For Immediate Release
July 1, 2008

Illinois receives additional flexibility to help schools meet federal NCLB requirements

One of 6 states accepted into new U.S. Dept. of Education pilot program; flexibility targets low-performing schools earlier with tailored resources

Springfield — Illinois State Superintendent of Education Christopher A. Koch announced today that Illinois has been chosen to participate in a federal pilot program to provide additional flexibility and tools to assist schools in meeting federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) requirements. The U.S. Department of Education selected Illinois as one of six states to participate in the new pilot program that allows the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) to focus additional resources and efforts on schools and districts across the state with targeted efforts.

“Our state testing data shows that there are many different reasons why schools fail to meet Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) measures. Current NCLB guidelines are one-size-fits-all, and treating all schools the same is not an effective approach, just as treating each student the same is not effective,” said Supt. Koch. “With this additional flexibility we will be able to identify and focus our efforts on the students that need it the most. I’m excited about this opportunity to take more immediate action to improve our lowest-performing schools.”

With the U.S. Department of Education’s ‘Differentiated Accountability’ pilot program, ISBE can use different strategies, providing additional resources, techniques and approaches to help all students succeed. Illinois’ approval is conditioned on demonstrating that state assessments administered in 2007-08 are fully compliant with NCLB. The overarching goal of NCLB is for all students to meet or exceed standards in reading and mathematics by 2014.

Because of the flexibility, low-performing schools in Illinois will begin offering additional tutoring earlier to students. Currently, schools that fail to make AYP in the same subject area two consecutive years must offer public school choice (PSC) and tutoring services after three years. Under the pilot, schools will offer either school choice or tutoring after failing to make AYP for two consecutive years and both options after failing for three consecutive years.

With school choice, students must be given the option to attend a public school that is not identified for improvement. However, in smaller districts, this option isn’t always available to students. By implementing tutoring as an earlier option, students will have access to additional services such as academic assistance in reading and math, to take place before school, after school or during the summer.

Also, ISBE will be able to differentiate between low-performing schools under the new pilot program. Schools and districts will continue to move through the process of improvement each year they do not make AYP, however, instead of all schools failing to meet state standards being labeled as in ‘need of improvement’, under the new system, schools and districts will be classified as either in the ‘focused’ or ‘comprehensive’ category. Schools and districts that make AYP in the “ALL students” subgroup, but not in one or more of the other subgroups would be placed in the ‘focused’ category, while schools that fail to meet state standards in the “ALL students” subgroup would be identified as ‘comprehensive.’

Illinois’ testing data shows that schools in the ‘comprehensive’ category are achieving lower than those in the ‘focused’ category and would greatly benefit more from intensive and specific interventions. In addition, ISBE would also eliminate ‘corrective action’ as a school designation of improvement. The corrective designation for schools will be replaced with a third year of either ‘focused school improvement’ or ‘comprehensive school improvement so that interventions have longer to work.’

The state’s lowest-performing schools will also be eligible to participate in an intensive ‘Priority Schools’ initiative. This initiative aims to make drastic changes that produce significant achievement gains as quickly as possible.

The five other states approved for the pilot include Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Maryland and Ohio. A total of 17 states submitted proposals for the program. Each state’s proposal, including Illinois’, was reviewed by a panel of nationally recognized experts. In return for the additional flexibility, each state has to commit to building their capacity for school reform; take the most significant actions for the lowest-performing schools, including addressing the issue of teacher effectiveness; and use data to determine the method of differentiation and categories of intervention.

ISBE will begin implementing portions of the proposal during the 2008-09 school year with full implementation in the 2009-10 year.