 10, 2003

SUBJECT:  School Report Card Update

All of us are well aware of the impact that the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) has had on our classrooms. Over the past two weeks, we have also identified its impact on state assessment and accountability.

This year, the rules have changed under NCLB. Our breadth of accountability has become more specific. Never before has the test participation rate for subgroups been calculated and included in the report card.

I am writing to each of you today to inform you that our 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, particularly for student subgroups. The result is that these schools are classified as “not making AYP”.

We believe this status resulted from coding errors. 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 from not properly cross-matching the data and/or not making changes during the correction period. The consequence is a school not making AYP. We believe this can be rectified.

“Accuracy matters” has been and continues to be our message about the data submitted for assessment. Our identification of these schools does not change that message.

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 with this issue will be contacted. The verification process is currently being structured and will be forthcoming.

Over the course of the past week I have met with and discussed options to resolve these issues with select members of the Assessment and Accountability Task Force, including Phil Hansen, Becky McCabe, Bob Nielsen, and Jim Rosborg, the Illinois Association of School Administrators and representatives of many other organizations. Additionally, since distributing the school report cards to districts statewide, ISBE has received more than 200 phone calls, in addition to letters and electronic correspondence, from administrators seeking clarification or questioning how their schools’ AYP data was calculated. Many schools have relayed to us that they met all federal and state Adequate Yearly Progress criteria, with the exception of test participation rates.

We will resolve this together.

Many of you have also expressed concerns over the school status information being released to the media. In response, we have reached out to the media, many of whom have already contacted you or you have contacted, and asked them to continue to honor the December 19th embargo (see complete memorandum at

We are asking them that they include in their published or broadcasted news stories words to the following effect: “The Illinois State Board of Education 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.”

We have additionally spoken directly to many of them, who realize that what is included in the report card is the result of what information was submitted to the testing contractor, but acknowledge that schools should not be placed on “not making AYP” simply because of coding errors.

In the meantime, it is fair to say that the burden of proof for correct participation data lies with the school district itself. The data reflected in the report card is the product of the testing data compiled at the school level for student assessment, attendance or graduation and test participation. Administrators, whose schools are identified in this process as not making AYP due to participation rates, should begin assembling all appropriate enrollment and assessment materials relevant to the 2003 test timeframe.

An important additional note: When student subgroup data is resubmitted, and participation rates recalculated for subgroups, you need to understand that those students’ test scores will now be added to and recalculated within the correct subgroup as well. This will mean that new numbers will likely appear in the columns labeled “Percent Meeting/Exceeding Standards” for reading and mathematics. This is the logical completion of the verification process and the quest for accuracy in AYP calculations. The recalculation may still result in a school not making AYP.

We are already working with many of you, and appreciate additional insight on ways to prevent this from happening again.

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