For Immediate Release
February 21, 2012

State Board approves NCLB waiver application

Illinois proposes comprehensive accountability system that uses multiple measures and moves forward with college and career ready standards

SPRINGFIELD —The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) approved a comprehensive waiver application to the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) that proposes using multiple measures to evaluate the nearly 4,000 public schools in Illinois. The overarching goal of the waiver is to cut in half achievement gaps and the percent of students not making progress by 2018. The Board’s plan, due to the U.S. Department of Education Feb. 28, replaces the outdated one-size-fits-all approach of NCLB with a new system that stresses high expectations of students and schools, as well as statewide support, innovation and flexibility to reach benchmarks.

“Under this waiver, Illinois will move forward with a comprehensive accountability system that uses multiple measures of gauging student performance to ensure college and career readiness,” said State Superintendent of Education Christopher A. Koch. “This new system will emphasize student progress over time to better drive instruction and track educational effectiveness.”

The plan calls for the use of a Multiple Measures Index based on four broad categories;

  1. Outcomes, including graduation rates;
  2. Achievement in math, reading and science;
  3. Student progress, including growth and English Language proficiency and;
  4. Educational context, such as school climate and course offerings, will be used as a bonus category.

Upon calculation of the Multiple Measures Index, schools and districts will be categorized into a five-star rating system that will align with various rewards, supports and interventions.

“This marks a watershed change in education,” said State Board of Education Chairman Gery J. Chico. “This is a much more common sense approach to setting high expectations, measuring student progress and holding schools accountable for the performance of their students. We believe this change is a better way to inspire student achievement for our more than 2 million public school students and better prepare them to compete with their peers across the globe.”

Some proposed changes to the federal accountability system include:

To increase the agency’s capacity to meet the needs of all schools and districts in need of improvement, Illinois’ plan calls for establishing the Center for School Improvement to provide coordination and coherence to school improvement services. Districts and schools will undergo a comprehensive audit to identify areas for improvement and develop a strong intervention plan. Identified interventions will be based on the specific needs identified, rather than a one-size-fit-all mandated intervention.

Illinois’ application also describes on-going reforms to raise educational rigor for students and educators, including the state’s 2010 adoption of new, more rigorous K-12 Common Core Learning standards in math and English Language Arts. Those college and career-ready standards are being implemented across the state and will be aligned to a new assessment in 2014-15.

Additionally, Illinois passed landmark principal and teacher evaluation legislation that calls for more thorough evaluations that for the first time will tie student growth to teachers and principals beginning next year and gradually spreading to all districts by 2016. At the same time, the state has dramatically overhauled policies regarding teacher and principal preparation programs to emphasize clearer and higher standards.

Since last fall when the U.S. Department of Education invited states to seek waivers to portions of NCLB, the ISBE conducted a survey and convened 27 meetings across the state to solicit ideas and feedback on the state’s waiver proposal. Through these efforts, more than 1,500 individuals and multiple education and civil rights groups have provided input and support for the application.

Nationally, 10 states have received NCLB waivers to date from the U.S. Department of Education. Illinois expects to receive notification in spring 2012.