I know you've heard a lot of talk of late about raising graduation requirements. While I think I've made clear my concerns about high school capacity in the state and my support for the Governor's Higher Standards, Better Schools proposal, I haven't yet shared with you a complete rationale for that position. I'd like to use this week's message as a platform for doing so.
Illinois has some of the weakest graduation requirements in the country. While the way that other states handle requirements should not drive our policies here in Illinois, the fact that no other state with a math, science or English requirement has lower requirements overall should give us pause for thought.
For me, the justification for raising our high school requirements is pretty straightforward. By increasing graduation standards, students will achieve more academically, and graduates will enjoy greater success in the workforce and in post-secondary education.
Policies create expectations for kids, just as we do as educators. Students who are exposed to more challenging courses do better in school and score higher on national tests. But raising standards is about more than just improving our national test scores. It's also about preparing our students for success after they graduate. On last year's ACT test, almost 56 percent of Illinois students expressed an intention to go on to either a two-year or four-year educational degree program. Yet, 38 percent of Illinois graduates do not take the “core courses” they need to successfully pursue higher education. Some institutions, in Illinois and elsewhere, will not accept graduates who have only met Illinois' current, minimal high school graduation requirements.
Increasing graduation requirements will also make graduates more competitive in the workforce. While a majority of U.S. jobs now require some form of higher education, even jobs that don’t still require advanced math, science and writing skills.
I know there are concerns about costs and the phase-in time needed for the changes proposed, and we’ve sought to address these. But ignoring the need to enhance current graduation requirements is tantamount to my taking a pass on an important opportunity to improve Illinois schools. I support the Governor's Higher Standards, Better Schools plan and I hope as educational leaders for our State you will assist in that support.
Have a great week.
Also included in today’s message
Consequences for not meeting "Highly Qualified" requirements
ISBE believes it is important to clarify the consequences of not meeting the "highly qualified" requirements in the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 and personnel or other actions required by such consequences. At the beginning of the 2005-06 school year, each district must notify parents if their child has been assigned to a class with a teacher who is not highly qualified. (NCLB 1111 (h)(6)(B)(ii)) Under NCLB, parents must also be notified if their child has been taught for four or more consecutive weeks by a teacher who is not highly qualified. Id.
At the end of the 2005-06 school year, each district must report to ISBE its progress ensuring that all teachers teaching in core academic subjects are highly qualified. (NCLB 1119(b)(1)). If all teachers teaching in core academic subjects are not highly qualified by the end of the 2006-07 school year, the district must develop an improvement plan specifying how the district will meet the highly qualified requirements. (NCLB 2141(a)). If all teachers teaching in core academic subjects are not highly qualified by the end of the 2007-08 school year and the district has not made Adequate Yearly Progress for three consecutive years, (i) ISBE and the district must enter into an agreement on the use of Title I, Part A funds (NCLB 2141(c)); (ii) the district may no longer use Title I funds to hire new paraprofessionals for Title I programs unless certain conditions are met (NCLB 2141(c)); and (iii) ISBE must work with the district to directly fund professional development activities at one or more of the district's schools.
No other consequences are specified in federal or state law for a district's failure to meet NCLB's highly qualified criteria. With respect to the impact of NCLB on the continued employment of teachers, NCLB states that "[n]othing in [Section 1116 (which sets forth the framework for corrective action)] shall be construed to alter or otherwise affect the rights, remedies, and procedures afforded school or school district employees under Federal, State, or local laws (including applicable regulations or court order) or under the terms of collective bargaining agreements, memoranda of understanding, or other agreements between such employees and their employers." NCLB 1116(d). The USDOE nevertheless has explained that it is essential for states and districts to make a good faith effort to comply with NCLB and to demonstrate progress toward such compliance.
In this past week's Superintendent's weekly message, we wrote:
A school district may not withhold grades or transcripts for non payment of fees. Payment of student fees may not be a condition for enrollment for the next school year. A student may not be denied the opportunity to take part in graduation activities because of non payment of fees.
Due to several inquiries by districts, we feel the need to clarify this statement. First, under ISBE's administrative rules at 23 Ill. Adm. Code 375.75(f), a school can elect to send only the unofficial transcript for a transfer student when the student has unpaid fees. The transferring school can refuse to send the official transcript unless fees are paid or payment arrangements have been made.
Second, districts may, if authorized by their discipline policy, enact discipline for failure to pay for items not meeting the definition of a “school fee” in ISBE’s administrative rule. Under Section 1.245(b)(2) of ISBE's administrative rules (23 Ill. Adm. Code 1.245(b)(2)), the following items are expressly excluded from the definition of school fees:
ź Library fines and other charges made for the loss, misuse or destruction of school property;
ź Charges for the purchase of class rings, yearbooks, pictures, diploma covers or similar items;
ź Charges for optional travel undertaken by a school club or group of students outside of school hours;
ź Charges for admission to school dances, athletic events or other social events; and
ź Optional community service programs for which fees are charged.
ISBE has received several inquiries about the validity of school policies excluding students from the graduation ceremony in response to a parent's non-payment of fees. Section 28-19.2 of the School Code prohibits punishment or discrimination of any kind against a student whose parents are unable to purchase required textbooks and instructional materials or to pay required fees. (emphasis added) 105 ILCS 5/28-19.2. ISBE has consistently interpreted this prohibition to include the lowering of grades, exclusion from classes, withholding of diplomas and exclusion from graduation ceremonies. Therefore, in ISBE's opinion, policies excluding students from a graduation ceremony in response to a parent's non-payment of required fees (as defined in ISBE's administrative rules) violate Section 28-19.2 of the School Code.
The 2005 Preliminary AYP Check Report is now available in IWAS. This report is for reviewing purposes only. If changes are necessary, please go to the SchoolHouse website at www.ncsschoolhouse.com and revise your data. Changes will be updated in IWAS on a daily basis.
If you have any questions regarding this report, please call SchoolHouse at 1-800-627-7990 extension 814 or ISBE’s Student Assessment Division at 217/782-4823.
In preparation for the statewide rollout of unique student identifiers for the ISBE Student Information System (SIS), school districts that did not participate in the pilot project are advised to attend a half-day session designed to demonstrate the features of this system as well as provide hands-on practice for school or district staff. Each school district should send 2 participants, one whose role is to enter student information into the school district's student administrative package (SAP), and another whose role is to interact with the school district's SAP vendor or in-house technical staff to upload or download batch files.
ISBE has scheduled 35 training sessions at 14 locations geographically situated across Illinois during a four-week period beginning Monday, July 18, 2005, and ending Thursday, August 11, 2005. An online registration form and logistical information for each session, including directions, is available on the ISBE Student Information System home page http://www.isbe.net/sis/ and click on online registration form to register.
A continental breakfast or snack will be provided at each session.
Senate Bill 3000, signed into law last September, calls for the State Board to develop a comprehensive, five year "Strategic Plan" for Illinois schools. The first of six public hearings to discuss the Plan will be held in Bloomington on Monday, May 23, at 10 a.m. I'd like to encourage you to attend that hearing as an opportunity to help shape the future direction of education in our state.
The Illinois State Board of Education, Division of Special Education Services has completed the grant application under Part B of IDEA as amended in 2004, for FFY 2005 funds which will become available to states on July 1, 2005. The completed application is due on or before May 9, 2005. Upon receipt and approval of the required assurances, certifications, and information in the Application the State will be eligible to receive FFY 2005 Part B funds.
The General Education Provisions Act (GEPA) requires that states must publish their Part B Application for at least 60 days and accept public comment for at least 30 days. In addition, if a State is adopting new or revised policies and procedures related to Part B or C, your agency must also conduct public hearings at times and places throughout the State to afford interested parties an opportunity to participate pursuant to the public hearing and related requirements at 34 CFR §§300.280 through 300.284 (for Part B) and 34 CFR §§303.110 through 303.113 (for Part C). The state must then review and consider all public comments and make any necessary modifications to the policies and procedures.
Illinois will not be adopting revised policies and procedures at this time. It is anticipated that the Division of Special Education Services will conduct public hearings on the revised policies and procedures during the Fall of 2005.
For FFY 2005, to facilitate timely issuance of grant awards, OSEP will allow states to submit their applications prior to completion of the 60 day publication of the plan but the state must take the following steps:
1. When the 30 days of public comment is completed, the state must inform OSEP in writing of any changes to the application resulting from public comment; and
2. Inform OSEP when the 60 days of public availability is completed. If the state has not yet begun the 60 days of public availability, the completion of the 60-day period may occur after July 1, but OSEP will flow grant awards on July 1 if step 1 above is met and the application is substantially approvable.
Public comment may be submitted either via e-mail IDEA@isbe.net or via standard mail addressed to Dr. Christopher Koch, Assistant Superintendent for Special Education ISBE, 100 North First Street – N-243, Springfield, Illinois 62777-0001.
The “You ARE Making Progress – Measuring Student Growth Over Time” conference will be held at the Doubletree Hotel, in Oak Brook, Illinois on June 15 and 16, 2005. This conference is being sponsored by ISBE, Harcourt, Princeton Review, Learning Points, Illinois Principals Association, The Grow Network and ACT. The focus is on value added/measuring growth over time. For registration information, go to www.isbe.net/assessment
Diabetes is one of the most common chronic diseases in school-aged children, affecting 206,000 young people in 2002. It must be managed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. For most students with diabetes, that means careful monitoring of blood glucose levels throughout the school day and administering multiple doses of insulin therapy or using a continuous insulin pump.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP) has established Diabetes in Schools Initiative. Working with experts in diabetes, pediatric medicine, school nursing and education, the NDEP has produced Helping the Student with Diabetes Succeed: A Guide for School Personnel to address the needs of all students with diabetes.
With this new guide, school administrators and health services personnel now have a comprehensive resource that:
ź Lays out a team approach to diabetes management in the school setting;
ź Provides a basic primer and glossary about diabetes;
ź Reviews components for planning and implementing effective diabetes management;
ź Contains sample action plans that alert school personnel to common signs and symptoms of high and low blood glucose levels and how to handle emergencies; and
ź Reviews the federal laws pertaining to schools’ responsibilities to educate students with disabilities.
The guide may be downloaded and reproduced and distributed without copyright restrictions from the NDEP Web site at http://www.ndep.nih.gov/resources/school.htm. It may also be ordered by calling 1-800-438-5383.
The U.S. Department of Education has notified the Illinois State Board of Education of an upcoming international literacy study. The Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS 2006) is designed to provide internationally comparable information regarding the reading literacy of fourth grade students. School districts in Illinois may be contacted to participate in this study and the State Board of Education is encouraging districts to take part if invited to do so. Students in over 40 countries are participating in the study in order to provide valuable data concerning literacy skills throughout the world. Information regarding the performance of students in the United States compared to those in other countries will provide insight into the country’s literacy successes and what challenges still lie ahead. Schools in Illinois, if chosen to participate, should take advantage of this opportunity to contribute to a body of knowledge that may be used to influence instructional practices throughout the world.
The Presidential Environmental Youth Awards (PEYA) program honors a wide variety of environmental projects developed by young people, K-12 school classes, summer camps, public interest groups and youth organizations to promote environmental awareness. All PEYA applicants receive a certificate signed by the president of the United States in recognition of their contribution to protecting human health and the environment. One outstanding applicant will receive a presidential plaque. This year, the PEYA winner could be YOU!
Students who are American citizens and who complete the project while in kindergarten through 12th grade are eligible. An application can be downloaded from http://www.epa.gov/enviroed/awards.html Applications for PEYA are due no later than JULY 31 of each year. You may also call (800)-621-8431 for additional information or a copy of the application.
The 28th annual Showcase Conference of Performing Arts for Young People will be held on September 7 and 8 at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie. For more information or to order tickets, please call Pat Adams at 847/679-9501, ext. 3100 or visit www.centreeast.org
To view external vacancies at the Illinois State Board of Education, go to http://www.isbe.net/hr/Default.htm.
This week’s news clips may be viewed at http://www.isbe.net/news/2005/newsclips/050513.htm.