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May 13, 2003

State Board of Education approves comprehensive changes in System of Support for academically struggling schools

Required by the federal No Child Left Behind law of 2001

A new, comprehensive approach to bolstering school improvement in academically struggling schools was approved by the State Board of Education today. The accountability requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) are expected to dramatically increase the numbers of schools and districts for which the state will be required to provide academic assistance.

Illinois first developed its System of Support in response to requirements of the 1994 reauthorization of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act for schools that received federal Title I funding. Initial efforts provided a variety of services, but the approach was not systemic.

The number of schools requiring targeted assistance has grown from 57 to 715 since 1997, largely because the state switched to the more rigorous Illinois Standards Achievement Test in 1999 and Prairie State Achievement Examination in 2001. These two tests set higher standards than the previous IGAP tests.

In the coming year, the number of targeted schools is expected to double or triple as a result of the adequate yearly progress (AYP) requirements set by the State Board to comply with NCLB. To meet these AYP requirements, the percentage of students who must meet and exceed state standards rises each year. Furthermore, the requirements apply not only to all students in a school or district but also to subgroups containing 40 or more students. Subgroups include race/ethnicity classification, students with disabilities, English language learners, and children in poverty as determined by free or reduced-price lunch status.

Schools that do not meet AYP requirements are placed on the state Academic Early Warning List (AEWL). Under current state laws, schools are placed on the AEWL if less than 50% of their test scores meet state standards for two consecutive years. AEWL schools that do not demonstrate improvement are placed on the Academic Watch List.

To handle the increased burden on the System of Support, ISBE staff, in partnership with the Regional Offices of Education and others, have developed a plan to shift the delivery of services from a centralized to a regionalized model. Currently, services are provided from the top down, with ISBE staff delivering hands-on assistance to schools and districts. The new approach would rely on Regional Offices of Education as the primary provider of services, except for the approval and program administration of most of the grants associated with NCLB.

The System of Support has four core elements: a school improvement plan that is based on analysis of data; standards-aligned curriculum, instruction and classroom assessment; professional development for teachers and administrators; and student, family and community support services. Full details of the plan to reorganize the System of Support are available in a report developed for the State Superintendent:

Funding for System of Support activities comes from both state and federal sources at the present time. Most funding in future years, however, will come from federal sources.

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