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2
  

Hello,

As we head into the 2017-18 school year, I want to begin by thanking you for your unwavering dedication to serving the children of Illinois. I am energized by your innovative ideas and your commitment to embracing the whole child model and serving our children with a comprehensive approach.

We want to start the new school year by sharing what Back to School looks like across the state. How is your school welcoming students back? What are students learning in their first weeks with new teachers? Tag us in your Facebook posts or tweet at us with #ILBacktoSchool. Email your photos and captions to backtoschool@isbe.net to be featured on our Back to School webpage and social media pages. (Please make sure you have obtained the necessary media consent from the parent/guardian of each student shown in the photos.)

I know that we are in a time of uncertainty. As school and district leaders, you have the incredible task of supporting the diverse needs of the students in your classrooms while adjusting to constant change. However, with challenge comes possibility. I hope we can also seize this as a moment of transformation. We all share responsibility for preparing our children with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in college, career, and beyond. My highest priority is getting to know each district and understanding each district’s strengths and challenges. By being in relationship, I can learn how best to support you. 

ISBE is here to make sure that you have the information you need to feel prepared for the start of the new school year. Our Back to School webinar for administrators is scheduled for next Wednesday, August 9, at 1 p.m. I will share any updates on funding for schools, state implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act, state assessments, and information about other important initiatives this school year. I will be available to answer your questions, along with members of my staff. I invite you to send in your questions ahead of time to backtoschool@isbe.net. A list of most frequently asked questions will be compiled and addressed during the webinar. We will continue collecting questions until Aug. 7. If you have not already registered for the webinar, I encourage you to sign up here. We will post a recording on the Back to School webpage along with the FAQs for those of you who are not able to participate live.

I hope our updated Back to School webpage can serve as a resource hub to help you navigate hot topics. One of the resources featured is our new and enhanced, comprehensive ISBE calendar. This interactive tool can help you keep track of important ISBE dates and deadlines throughout the 2017-18 school year. All events are color-coded and can be filtered by audience and event type. You will find a list of the upcoming events to the right of the calendar and a complete list of events on the “All Upcoming Meetings” page. The calendar will be updated regularly to ensure that all event information remains accurate and up to date.

As we begin a new school year, please remind your students and families that getting vaccinated is one of the most important things they can do to stay healthy. August is National Immunization Awareness Month, and ISBE, the Illinois Department of Public Health, and other state agencies are raising awareness of the importance of vaccinations, especially for keeping the youngest and oldest among us strong and healthy. Diseases can quickly spread among groups of children who aren’t vaccinated. Families should check their child’s vaccination records whether you have a baby starting at a new child care facility; a toddler heading to preschool; or a student going back to elementary, middle or high school. The Illinois Department of Public Health has created an easy reference guide to help you understand what vaccines are required to start school for each grade level. Find additional National Immunization Awareness Month resources here

You may have noticed: For the start of the new school year, we have launched a new, more accessible and interactive Weekly Message format! It is now presented online as a webpage, rather than a PDF, which we hope will make it easier to read and share.

I am excited for another year of continuous learning, reflection, and innovation. I know that through ongoing dialogue we at ISBE will continue to improve our service to districts. Together, we can realize our vision of Illinois as a state of whole children.

Welcome back to school!

Tony

8/1/2017YesBack to SchoolEducator EffectivenessIL-EMPOWEREarly Childhood EducationData AnalysisEnglish LearnersIllinois Bicentennial CelebrationSchool Health and WellnessSchool Business ServicesNonpublic SchoolsGrant Accountability Transparency ActYesYes6Yes
78
  

Hello,

We remain committed to equity and to addressing the needs of every child in Illinois as schools and districts across the state launch into the school year. We understand that children come to our schools with interconnected learning environments that we need to acknowledge and value. ISBE staff are continuing to build relationships with districts and deepen our dialogue to better support you and serve all children.

Our efforts to strengthen our partnerships this school year will continue with our annual Back to School webinar tomorrow, Aug. 9, at 1 p.m. We will share updates, introduce new tools, discuss your questions, and direct you to materials where you can find more information. Almost 500 administrators have registered for the webinar so far; if you have not already done so, I encourage you to sign up for the Back to School webinar here. I look forward to engaging in conversation with you and answering your questions. The webinar will be recorded and posted on the Back to School webpage along with the FAQs for those of you who are not able to participate live.

We received many great pictures from across the state last year, so we are again initiating our Back to School photo campaign this year. There are lots of opportunities -- teachers are setting up their classrooms, staff members are meeting to discuss goals for the year, and children are entering their schools with big smiles, etc. Don’t forget to tag us in your Facebook posts, tweet at us with #ILBacktoSchool, and/or email your photos and captions to backtoschool@isbe.net to be featured on our Back to School webpage and social media pages. (Please make sure you have obtained the necessary media consent from the parent/guardian of each student shown in the photos.)

Students have an exciting opportunity this month to share their skills and become a part of Illinois’ bicentennial history. Illinois high school and college students are invited to celebrate our state’s 200th birthday by submitting a 45-60 second self-made video highlighting a fact, event, place, person, or something to learn about the incredible history of Illinois. One hundred winners will have their video aired and posted as part of the 100 Day Bicentennial Countdown. Each winner whose video is selected will receive two tickets to the Dec. 3 Chicago matinee performance of Hamilton. The deadline for video submissions is Aug. 31. Find more details about the Illinois’ bicentennial video contest here.

Finally, administrators, please remind your staff that the renewal deadline for professional educator licenses and educator licenses with stipulations endorsed for career and technical educator is quickly approaching. All licenses with a July 1, 2017, renewal date must be renewed and registered by Aug. 31 or they will lapse and be invalid for employment. Please log in to ELIS and ensure your educators’ “Registered Thru” column shows a date of 6/30/18 or later. For questions, please contact ISBE’s Educator Effectiveness Division at (217) 557-6763 or licensure@isbe.net.

Have a great week!

Tony

8/8/2017NoNutrition ProgramsBack to SchoolEducational TechnologySchool Health and WellnessEarly Childhood EducationEducator EffectivenessIL-EMPOWERData AnalysisEnglish LearnersNonpublic SchoolsGrant Accountability Transparency ActNoNo8https://www.isbe.net/Documents_Superintendent_Weekly_Message/message_20160808.pdfYes
79
  

Hello,

I know you are all hoping the funding questions get resolved as quickly as possible. We continue to provide numbers and requested bill analyses to decision-makers. We are hoping for a more adequate and equitable outcome.

All Illinois students, families, and staff have the right to both feel and be safe in every school every day. There is no room for racism, hate, or violence in our schools. In light of the tragic events that occurred this past weekend, I want to remind you of the anti-bias and anti-hate resources available on our website. The National Network of State Teachers of the Year has a diverse list of books broken down by grade level, and organizations such as Teaching Tolerance and Facing History and Ourselves offer lesson plans, professional development, and other educator resources to help combat bias and build safe and inclusive classrooms, where all members of the school community feel supported as they explore new ideas and question their beliefs.

It is challenging work to understand each child’s unique strengths and challenges and fully prepare every child for success. I appreciate all that you do to advocate for your students and communities and to ensure you are best prepared to meet the needs of all your students. Kindergarten teachers will begin to use the Kindergarten Individual Development Survey (KIDS) tool this fall, so I want to emphasize that it is a whole community responsibility to invest in, nurture, and maximize the potential of every child. When one child does not have access to high-quality early learning, it does not just harm that child; it hurts Illinois. In order to guarantee our state’s long-term social and economic viability and achieve our state’s goal of 60 percent of Illinoisans possessing a high‐quality credential or degree by 2025, we have to make sure all children have what they need before kindergarten and up through their college and career. We will be able to use reliable, comparable data on students’ strengths, challenges, and dispositions when they enter kindergarten to identify and more clearly understand where children have access to high-quality early learning opportunities and where they do not have this same access. I see it as my responsibility to the children of Illinois to use this data to advocate for them before they get to school. The data will tell us where more resources are needed so that we can align resources to give all children the same opportunity in Illinois.

I greatly value the collaboration and the conversations that we have had with practitioners to get to the current framework. We at ISBE will continue to engage in dialogue and build tools in partnership with you. Now, as we launch into the school year, we want to make sure you have what you need to begin KIDS observations confidently in your schools and classrooms. ISBE’s updated KIDS webpage – shares tools for administrators and teachers, including training information and implementation resources. ISBE has committed to five more years of funding for KIDS coaches: Each coach will be assigned a different region of the state, for which they will provide training, support, and resources to new kindergarten teachers and individualized coaching to districts that request those services. Teachers and administrators who are new to KIDS may want to read the KIDS Overview and the Quick Start Guide to get started. The KIDS Introduction video in English and KIDS Introduction video in Spanish and the editable letter may be helpful as you are welcoming kindergarten families. Please also be sure to register for the KIDS webinar on Aug. 23 at 12:00 p.m. for a discussion about the latest resources and information available to support districts in implementing KIDS. Additional information is available in a recent press release. If you have any remaining questions about KIDS, you may email KIDS@isbe.net.

I am excited to congratulate Jack Baldermann, the principal of Westmont High School, for being named a finalist for the National Association of Secondary School Principals 2018 National Principal of the Year award. I am amazed by Jack’s accomplishments as an administrator the past 25 years. He has fostered a supportive and collaborative school climate, served as an influential mentor to faculty and staff, improved the success of students of color, and boosted the number of underrepresented AP Scholars.  To have an Illinois principal as a finalist for National Principal of the Year in spite of our state’s budgetary difficulties illustrates the remarkable work of principals and school leaders across Illinois. My deepest appreciation to all of you for your unwavering dedication and innovation. The 2018 NASSP National Principal of the Year will be announced in October for National Principals Month. Learn more about Jack’s work here.

Finally, I know that many of you are gearing up for the total solar eclipse on Monday, Aug. 21. This event is an exciting educational opportunity, but it is important to view the eclipse safely. The National Science Teachers Association website shares comprehensive information on viewing the eclipse, including educational materials on incorporating Next Generation Science Standards and preparing students for this historic event. NASA also has extensive information and educational resources on the total eclipse.

Have a great week!

Tony

8/15/2017NoTitle Grants AdministrationNutrition ProgramsSpecial Education ServicesEducational TechnologyEarly Childhood EducationEducator EffectivenessGrant Accountability Transparency ActNoNo9https://www.isbe.net/Documents_Superintendent_Weekly_Message/message_20160815.pdfYes
82
  

Hello,

If you have not checked our new Back to School webpage yet, now is the time! We just added a Frequently Asked Questions document to accompany the Aug. 9 Back to School webinar recording and presentation. Thank you again to all who submitted questions. We will update the FAQ as needed. I also recorded a short welcome back video in partnership with the Ed Leaders Network to share more information about ISBE’s vision and charge for the year and to express my appreciation for all the work that you do every day to make students feel well known and well cared for.

As you may know, we resubmitted our ESSA State Plan to the U.S. Department of Education (ED) on Friday, Aug. 18. We have continued to refine the plan, working from the great stakeholder feedback we have received throughout this process. We are awaiting final approval from ED.

The coming school year will be a transition year for ESSA – a year for us to test and learn, to build relationships, and to build systems to bring the plan to life. ESSA is not just about every student succeeding; it requires us to do this work together. ISBE has a responsibility to be in service and of value to districts. We have to be better at making connections, facilitating relationships, and building capacity.

ISBE has organized itself to provide equity for all students by developing long-term Board goals, crafting the ESSA State Plan, and remodeling the organization. The goals – such as reading at grade level by the end of third grade, and all students graduating ready for college and career – more clearly articulate our common, high expectations for every child. From our common goals, we identify the differentiated supports each child needs to reach those goals. 

Our ESSA State Plan is grounded in the principle of equity: Students with greatest need must receive greatest support. ESSA recognizes the local context and identifies schools for the purpose of providing differentiated support. Our ESSA State Plan embraces the “whole child” approach, which understands that children come to us with interconnected learning environments. The whole child approach integrates support for cognitive growth, social and emotional development, and physical well-being so children can learn and succeed at their fullest potential. Collaboration – between the school, community, and home, and between ISBE, districts, schools, and partners – is key to serving children well. ESSA fosters the conditions for Illinois to implement a holistic, comprehensive, and coordinated system of support that prepares each and every student for academic excellence and postsecondary success.

We at ISBE are shifting our role to be in deeper relationship with districts – to provide service and support, rather than just monitoring and compliance. We have goals, a plan, and a redesigned structure, but we still need to strengthen relationships and gain a deeper understanding of what is happening across our diverse state so we can truly help with capacity development at the school and district level.

Part of this process of learning and connecting is continuing to recognize great work across Illinois. Our Those Who Excel program honors and celebrates the contributions and accomplishments of more than 230 educators and school personnel from throughout the state. We announced this year’s finalists for 2018 Illinois Teacher of the Year on Monday. Congratulations to these teachers for being identified as outstanding representatives of educators who go above and beyond to nurture their students’ growth. We will share more information about each of the finalists over the next 10 weeks. The first feature is included below. We will name the 2018 Illinois Teacher of the Year during the Those Who Excel banquet on Saturday, Oct. 28, at the Bloomington-Normal Marriott Hotel and Conference Center in Normal.

As you begin the school year, we love seeing your #ILBacktoSchool photos! Please continue to share them on social media and through email.

Have a great week!

Tony

8/22/2017NoThose Who ExcelIllinois Bicentennial CelebrationEducational TechnologyData AnalysisEducator EffectivenessTitle Grants AdministrationNutrition ProgramsSpecial Education ServicesGrant Accountability Transparency ActNoNo15/Documents_Superintendent_Weekly_Message/message_20160822.pdfYes
84
  

Hello,

As we head into the 2017-18 school year, I want to begin by thanking you for your unwavering dedication to serving the children of Illinois. I am energized by your innovative ideas and your commitment to embracing the whole child model and serving our children with a comprehensive approach.

We want to start the new school year by sharing what Back to School looks like across the state. How is your school welcoming students back? What are students learning in their first weeks with new teachers? Tag us in your Facebook posts or tweet at us with #ILBacktoSchool. Email your photos and captions to backtoschool@isbe.net to be featured on our Back to School webpage and social media pages. (Please make sure you have obtained the necessary media consent from the parent/guardian of each student shown in the photos.)

I know that we are in a time of uncertainty. As school and district leaders, you have the incredible task of supporting the diverse needs of the students in your classrooms while adjusting to constant change. However, with challenge comes possibility. I hope we can also seize this as a moment of transformation. We all share responsibility for preparing our children with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in college, career, and beyond. My highest priority is getting to know each district and understanding each district’s strengths and challenges. By being in relationship, I can learn how best to support you. 

ISBE is here to make sure that you have the information you need to feel prepared for the start of the new school year. Our Back to School webinar for administrators is scheduled for next Wednesday, August 9, at 1 p.m. I will share any updates on funding for schools, state implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act, state assessments, and information about other important initiatives this school year. I will be available to answer your questions, along with members of my staff. I invite you to send in your questions ahead of time to backtoschool@isbe.net. A list of most frequently asked questions will be compiled and addressed during the webinar. We will continue collecting questions until Aug. 7. If you have not already registered for the webinar, I encourage you to sign up here. We will post a recording on the Back to School webpage along with the FAQs for those of you who are not able to participate live.

I hope our updated Back to School webpage can serve as a resource hub to help you navigate hot topics. One of the resources featured is our new and enhanced, comprehensive ISBE calendar. This interactive tool can help you keep track of important ISBE dates and deadlines throughout the 2017-18 school year. All events are color-coded and can be filtered by audience and event type. You will find a list of the upcoming events to the right of the calendar and a complete list of events on the “All Upcoming Meetings” page. The calendar will be updated regularly to ensure that all event information remains accurate and up to date.

As we begin a new school year, please remind your students and families that getting vaccinated is one of the most important things they can do to stay healthy. August is National Immunization Awareness Month, and ISBE, the Illinois Department of Public Health, and other state agencies are raising awareness of the importance of vaccinations, especially for keeping the youngest and oldest among us strong and healthy. Diseases can quickly spread among groups of children who aren’t vaccinated. Families should check their child’s vaccination records whether you have a baby starting at a new child care facility; a toddler heading to preschool; or a student going back to elementary, middle or high school. The Illinois Department of Public Health has created an easy reference guide to help you understand what vaccines are required to start school for each grade level. Find additional National Immunization Awareness Month resources here

You may have noticed: For the start of the new school year, we have launched a new, more accessible and interactive Weekly Message format! It is now presented online as a webpage, rather than a PDF, which we hope will make it easier to read and share.

I am excited for another year of continuous learning, reflection, and innovation. I know that through ongoing dialogue we at ISBE will continue to improve our service to districts. Together, we can realize our vision of Illinois as a state of whole children.

Welcome back to school!

Tony

8/1/2017NoBack to SchoolEducator EffectivenessIL-EMPOWEREarly Childhood EducationData AnalysisEnglish LearnersIllinois Bicentennial CelebrationSchool Health and WellnessSchool Business ServicesNonpublic SchoolsGrant Accountability Transparency ActNoNo7Yes
85
  

Hello,

I know you are all hoping the funding questions get resolved as quickly as possible. We continue to provide numbers and requested bill analyses to decision-makers. We are hoping for a more adequate and equitable outcome.

All Illinois students, families, and staff have the right to both feel and be safe in every school every day. There is no room for racism, hate, or violence in our schools. In light of the tragic events that occurred this past weekend, I want to remind you of the anti-bias and anti-hate resources available on our website. The National Network of State Teachers of the Year has a diverse list of books broken down by grade level, and organizations such as Teaching Tolerance and Facing History and Ourselves offer lesson plans, professional development, and other educator resources to help combat bias and build safe and inclusive classrooms, where all members of the school community feel supported as they explore new ideas and question their beliefs.

It is challenging work to understand each child’s unique strengths and challenges and fully prepare every child for success. I appreciate all that you do to advocate for your students and communities and to ensure you are best prepared to meet the needs of all your students. Kindergarten teachers will begin to use the Kindergarten Individual Development Survey (KIDS) tool this fall, so I want to emphasize that it is a whole community responsibility to invest in, nurture, and maximize the potential of every child. When one child does not have access to high-quality early learning, it does not just harm that child; it hurts Illinois. In order to guarantee our state’s long-term social and economic viability and achieve our state’s goal of 60 percent of Illinoisans possessing a high‐quality credential or degree by 2025, we have to make sure all children have what they need before kindergarten and up through their college and career. We will be able to use reliable, comparable data on students’ strengths, challenges, and dispositions when they enter kindergarten to identify and more clearly understand where children have access to high-quality early learning opportunities and where they do not have this same access. I see it as my responsibility to the children of Illinois to use this data to advocate for them before they get to school. The data will tell us where more resources are needed so that we can align resources to give all children the same opportunity in Illinois.

I greatly value the collaboration and the conversations that we have had with practitioners to get to the current framework. We at ISBE will continue to engage in dialogue and build tools in partnership with you. Now, as we launch into the school year, we want to make sure you have what you need to begin KIDS observations confidently in your schools and classrooms. ISBE’s updated KIDS webpage – shares tools for administrators and teachers, including training information and implementation resources. ISBE has committed to five more years of funding for KIDS coaches: Each coach will be assigned a different region of the state, for which they will provide training, support, and resources to new kindergarten teachers and individualized coaching to districts that request those services. Teachers and administrators who are new to KIDS may want to read the KIDS Overview and the Quick Start Guide to get started. The KIDS Introduction video in English and KIDS Introduction video in Spanish and the editable letter may be helpful as you are welcoming kindergarten families. Please also be sure to register for the KIDS webinar on Aug. 23 at 12:00 p.m. for a discussion about the latest resources and information available to support districts in implementing KIDS. Additional information is available in a recent press release. If you have any remaining questions about KIDS, you may email KIDS@isbe.net.

I am excited to congratulate Jack Baldermann, the principal of Westmont High School, for being named a finalist for the National Association of Secondary School Principals 2018 National Principal of the Year award. I am amazed by Jack’s accomplishments as an administrator the past 25 years. He has fostered a supportive and collaborative school climate, served as an influential mentor to faculty and staff, improved the success of students of color, and boosted the number of underrepresented AP Scholars.  To have an Illinois principal as a finalist for National Principal of the Year in spite of our state’s budgetary difficulties illustrates the remarkable work of principals and school leaders across Illinois. My deepest appreciation to all of you for your unwavering dedication and innovation. The 2018 NASSP National Principal of the Year will be announced in October for National Principals Month. Learn more about Jack’s work here.

Finally, I know that many of you are gearing up for the total solar eclipse on Monday, Aug. 21. This event is an exciting educational opportunity, but it is important to view the eclipse safely. The National Science Teachers Association website shares comprehensive information on viewing the eclipse, including educational materials on incorporating Next Generation Science Standards and preparing students for this historic event. NASA also has extensive information and educational resources on the total eclipse.

Have a great week!

Tony

8/15/2017NoTitle Grants AdministrationNutrition ProgramsSpecial Education ServicesEducational TechnologyEarly Childhood EducationEducator EffectivenessGrant Accountability Transparency ActNoNo9Yes
86
  

Hello,

We remain committed to equity and to addressing the needs of every child in Illinois as schools and districts across the state launch into the school year. We understand that children come to our schools with interconnected learning environments that we need to acknowledge and value. ISBE staff are continuing to build relationships with districts and deepen our dialogue to better support you and serve all children.

Our efforts to strengthen our partnerships this school year will continue with our annual Back to School webinar tomorrow, Aug. 9, at 1 p.m. We will share updates, introduce new tools, discuss your questions, and direct you to materials where you can find more information. Almost 500 administrators have registered for the webinar so far; if you have not already done so, I encourage you to sign up for the Back to School webinar here. I look forward to engaging in conversation with you and answering your questions. The webinar will be recorded and posted on the Back to School webpage along with the FAQs for those of you who are not able to participate live.

We received many great pictures from across the state last year, so we are again initiating our Back to School photo campaign this year. There are lots of opportunities -- teachers are setting up their classrooms, staff members are meeting to discuss goals for the year, and children are entering their schools with big smiles, etc. Don’t forget to tag us in your Facebook posts, tweet at us with #ILBacktoSchool, and/or email your photos and captions to backtoschool@isbe.net to be featured on our Back to School webpage and social media pages. (Please make sure you have obtained the necessary media consent from the parent/guardian of each student shown in the photos.)

Students have an exciting opportunity this month to share their skills and become a part of Illinois’ bicentennial history. Illinois high school and college students are invited to celebrate our state’s 200th birthday by submitting a 45-60 second self-made video highlighting a fact, event, place, person, or something to learn about the incredible history of Illinois. One hundred winners will have their video aired and posted as part of the 100 Day Bicentennial Countdown. Each winner whose video is selected will receive two tickets to the Dec. 3 Chicago matinee performance of Hamilton. The deadline for video submissions is Aug. 31. Find more details about the Illinois’ bicentennial video contest here.

Finally, administrators, please remind your staff that the renewal deadline for professional educator licenses and educator licenses with stipulations endorsed for career and technical educator is quickly approaching. All licenses with a July 1, 2017, renewal date must be renewed and registered by Aug. 31 or they will lapse and be invalid for employment. Please log in to ELIS and ensure your educators’ “Registered Thru” column shows a date of 6/30/18 or later. For questions, please contact ISBE’s Educator Effectiveness Division at (217) 557-6763 or licensure@isbe.net.

Have a great week!

Tony

8/8/2017NoNutrition ProgramsBack to SchoolEducational TechnologySchool Health and WellnessEarly Childhood EducationEducator EffectivenessIL-EMPOWERData AnalysisEnglish LearnersNonpublic SchoolsGrant Accountability Transparency ActNoNo8Yes
87
  

test

8/25/2017NotestNoNo14Yes
89
  

Hello,

We are celebrating progress today. After historic votes in the House and Senate this week, Governor Bruce Rauner has signed into law a new funding formula for Illinois public schools.

When the students in the greatest need receive the most support, the entire state benefits. I believe equity in education funding in Illinois is an important step to ensuring our long-term economic and civic success.

It took a tremendous amount work to get to this point, and I am grateful for the patience and collaboration inside and outside of the agency. The Illinois State Board of Education is proud to have supported the historic work of the General Assembly and the Governor’s funding reform commission. Our Board chairman, James Meeks, deserves special recognition for his years of relentless leadership and advocacy that set the foundation for this new agreement. I would like to thank ISBE staff for working through the multiple proposed models to produce the numbers that made approving a more equitable funding formula possible.

Illinois’ educators and local educational leaders have shown remarkable resourcefulness and dedication to their students and communities throughout this process. My deepest appreciation to you for your unwavering support for and service to the children of our state in the face of uncertainty. You have nurtured, motivated, challenged, and inspired our students across the continuum of early childhood through postsecondary education and career without hesitation.

Public Act 100-465 incorporates General State Aid and other line items into a new evidence-based funding (EBF) formula. The EBF formula takes a historic step toward equity and ensuring every student gets the resources they need for academic excellence and postsecondary success.

The new EBF formula allows ISBE and Illinois State Comptroller to move forward with distributing the $6.705 billion appropriated for evidence-based funding in the fiscal year 2018 state budget. ISBE will work as quickly as possible to issue vouchers to the Illinois State Comptroller so that her office can make payments. The estimated timeline for school districts to receive payments is one week.

ISBE will not have final EBF calculations for a few months. Therefore, initial payments to school districts will be the preliminary base-funding minimum amounts based on final FY 2017 distributions. This means districts will receive hold harmless payments until ISBE completes the EBF calculations. View each district’s preliminary base-funding minimum amounts.

Districts will receive payments on the 10th and 20th of each month from September through June in FY 2018. In future years, the schedule will remain the same as General State Aid was previously distributed – 22 payments in total distributed August through June.

The EBF formula requires ISBE to go through a data-verification process with school districts to ensure all of the data incorporated into the formula is accurate. Please expect further communications from ISBE about the data-verification process. We will post a final database of all school districts’ data elements and EBF allocations on the ISBE website.

We are also celebrating today because the U.S. Department of Education (ED) approved our resubmitted ESSA State Plan Wednesday. Our ESSA State Plan transitions Illinois to a system of balanced accountability. The plan recognizes each school’s unique local context and gathers and examines multiple indicators of school quality and student growth to inform differentiated levels of support for schools. IL-EMPOWER, the next generation of Illinois’ multi-tiered system of support for schools, will serve as an infrastructure for providing differentiated capacity development for schools. IL-EMPOWER will build the capacity of Illinois’ educators, educational leaders, and school communities to improve student outcomes. ESSA is about knowing students, schools, and districts better, so we can provide better support. I appreciate the robust and ongoing feedback from stakeholders and practitioners and the partnership with ED throughout the ESSA process. View the approved plan.

ISBE will continue to advocate for Illinois’ students and communities and work to increase equitable access to educational opportunities for all students. I am thrilled to announce that all public schools and districts will have access to the PSAT exams in grades 9 and 10 for their students this school year. ISBE was able to reduce the anticipated costs of some of our other accountability assessments for this year. As a result, we are able to reimburse any public school, district, or serving educational entity for one administration per student of PSAT 8/9 – 9th Grade, PSAT/NMSQT -10th Grade, or PSAT 10 in grades 9 and 10 for the 2017-18 school year. We understand that taking advantage of this opportunity still requires considerable planning and effort on your part, and we look forward to supporting you in any way that we can. Find more information PSAT Reimbursement here.

I know the new formula and approved ESSA State Plan mean that we will have new circumstances to adapt to in the next few weeks and months. I am confident that we will continue to take steps forward by engaging in ongoing dialogue. As we honor the progress today, I want to thank you again for your partnership in serving the children of Illinois.

With appreciation and respect,

Tony

8/31/2017NoThose Who ExcelAssessment and AccountabilityIL EMPOWERFunding and DisbursementsNutrition ProgramsThomas Lay Burroughs AwardSchool Health IssuesEarly Childhood EducationIllinois Arts Education WeekEducational TechnologyData AnalysisEducator EffectivenessTitle Grants AdministrationGrant Accountability Transparency ActNoNo16https://www.isbe.net/Documents_Superintendent_Weekly_Message/message_08312017.pdfYes
90
  

Hello,

I would like to start by again expressing my deep appreciation. So many Illinois educators and local educational leaders have worked tirelessly for so many years to get us to this historic moment. We now have a new, fairer system of funding for Illinois public schools and a high-quality Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) State Plan to implement to create the conditions for every school community to support the whole child, the whole school, and the whole community.

Our charge as educators is to care for and fully prepare every student we serve. Every school in Illinois is a place of opportunity for all students. We must continue to nurture and educate each student who comes into our schools. All families in our community belong in our public schools. Ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program does terrible harm and disrupts our pursuit of healthy communities in Illinois.

We also recognize the leadership of educators who are DACA recipients and the positive contributions they make in Illinois every day. We want to retain these thoughtful contributors, not reject and punish them.

Now, more than ever, we need more qualified teachers to equip our students for success in college and career. The teacher shortage is a deep issue in Illinois and a growing concern nationally. Teacher shortage crises are most pronounced in high-need schools and subject areas, and for teachers with specific skills. As the State Board’s goals highlight, ISBE believes that all students deserve to have equitable access to highly prepared and effective teachers and school leaders.

Getting teachers into classrooms is everybody’s work. We have to support and value the teaching profession and do a better job of recruiting and retaining teachers. Authentically elevating the status of teaching requires changing the narrative around the teaching profession to illustrate the realities in classrooms. It is important for us to share more stories about educators — about the complexity of their jobs, the schools and communities they work in, and their influence on students. We have to reframe perspectives on teaching and learning to emphasize the growth and progress of students and schools.

Our educators need to reflect the diversity of their students. At the same time, we need to ensure that all teachers, regardless of their backgrounds and life experiences, are prepared to effectively support the diverse students in their classrooms. ISBE believes in expanding opportunities for teacher leadership and meaningful professional learning experiences. We are committed to improving satisfaction and retention among educators and to harnessing the teaching corps’ deep talent and knowledge to improve Illinois’ education systems.

ISBE recently released a new tool, the Unfilled Positions Map, to bring light to the unfilled positions in Illinois. The map displays open instructional, administrative, and support positions statewide as of October 1 of the reporting year. It illustrates the critical need for more professionals to join in the important work happening in Illinois’ public schools. Users can search and sort by position type, county, and district; locate openings on a map; see aggregate data; and go to the hiring district’s website.  

ISBE supports eliminating barriers that discourage qualified individuals from teaching. We worked with the Illinois General Assembly to pass SB 2912, signed into law by Governor Bruce Rauner on Jan. 6, 2017. The new law makes several changes to streamline the process for licensed educators in other states to obtain an Illinois license, reduces financial and other barriers to substitute teaching, and creates alternative routes for teachers to seek the teacher leader license endorsement.

Our state will be strengthened when all of our children have access to caring adults and high-quality learning opportunities. ISBE must ensure that educators are supported in their professional learning so they, in turn, can support children throughout the continuum of early childhood through postsecondary education and career.

I know many of you are seeking information about vouchers. ISBE sent the Aug. 10 and Aug. 20 vouchers to the Comptroller on Friday, Sept. 1. ISBE sent the Sept. 10 voucher today, Sept. 6. As a reminder, ISBE will not have final calculations for evidence-based funding EBF for a few months. Therefore, these initial payments to school districts are the preliminary base-funding minimum amounts based on final fiscal year 2017 distributions. This means districts will receive hold harmless payments until ISBE completes the EBF calculations. Each district’s preliminary base-funding minimum amount can be viewed at www.isbe.net/ebf2018. We will continue to stay in dialogue throughout this process.

Have a great week! 

Tony

 

9/6/2017NoThose Who ExcelU.S. Presidential Scholars ProgramCharter SchoolsAssessment and AccountabilityIL EMPOWERFunding and DisbursementsNutrition ProgramsThomas Lay Burroughs AwardSchool Health IssuesEarly Childhood EducationIllinois Arts Education WeekEIS Evaluation and Salary Data Deadline ExtendedGrant Accountability Transparency ActNoNo17/Documents_Superintendent_Weekly_Message/message_09062017.pdfYes
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Hello,

The decision to repeal the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program continues to weigh heavily on many communities. The economic and social impact of ending DACA could be devastating for the health of the country. President Trump has recommended that Congress act on immigration, but we still have a lack of clarity regarding the short- and long-term outcomes for the children and educators who are here as Dreamers. Thank you for continuing to rally around the children and families in your communities during this time of heightened stress.

We have compiled resources that you may find helpful:

The landscape in Illinois has shifted with Public Act 100-0465 and Public Act 100-0340. The new evidence-based funding formula takes a historic step toward equity and ensuring that every student gets the resources they need to thrive. Public Act 100-0340 increases districts’ ability to use Title I funds to serve the highest-need students. More resources and opportunities give us the opportunity to provide more support for children and families. We can focus on strategies to ensure that children come to school and that they feel welcome and valued in our care. A supportive and engaging environment encourages students and families to be present every day.

Attendance Awareness Month in September affords us the opportunity to think about the specific supports we need in communities to make sure children come to school. When students improve their attendance, they improve their chances for academic success and increase the likelihood that they graduate. Attendance is important year-round, and it is especially important in the first month of school. Inconsistent attendance in the first month of school can be an indicator of poor attendance throughout the school year. It matters if a student is absent 10 percent of school days for any reason, excused or unexcused; missing even two days a month can cause a student to fall behind. Absence from school, particularly for early elementary students, can start a pattern. Quincy Public Schools is one of many school districts across the state doing what it takes to make sure children come to school. The district’s Attendance Adds Up initiative is helping to educate students, families, and community members about the importance of attendance. ISBE is analyzing chronic absentee data and how we can support districts in effectively using interventions to improve student attendance. The Illinois ESSA Plan identifies chronic absenteeism as an indicator of quality and student success for all schools.  Attendance Works shares more information about the importance of attendance and resources for you to promote Attendance Awareness Month in your community.

I had the opportunity to visit Hillside School District 93 last week. The district is keeping students engaged with a variety of hands-on and problem-based learning initiatives. I observed sixth-grade students participating in the “Mission to Mars” part of the STEM FUSION program in partnership with the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy (IMSA). IMSA STEM FUSION is a teacher professional development and student STEM enrichment program, which the school has opened to all fifth- and sixth-grade students. The Mission to Mars initiative helps students “learn how to learn” as they wrestle with logic and difficult questions. I also learned about Mental Karate and discussed goal-setting and the growth mindset with fifth-grade students. Outside, students have been working with the art teacher to create a peace wall to celebrate diversity, share inspirational messages, and promote unity. Thank you to Hillside School for hosting me! It is always exciting to see thoughtful, creative educators challenging and nurturing students.

We kick off National Hispanic Heritage Month at the end of this week. September 15 through October 15 presents another opportunity to appreciate the contributions and achievements of all of our community members. Our classrooms and schools should be inclusive and connected spaces. Find resources for teachers from the Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution, and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum at https://www.hispanicheritagemonth.gov/for-teachers/. The National Education Association, Scholastic, and Colorín Colorado also offer book lists, lessons, and activities.

Have a great week! 

Tony

9/12/2017NoThose Who ExcelIllinois Emergency Management AgencyFunding and DisbursementsNutrition ProgramsFederal and State MonitoringSchool Health IssuesData AnalysisSpecial Education ServicesU.S. Presidential Scholars ProgramCharter SchoolsGrant Accountability Transparency ActNoNo39https://www.isbe.net/Documents_Superintendent_Weekly_Message/message_09122017.pdfYes
92
  

Hello,

I appreciate the continued opportunities to visit classrooms and schools throughout the state and connect with students, educators, and staff. I began last week with a visit to Sandwich CUSD 430. Everything I experienced during my visit made clear that Sandwich educators and staff are working hard to adapt and expand the district’s services to make every student feel supported and engaged. I met students across the district participating in hands-on learning and critical thinking. I enjoyed discussing health and wellness with a Life Skills class at Sandwich Middle School. I learned so much listening to Sandwich High School students in a STEM - Principles of Engineering class explain the proper methods of constructing beams and support systems to withstand various weight limits. I also observed students learning shapes and colors in a newly implemented program, Strategies for Teaching based on Autism Research (STAR), at Lynn G. Haskin Elementary School. The district has very thoughtfully structured its autism supports. Thank you, Sandwich students, educators, and staff, for sharing the great learning happening in your schools with me.

ISBE hosted the annual State Board Retreat last Wednesday and Thursday. The retreat provided an opportunity for the Board to think more deeply and reconnect to the purpose – the “why?” – of our work. Over two days, we examined what we as ISBE are trying to accomplish in terms of taking care of districts and supporting students and communities. The Board considered feedback about making ISBE’s vision and mission more inclusive and then modified the language to reflect ISBE’s commitment to our Whole Child, Whole School, Whole Community approach. Find the updated vision and mission statements online and below:

  • Vision: Illinois is a state of whole, healthy children nested in whole, healthy systems supporting communities wherein all people are socially and economically secure.
  • Mission: Provide leadership and resources to achieve excellence across all Illinois districts by engaging legislators, school administrators, teachers, students, parents, families, and other stakeholders in formulating and advocating for policies that enhance education, empower districts, and ensure equitable outcomes for all students.

During the retreat, the Board also initiated a year of inquiry regarding the teaching profession in the state. We need an excellent teacher in every classroom if we are going to achieve our vision, mission, and goals. There were more than 1,000 unfilled teaching positions across Illinois as of October 2016. In our small school districts – and the majority or approximately 67 percent of school districts in Illinois have 100 or fewer faculty members – even one unfilled teaching position severely limits students’ learning opportunities. The teacher shortage is most pronounced in hard-to-staff subjects, such as special education and bilingual education. The State Board is committed to advancing strategies to recruit, retain, and take better care of teachers.

The State Board’s focused year of study will include inquiry into the teacher pipeline, teacher preparation, licensure, recruitment, hiring, development, and retention. Our commitment to equity and our Board goals insists that all students in Illinois have access to highly prepared and effective teachers. Chief Education Officer Libi Gil, Ph.D., and Deputy Superintendent for Teaching & Learning Jason Helfer, Ph.D., gave a presentation to the Board about teacher shortage issues and actions. I encourage you to take a look, beginning on page 406 of the Board packet.

One promising project ISBE is working on explores how we collect and analyze data to inform teacher preparation programs. ISBE, in conjunction with the Partnership for Educator Preparation (PEP) Steering Committee, is implementing a two-year pilot to strengthen data collection, sharing, and reporting practices across all teacher preparation programs in Illinois. The PEP Steering Committee is composed of voices from higher education, K-12 teachers, district hiring managers, and other state organizations. The goals of the PEP work are to ensure all teachers in Illinois are ready to support student learning upon entering the classroom and to empower preparation programs with the ability to use data as a tool for continuous improvement. Illinois was one of six states recognized by The New Teacher Project (TNTP) for its work in creating a teacher preparation data system. Learn more about PEP.

Many other questions about the driving forces and complexities of the teacher shortage remain, including why teachers prepared in Illinois may leave for other states, and if there is a gap between the number of teachers of color qualified to teach and the number of teachers of color hired. We want to know what supports we are providing to teachers and what meaningful opportunities they have for professional learning, mentoring, leadership, and autonomy. There are no simple answers to these questions. Addressing the teacher shortage and changing the narrative about teaching in our state is a collective activity; it requires dialogue and active collaboration. We look forward as we enter this year of study to engaging interested district leaders representing diverse districts and regions of the state.

Last Friday was Beth Purvis’ last day in the Governor’s Office as the Illinois secretary of education. She has been an extraordinary ally in advancing education policy and I believe her service to Illinois made a real difference. Beth is both thoughtful and fierce in her efforts to improve educational opportunity and outcomes for all students. Her leadership and diplomacy resulted in lasting positive change for students and families in Illinois. I am grateful for Beth’s constant reframing of obstacles into opportunities and her capacity to stay engaged in the hardest conversations. I deeply appreciate the work she did and the work we did together. Please join me in thanking Beth and wishing her and her family a joyful next chapter.  

Tony

9/19/2017NoThose Who ExcelEarly Childhood EducationIllinois Emergency Management AgencyFunding and DisbursementsNutrition ProgramsFederal and State MonitoringSchool Health IssuesData AnalysisSpecial Education ServicesGrant Accountability Transparency ActNoNo40/Documents_Superintendent_Weekly_Message/message_09192017.pdfYes
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Hello,

As the Mattoon High School community heals, I want to express my deep appreciation for the response of school staff and first responders. They took great care in a tough situation to protect students and staff. My thoughts are with the injured student and the student’s family, the family of the suspect, and all those affected by this tragedy. Please hold the entire community in your thoughts and prayers.

I had more opportunities to meet students and educators last week. I enjoyed learning about some of the community-focused initiatives across Clinton CUSD 15, including the high school’s commitment to restorative practices and strong early elementary outreach in pre-K. In Lincoln ESD 27, I observed educators’ and students’ seamless use of technology as a support to learning. Google named Lincoln ESD 27 a Reference District, one of a handful of districts in Illinois selected as an exemplar of how to integrate Google technology into instruction. A highlight of my visit to Robertson Charter School in Decatur SD 61 was watching students assist their peers and mentor younger students. The school’s level of engagement, focus, and excitement energized me.

I also visited Morton District 709, where I joined a Project Lead the Way classroom at Morton High School and the CareerMaker STEM lab at Morton Junior High School. Real-world problems form the basis for all of the lessons in the Project Lead the Way class. I watched students tackle how to clean up an oil slick, generate solutions using the resources they were given, and present proposals to their teacher. The CareerMaker STEM lab is a public and private partnership between businesses and the school district. Students engage in digital and hands-on activities in various career clusters, including technology; architecture and construction; and government, law, and public service. Students gain valuable insight as they explore different career clusters to help them identify possible careers to pursue.

These schools show the powerful opportunity we have to make school more relevant to students, and high school, in particular, more relevant to the community. Competency-based learning can help link high school to the workforce and reshape the high school experience for students. Educators assess and advance students in competency-based learning based on demonstrated mastery of specific skills, abilities, and knowledge. ISBE launched the Competency-Based High School Graduation Requirements Pilot Program to spur innovation in the way high schools prepare students for meaningful careers. The Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness Act established the pilot program in 2016. Last week, the 10 school districts selected to participate in the first cohort of the pilot program convened to build relationships, find points of connection, and begin moving their pilots from vision to action.

Peoria School District 150, a member of the competency-based education pilot, is pushing the bounds of the high school experience in a number of ways. A group of students in Peoria School District 150 is supporting local companies through the student-run entrepreneurship program, AppsCo. Students help local businesses build their brands, engage customers, and increase sales through mobile app development, search engine optimization, and internet marketing. AppsCo raises funds for the school district while providing students with business education and mentorship from local business leaders.

The whole child, whole school, whole community approach encourages a different way of thinking about the opportunities offered in school. Student-centered school design explores community partnerships and integrates technology, so every child receives differentiated supports to pursue interests in authentic environments. Truly investing in the future of the state – our students – means continuing to connect the classroom to students’ interests and to real-world problems.

Finally, I would like to congratulate the students selected for the 2017-18 Student Advisory Council (SAC). SAC members learn about education issues in Illinois, provide feedback to the State Board, select a topic to research in depth, and present to the State Board. This year’s SAC members are thinking about postsecondary options and how to ensure students have the knowledge, skills, and attitudes they need to thrive in the path of their choosing after graduation. The SAC plans to explore affordability, accessibility, vocational programs, the armed forces, and pathways straight to the workforce.

2017-18 Student Advisory Council 

Have a great week!

Tony

9/26/2017NoThose Who ExcelEvery Student Succeeds ActData AnalysisAssessment and AccountabilityClimate and CultureEarly Childhood EducationNutrition ProgramsFunding and DisbursementsSpecial Education ServicesGrant Accountability Transparency ActNoNo41/Documents_Superintendent_Weekly_Message/message_09262017.pdfYes
94
  

Hello,

So many of us have been touched by this horrific violence in Las Vegas earlier this week.  We need to keep those affected in our thoughts and work to support anyone around us who is suffering. We have assembled some resources in the Climate and Culture section below.

Building a caring school environment where all students feel a sense of support and belonging is essential to a great school. I would like to congratulate the 16 Illinois public elementary, middle, and high schools named 2017 National Blue Ribbon Schools. The award recognizes innovative leadership and the hard work of school communities to create safe and welcoming learning environments that support, engage, and challenge students. The deep care and commitment of the leaders, educators, staff, students, and families of our 2017 National Blue Ribbon Schools inspire me. All of the Illinois public schools that were honored received the “Exemplary High Performing Schools” designation. View photographs and brief descriptions of the 2017 National Blue Ribbon Schools.                  

It was great to connect with superintendents last week at the Illinois Association of School Administrators’ Annual Conference. I appreciate their thoughtfulness and readiness to engage in our evidence-based funding and ESSA work. Dr. Joe Sanfelippo, superintendent of Fall Creek School District in Fall Creek, Wisconsin, gave a powerful keynote titled “Who is Telling Your Story?” His energy and excitement shows that telling our stories as educators can empower us to continue sharing the positive things Illinois students are doing every day. Celebrating success and the unbelievable work happening in our schools can help us learn from each other, build a positive culture, and encourage greater community investment in our schools. I see visiting schools and districts, learning from and engaging in dialogue with educators and students, and sharing their real stories as essential to my work as State Superintendent.

I also participated in a Tele Town Hall with the Illinois Education Association on ESSA.  I greatly value our partnership with IEA and enjoyed the opportunity to speak with and hear feedback from members. They posed thoughtful questions about student health and wellness and expressed that supporting effective curriculum and instruction and addressing climate and culture are critical to improving schools. Teachers across Illinois conveyed their values and thinking in the development of the Illinois ESSA Plan. The next generation of our statewide system of support and accountability is rooted in educators’ feedback that we need to customize school improvement to support local needs. ISBE will continue to rely on the active voice of educators to strengthen the Illinois ESSA Plan. We are committed to transparency and to responding to your needs as educators. I encourage you to keep sharing both your ideas and concerns in the process as we transition over the next school year.

October is National Principals Month! I would like to share my deep appreciation for the leadership and dedication of our Illinois principals. Your work as school leaders with families and teachers to understand each child’s unique strengths and challenges ensures that all students receive the support they need to succeed. Thank you for creating the conditions for teachers and students to thrive and Illinois communities to grow. I encourage you to watch and pass along this thank you video made in partnership with the Illinois Principals Association. Celebrate National Principals Month with resources from IPA and tools from the National Association of Secondary School Principals, the National Association of Elementary School Principals, and the American Federation of School Administrators. Show appreciation for your principals on social media with #ThankAPrincipal.

We have work in front of us to make our systems better organized to serve kids. I am grateful for the hard work of Illinois educators and school and district leaders, and I know that we will see more progress as we continue to collaborate and tell positive stories.

Finally, ISBE has added explanatory resources to the Evidence-Based Funding webpage, including an FAQ, an overview presentation, and a more technical distribution guide. Please send any additional questions to EBFhelp@isbe.net. We will post a series of prerecorded webinars diving deeper into EBF in the near future. We anticipate having final EBF calculations and districts receiving their first full EBF payments in early to mid-winter.

Tony

10/3/2017NoThose Who ExcelData AnalysisEvery Student Succeeds ActSpecial NoticeEducation TechnologyNonpublic SchoolsFunding & DisbursementsAssessments & AccountabilityClimate & CultureEarly Childhood EducationGrant Accountability Transparency ActNoNo42/Documents_Superintendent_Weekly_Message/message_10032017.pdfYes
95
  

Hello,

I’ve been celebrating many of the wonderful things I’ve been seeing at the start of the school year.  This week I am also recognizing something positive -- it’s just that the conditions that prompted the recognition are tough to talk about.

Every day educators and administrators in our schools are placed in unexpected situations that could affect lives forever. When external forces violate our schools, they not only rob our students of their opportunity to learn, they also rob them of their feelings of safety, security, and well-being. This is something many superintendents, principals, teachers, and staff did not anticipate being a part of their work and it has unfortunately become a part of our daily responsibility.

I want to recognize Springfield Public School District 186 for all they’ve gone through since school began this year. Someone has called in threats against schools on multiple occasions. Responding to these multiple threats, the district team has demonstrated tremendous leadership and preparation to protect students and adults. Superintendent Jennifer Gill is demonstrating remarkable grace and resolve to ensure everyone’s safety as the community deals with these threats. In each incident, families were immediately notified via automated calls and follow-up communications were continued throughout the ordeals each week. Students and staff were evacuated to safe sites where weather and technology needs were taken into consideration. The district continually provided a consistent message for students and offered follow-up support through social workers and psychologists.

I would also like to recognize those in the community who have come to the aid of the district. Partnerships ranging from Illinois State Police K-9 units to the state’s Attorney General demonstrated the broader community’s willingness to come together to protect students and staff in our schools. Thank you to everyone for working so well together.

We all have a responsibility to come together to protect our kids.  If you see something, say something.  If your kids say something, do something.

As you know, many children in our communities across the state have regular exposure to violence and experience the effects of trauma in school, in their community, or at home.  We have to find as many ways as possible to address trauma and other barriers to learning and teaching. The National Child Traumatic Stress Network offers resources for varying types of trauma and effective therapies. It is up to each of us to do what we can to stop or prevent dangerous situations and to create safe and healthy communities. It is our continued responsibility to create the very safest environment for our students.

October is National Bullying Prevention Month. Bullying has expanded in its reach and definition. In today’s world, kids have no break from the effects of bullying due to constant engagement with social media. We must work to protect students by supporting them, engaging with them in supportive climates by creating a sense of community, and promoting social and emotional learning. Staff have to model what care and concern look like and have to demonstrate empathy to colleagues and students.  Students are watching our interactions. Multiple resources are available to assist schools and communities with creating such environments and addressing the varying forms of bullying:

I have the deepest appreciation for the work you do and how hard it is. I had a coach who talked about being a “merchant of hope.” He said it was his job to make us believe we could achieve our goals. I’ve come to believe that as educators in schools we are all merchants of hope. We all have the chance to help students believe they can do something special. With so much pressure on our kids, they need us more than ever. When they know we believe in them, they are safer to take risks and develop into their best selves. You are the guardians of their learning, the protective agents who create safe and healthy schools where students can thrive. I know saying thank you for how much you give to the students and families you serve is not sufficient. It is with heartfelt gratitude and humility that I promise ISBE’s full support to you as you serve your community.

Take care,

Tony  

10/11/2017NoThose Who ExcelData AnalysisNutrition ProgramsWellness ProgramsEarly Childhood EducationFunding & Disbursements5Essentials SurveySpecial NoticeNonpublic SchoolsEvery Student Succeeds ActClimate and CultureEducation TechnologyGrant Accountability Transparency ActNoNo43https://www.isbe.net/Documents_Superintendent_Weekly_Message/message_10112017.pdfYes
96
  

Hello, 
One of the best parts about being State Superintendent is having the opportunity to visit schools and connect with educators across the state. The effective and promising practices I see every week are important to share and celebrate. I’ve had the opportunity to see students and teachers doing remarkable work together in classrooms in communities all over Illinois.  The principals who walk me through their buildings are so proud of their kids and their staff.  This week is Principals Appreciation week and October is National Principals Appreciation Month. Please take a moment to appreciate and recognize the principals you know. Their work is as challenging as it is rewarding.  
Yesterday I spent time with principals from around the state at the Illinois Principals Association’s Fall Conference. I shared my appreciation for their work and encouraged them to fully embrace the leadership opportunities available in principalship -- to make their schools as inclusive as possible and to create opportunities for children and adults to thrive. Principals play an amazing role by creating conditions for students, teachers, and community members to connect. Principals are architects of healthier communities. I have yet to see in an extraordinary school without a committed and wonderful school leader. THANK YOU!!
Speaking of commitment, when someone has committed her entire life and professional career to growing the whole child, the whole school, and the whole community, it deserves recognition. When that commitment spanned 58 years, it is even more extraordinary. Dr. Nell Wiseman of Charleston, who recently passed, was the bedrock of consistency at Charleston High School. Dr. Wiseman began teaching at Charleston High School on Sept. 5, 1959!! She served as an English and math teacher there for more than 57 years. She also served as a cheerleading coach, Charleston High School Press sponsor, and a member of the ROE 11 Professional Development Advisory Board, where she was always seeking out opportunities to learn new trends and fresh ideas to use in her classroom. Dr. Wiseman offered her expertise and experience to the State Board in setting standards for state assessments and to the College Board and Educational Testing Service to set standards and evaluate student examinations. 
Charleston Superintendent Todd J. Vilardo lauds Dr. Wiseman as a leader and mentor among many teachers, including himself. Superintendent Vilardo shared these heartfelt words about Dr. Wiseman:  “Although she set standards for state assessments, she set the standard for altruism, always putting others first, which is how I will remember her. Simply put, Mrs. Wiseman was a giver. She not only cared that students learned and were prepared for success in life; she cared deeply for students’ well-being”.  It is truly an honor to have the opportunity to recognize someone who devoted her life to education.
Also in memoriam, I would like to recognize former three-time chairman of the Illinois State Board of Education, Lou Mervis. Chairman Mervis’ dedication was apparent in his willingness to support education across Illinois and in his own community. He and his family provided more than 90 scholarships to local students in Danville, giving opportunities to those who might not otherwise have had the chance to continue their education. He is remembered as a generous individual with a strong commitment to improving education in Illinois.  
Following in the footprints left by Dr. Wiseman and Chairman Mervis, many educators throughout the state are nominated annually for recognition by ISBE’s Those Who Excel program. This year we have 234 nominees receiving awards, 65 of which are Awards of Excellence, the highest honor. I’m excited to have the opportunity to meet each of these amazing individuals at the Those Who Excel banquet on Oct. 28. High-quality districts and schools are the center of healthy communities and educators are the life force of those centers. 
Congratulations and thank you for the daily work you do to keep that force growing and thriving. Our current Teacher of the Year, Ricky Castro of Elk Grove High School in Township HSD 214, will help me present the award to this year’s honoree.
Have a great week,
Tony
 

10/17/2017NoThose Who ExcelBudget and FinanceCollege & Career ReadinessEducation TechnologyData AnalysisSchool Health IssuesNutrition ProgramsSpecial NoticeSchool Business SerivcesEarly Childhood EducationWellness ProgramsFunding and Disbursements5Essentials SurveyGrant Accountability Transparency ActNoNo44/Documents_Superintendent_Weekly_Message/message_10172017.pdfYes
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We all know that ensuring the whole child, the whole school, and the whole community is healthy requires more than any one of us can do alone. Each of you do so much individually every day. Together you work in teams during school, outside of the school day, and over the summer to build relationships with students and help them succeed. I’ve been fortunate to see educators, school staff members, and school and district leaders creating and implementing systems that engage, challenge, and inspire students. I’ve seen community volunteers empowered to invest in the future of our state. Public, private, and philanthropic partnerships are crucial to creating as many opportunities as possible for all students to thrive.

I really enjoy (and believe it's critical to help change the narrative about our public schools) celebrating all those in our communities who do so much to improve the lives of students. I am excited to have the opportunity this Saturday, Oct. 28, to honor 235 outstanding Illinois classroom teachers, educational leaders, and support personnel at the 43rd annual Those Who Excel/Teacher of the Year Banquet.

The Those Who Excel awards recognize individuals and teams for their invaluable contributions to their schools and communities. We present Special Recognition, Meritorious Service, and Excellence awards across multiple categories, including classroom teacher, school administrator, student support personnel, and community volunteer.

For example, Maria Diaz, an instructional aide for students with special needs at Raymond Ellis Elementary School in Round Lake Area Schools CUSD 116, learned how to overcome obstacles at a young age when her parents immigrated to the United States. Maria works very closely with classroom teachers and service providers to help educate the whole child and has become indispensable to the school community. Melinda Schuldt received speech therapy as a first-grader and remembers the difference her therapist made in the improvement of her communication skills and in helping her develop a love for learning. Now as a speech/language therapist at Mary Endres Elementary School in Woodstock CUSD 200, Melinda has helped students develop self-confidence and inspired their own love for learning. Antonette Minniti, a guidance counselor at William Fremd High School in Township High School District 211, works to create a caring school culture that supports students in confronting challenges so they can reach their fullest potential. 

There are so many remarkable examples of collaboration in the service of students across the state. The Literacy Department Leadership Team in Springfield School District 186 has empowered all district educators to become expert literacy leaders by targeting teacher training, implementing effective literacy teaching strategies, and providing feedback to classroom teachers, administrators, and resource staff. The Summer Reading Program Team at Oregon Elementary School in Oregon CUSD 220 created a plan to address students’ loss of reading skills over the summer. Students chose eight books at their instructional reading level, which teachers volunteered to mail to them. In the pilot year, 85 percent of the students who read eight books over the summer retained or grew in reading skills based upon guided reading scores. 

Energized community volunteers contribute to our schools in significant ways every day. Maggie Testore developed and implemented the Cats and Dogs after-school tutoring program at Beye Elementary School in Oak Park Elementary School District 97. Elementary school students work with high school student tutors and build bonds that extend far beyond the classroom. Debbie Sasse has served on the Stillman Valley High School’s Parent Advisory Council in Meridian CUSD 223 and is credited with the success of several initiatives, including the implementation of weighted grades for AP and college-level courses. Her love of the Spanish language and culture inspired her and her husband to donate an entire iPad lab to the school’s Spanish Department. 

I look forward to celebrating these and other school and community leaders at the Those Who Excel banquet. Join me in spreading the word about the great work of these award recipients by sharing your photos and posts on social media with #ThoseWhoExcel. We will name the 2018 Teacher of the Year at the end of the banquet. 

This past month, we have thanked our principals for creating the conditions for students to thrive in our schools. As we reach the end of National Principals Month, I encourage you to watch this moving video from the Illinois Principals Association that highlights the dedication and fearless leadership of principals across the state.  

I also encourage you to make a specific difference for a student who needs that extra support today!  Thank you for all you do.

Take care,

Tony

10/24/2017NoThose Who ExcelEvery Student Succeeds ActBudget and FinanceRules & WaiversGrant Accountability Transparency ActNutrition ProgramsCollege & Career ReadinessEducation TechnologyData AnalysisSchool Health IssuesSpecial NoticeSchool Business ServicesEarly Childhood EducationFunding and DisbursementsNoNo46/Documents_Superintendent_Weekly_Message/message_10242017.pdfYes
98
  

Hello,

This past Saturday evening, I had the pleasure of honoring 235 educators, educational leaders, and support personnel at the 43rd annual Those Who Excel/Illinois Teacher of the Year banquet in Normal. It was exciting to be joined by almost a thousand people to celebrate exceptional leadership and the work of communities across the state to create safe and healthy high-quality schools. The Those Who Excel awards help us to elevate teachers and change the narrative around the teaching profession. Thank you to everyone who attended the banquet and shared photos and posts on social media with #ThoseWhoExcel to spread the word about these award recipients.

Our teachers are leaders and advocates for our students and communities. As 2017 Illinois Teacher of the Year Ricky Castro said in his speech prior to presenting the 2018 Teacher of the Year award, our educators “fight for democracy by preserving it from the inside out.” Educators work alongside families and communities to nurture “students that have the critical thinking skills and the social character to sustain our democracy.” Thank you to Ricky for inspiring and sharing his knowledge with educators around the state and for being a great advocate for Illinois students and communities as Teacher of the Year.

​Congratulations to 2018 Illinois Teacher of the Year Lindsey Jensen! Lindsey teaches English, including Advanced Placement English, Shakespeare, American literature, drama, and composition, to 11th- and 12th-grade students at Dwight Township High School in Dwight Public Schools District 230. Lindsey is very energetic and passionate about teaching and the profession. She has an infectious positivity and high expectations for her students. Lindsey understands the importance of supporting the whole child; she is committed to her students’ academic success as well as their social and emotional well-being. Lindsay exemplifies teacher leadership by empowering her students to do their best and take ownership of their learning and their potential. She is eager to collaborate and inspires her colleagues with her enthusiasm and professionalism. To learn more about Lindsey’s story, visit the Those Who Excel webpage and read the Oct. 28 press release.

Beyond the Those Who Excel award recipients and Teachers of the Year, we are also celebrating the passion, dedication, and resourcefulness of students and educators across the state. As demonstrated by the 2017 Illinois Report Card, released today at http://webprod.isbe.net/ereportcard/publicsite/getSearchCriteria.aspx, our students and educators have a tremendous capacity for growth. Despite significant economic uncertainty last couple of years, educators have done incredible work to support student progress. State-level data show student outcomes improved in English language arts achievement on the PARCC, the four-, five-, and six-year graduation rates, college enrollment rates, Advanced Placement (AP) participation and success, the community college remediation rate, ninth-grade students on track to graduate, and eighth-grade students passing Algebra I. Find more state-level highlights in the press release. The www.illinoisreportcard.com interactive website will go live on Friday, Nov. 3.

I am particularly energized by the growing number of students taking on more advanced coursework. We have seen increases in the numbers of students enrolling in AP courses and taking AP exams, while holding steady on the AP exam pass rate. Kudos to the students and educators whose hard work has helped Illinois achieve this success.

The purpose of the Report Card is to guide conversations around creating conditions for children to thrive. We know that talent is abundant, but opportunity is not. It is important that we continue to increase access and opportunities for students to demonstrate what they know. The passage of the new evidence-based funding formula means districts will have more resources to serve children, in particular children in the greatest need. The Illinois ESSA Plan provides a framework for a common, clear, high standard for all students and differentiated support based on need. The Report Card can help facilitate deeper connections, including opportunities for districts to learn from and collaborate with other districts, as well as public, private, and philanthropic partnerships to support communities.

Congratulations to Lindsey, all of the other Teacher of the Year finalists, all of the recipients of the 2017-18 Those Who Excel awards, and all of the students and educators across the state for their progress in the face of extreme financial uncertainty. The well-being of our communities and our state depends on having a well-educated populace. As Ricky said, “We are here to play our part in securing the longevity of our nation.” We have a lot to celebrate, but we still have work to do to make sure all of our children are ready for their civic and economic future.

Have a great week!

Tony

 

10/31/2017NoBudget and FinanceCharter SchoolsEvery Student Succeeds ActRules & WaiversGrant Accountability Transparency ActNutrition ProgramsNoNo47https://www.isbe.net/Documents_Superintendent_Weekly_Message/message_103117.pdfYes
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Hello, 

As a state agency, we are choosing to champion progress while naming the deep gaps that persist in our state. We are acknowledging Illinois educators as leaders for a healthier and more economically secure future. Illinois is making progress generally and specifically we have to do much more to help the children and families in greatest need. There are historical structural inequities in our cities and towns, and increasing numbers of families that are living in distress (studying the research on adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) underscores the necessity of trauma-informed practice in our schools). We can simultaneously understand this context and recognize growth. Acknowledging that we are doing some things well does not mean we don’t see the inequity around us, recognize we have to improve our practice, and feel the urgency to help more students thrive by meeting their individual needs.

Of course we see the need. When I visit schools across our state, teachers, principals, superintendents, and all school staff describe the trauma and need they see every single day. They also celebrate the successes they are having with students. Educators know what our children need to thrive. When we talk about “at-risk” populations, it is so important to remember that the child is not the source of the deficit. As adults in communities, we have made policy decisions that concentrate or strip resources from the neighborhoods our children live in and where they go to school. Too often, the discourse is about the “high-need” students. That language does not recognize the truth that what those students need is what every healthy developing child needs. Public schools are places where we receive every child and do our best to help those children find possibility and purpose. Public school educators are stewards of the common good. Therefore, we must relentlessly improve our practice. Celebrating growth while knowing we have more to do is part of learning to teach and lead.   

In Chicago, for example, significant structural issues have left children and families in desperate situations – and more children are achieving at higher levels than ever before. A recent analysis shows that among the 100 largest school districts in the country, Chicago has the highest growth rate between third and eighth grade. The average Chicago student’s test scores improved by roughly six grade-level equivalents in five years’ time. Good things are happening in Illinois and we have work to do. As educators and leaders, we will continue to use our progress to generate more progress.

Illinois is home to a number of military-connected students and families. As we honor those who have served our country this Veterans Day, it is important to elevate the significant issues veterans and their families face that do not get enough attention. Many veterans struggle with mental health and homelessness. As a public school system, we can play a role in supporting military-connected families. Find resources for addressing the unique needs of the children of military families on our webpage.

Illinois is also home to a large Puerto Rican population. Governor Rauner put out a direct request last week for Illinois to serve as a host state for disaster victims from Puerto Rico who have been displaced by Hurricane Maria. Last month, he also sent a letter to Puerto Rican Governor Ricardo Rosselló expressing Illinois’ commitment to assisting in the recovery process. Due to Hurricane Maria and other natural disasters, some school districts may receive students relocating from Puerto Rico or other impacted areas. Such students may be homeless under the federal McKinney-Vento Act and the Illinois Education for Homeless Children Act. Homeless students include, but are not limited to, children or youth sharing the housing of other persons due to loss of housing; economic hardship or a similar reason (commonly referred to as being “doubled up”); and children who are otherwise not residing in a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence. Homeless students must be immediately enrolled even if they lack documentation normally required for enrollment. Find more information about assisting students displaced by Hurricane Maria below or visit our Homeless Education webpage. The National Child Traumatic Stress Network shares resources for supporting students experiencing the effects of this and other traumas. I know that schools and communities across the state have united to help those affected by Hurricane Maria and other disasters. I am inspired by Illinois students’ and educators’ generosity and commitment to helping those in need in Illinois and beyond.

Now that we have a new system of funding, in order for it to have the impact we want it to have, we have to focus our work on implementation. Last week, ISBE held a webinar on the evidence-based funding data verification process. We have added an instructional guide for the Evidence-Based Funding Enrollment Verification Tool, as well as the webinar recording and PowerPoint presentation, to the Evidence-Based Funding webpage (under "Explanatory Documents"). We know some of you could not join the webinar due to the number of participants reaching the maximum allowed. If you have any questions, please email EBFhelp@isbe.net. Please note that only district superintendents have access to the EBF enrollment data verification tool and are responsible for completing the enrollment data verification process for their district. We apologize for any confusion over access levels or responsibilities. District superintendents are encouraged to work with school principals as necessary. School principals and others are encouraged to remain aware of the process. We will continue to build relationships and engage in dialogue to make sure we are doing the right work together.

Thank you for all you do,  

Tony

11/7/2017NoCulture & ClimateEvery Student Succeeds ActBudget & FinanceRules & WaiversEarly Childhood EducationNutrition ProgramsCharter SchoolsGrant Accountability Transparency ActNoNo48/Documents_Superintendent_Weekly_Message/message_11072017.pdfYes
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Hello,

As a result of many years of really hard work, we now have the opportunity to provide even more support to students and families in Illinois. We have a system of funding for schools that is more fair than in the past, the Illinois Every Student Succeeds Act plan is officially approved by the U.S. Department of Education, and we have new Illinois state laws encouraging innovation and creativity in education. We truly have made remarkable progress together, and we are ready to help lead Illinois to ensure all of our students are future-ready.

It is really important to me that we at ISBE strengthen our internal connections and spend time discussing our work so that we are best positioned to serve districts and educational agencies in your daily efforts to maximize opportunities for students and families. ISBE staff will deepen our capacity by spending the day together this Thursday, Nov. 16. This time is a chance to weave together all the new opportunities, connect with colleagues doing similar work, and discuss how to leverage our skills and talents in the best way possible. The ISBE office will be closed for the day. If you have questions, please visit www.isbe.net to see if your answer lies within our website. We will be back in the office at 8 a.m. Nov. 17. We appreciate your understanding as we improve our ability to support you in taking care of the whole child, the whole school, and the whole community.

As a reminder, the Evidence-Based Funding Enrollment Verification process is ongoing with an important deadline this Friday, Nov. 17. User guides for the Verification Tool and the Reconciliation Tool and a webinar recording are available on the Evidence-Based Funding Enrollment webpage. Please note that only and all district superintendents are responsible for completing the enrollment data verification process. We appreciate your diligence and feedback in ensuring we have accurate enrollment data for this critical baseline year of evidence-based funding. Our dialogue has helped us understand and adjust to issues throughout these initial months of implementing this historic new funding formula. If you have any questions, please email EBFhelp@isbe.net. We need to hear your questions and comments in order to continue improving our service and support.

We rely on your stories and testimony to advocate for Illinois’ students and communities. Our third and final public hearing on the fiscal year 2019 budget is this Friday, Nov. 17, in Chicago. Your participation in the budget process helps ISBE communicate the real needs of Illinois’ students to the General Assembly. ISBE makes its budget recommendations based on the following principles:

  • Alignment to the Board’s goals,
  • Advocacy for the needs of children across the state as identified from requests from the field, and
  • Recognition of the need for universal and differentiated support to meet the unique needs of each and every child in the State of Illinois in a public system.

Whether or not you are able to attend a hearing in person, you should submit your comments and stories by completing a budget request form (available at http://www.isbe.net/budget) and emailing the form to isbeFY19@isbe.net. I urge educators, administrators, students, families, and community leaders to attend the budget hearings and share their ideas, priorities, and concerns. Find information on past budgets at http://www.isbe.net/budget.  

We often hear stories at our budget hearings from some of the many Illinois students involved in the National FFA Organization. Students have spoken about the leadership opportunities FFA has opened for them and how experiences teaching their peers have helped them to build confidence. Agriculture teachers have shared how they are not just educating future farmers, but future engineers, problem solvers, and leaders. Testimony like this helps ISBE articulate the value and impact of well-rounded educational programs.

I would like to recognize the Illinois FFA chapters, student members, alumni, and advisers for their accomplishments at the recent 2017 National FFA Convention in Indianapolis, Indiana. Illinois students received awards in a variety of areas, including Building Communities; Dairy Production Placement; Equine Science Entrepreneurship; and Power, Structural, and Technical Systems. View the complete list of awardees. Thank you to our Illinois FFA chapters for their commitment to service, and congratulations to all who played a part in this success!

Have a great week! 

Tony

11/14/2017NoData Strategies & AnalyticsBudget & FinanceIllinois Bicentennial CelebrationIllinois Department of Public HealthCollege & CareerCulture & ClimateRules & WaiversEarly Childhood EducationNutrition ProgramsGrant Accountability Transparency ActIllinois Executive Mansion AssociationNoNo49/Documents_Superintendent_Weekly_Message/message_11142017.pdfYes
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Hello,

I want you to know how deeply I appreciate your work to create the conditions for all of our students to thrive. In the face of change and uncertainty, you have shown incredible resourcefulness and commitment to understanding your students’ unique needs and serving the whole child.

With your partnership, we are on the right path to provide safe, rigorous, and well-rounded learning environments for all students. Thank you for your readiness to make connections, collaborate, and learn from schools and districts with different strengths and challenges. Thank you for being in dialogue with us so that we can continue to improve our service and support. And thank you for sharing your stories and testimony, and joining with us in advocating for students, families, and communities across our state. Together we can build inclusive systems wherein all people are socially and economically secure. I truly believe in the role of healthy public schools as the center of healthy communities.

As we gather with family and friends this Thanksgiving, we recognize that many do not have access to food. Our children and families struggle with food insecurity regularly. I encourage you to share resources to help the families in your communities that do not have as much food as they need. The FoodFinder website and smartphone app make it easier for children and their families facing hunger to find free food resources. This tool was developed by Jack Griffin, a Georgia high school student at the time, in response to the needs in his community. He and others like him who are making a difference in their communities give us another reason to be thankful. Illinois Hunger Coalition, No Kid Hungry, and Rise and Shine Illinois offer more information about food insecurity, as well as resources for connecting children and families to the healthy food they need.

ISBE’s Nutrition and Wellness Programs Division administers a number of federally funded programs in Illinois, all aimed at making sure our children receive healthy meals so they can succeed in the classroom and beyond. Visit the division’s webpage to learn more about the National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, Child and Adult Care Food Program, and Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program. We are in the midst of the holiday season, but it is not too early to think about summer. Many children rely on free and reduced-priced meals during the school year and do not have access to healthy meals when school is out for the summer. Visit the Summer Food Service Program webpage for more information about Summer Meals and to help identify sponsors and meal sites.

Thank you for all you do! Happy Thanksgiving!

Tony

11/21/2017NoBudget & FinanceNonpublic Schools5EssentialsCollege & Career ReadinessRules & WaiversEarly Childhood EducationNutrition ProgramsIllinois Bicentennial CelebrationIllinois Department of Public HealthGrant Accountability Transparency ActNoNo50/Documents_Superintendent_Weekly_Message/message_11212017.pdfYes
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Hello,

When I visit communities across the state, I see how you, as educators and leaders, have inspired and empowered Illinois students to make meaningful local contributions. In addition to all you do for the children in your schools and districts, your investments outside of school – whether through volunteer service, donations, leadership, or advocacy – strengthen Illinois communities. As we celebrate #ILGive and #GivingTuesday today, thank you for your generosity. Check out www.ilgive.com if you are looking for other ways to invest in your communities.

We understand that people across Illinois are situated in very different ways, some with opportunities afforded to them and others who have had opportunities stripped away. Equity to me includes access and outcome. Our new funding system takes an equity-centered approach. How near or far a district is from their Adequacy Target gives us a common language to better understand and articulate our districts’ different starting points and the relationship between fiscal and academic solvency. 

We are completing the Evidence-Based Funding (EBF) enrollment verification process. Thank you for your diligence throughout this process and for continuing to share your feedback and send in your questions. We have updated our Evidence-Based Funding Frequently Asked Questions to reflect the inquiries we have received, including questions related to distribution calculation, enrollment, and special education.

There is no mandated connection between EBF and ESSA. However, these historic shifts in Illinois’ public education landscape present opportunities to coordinate our funding and school support systems, treating schools and students holistically. One example of overlap between these two systems is Site-Based Expenditure Reporting.

ESSA requires all districts to report per-pupil expenditure data at the district level and at the school level, disaggregated by source of funds, beginning with school year 2018-19 data. Recently, ISBE, the Illinois Association of School Administrators (IASA), and the Advisory Group facilitator Afton Partners joined with Superintendent Bartelt from Bloomingdale School District 13, Superintendent Twomey from Macomb School District 185, and Superintendent Webb from Goreville CUSD 1 to hold an “Introduction to Site-Based Expenditure Reporting” webinar on Nov. 14. Thank you to IASA, our superintendent panel, and the more than 200 school districts that participated. The webinar gives an overview of the ESSA requirement, the Advisory Group’s work to date and next steps, and what districts can do now to start preparing. You can find the webinar slides, recording, and Questions & Answers document on the Site-Based Expenditure Reporting section of our ESSA webpage. This is just the start of ISBE’s work to support schools in implementing Site-Based Expenditure Reporting.

Neither EBF nor ESSA dictates how districts must spend their general funds. Clearer and more transparent financial information across districts will allow local leaders to make data-driven decisions for the benefit of children.

Data from the Kindergarten Individual Development Survey (KIDS), too, will allow us to advocate for equity in new ways. KIDS empowers Illinois with reliable, comparable data on students’ strengths and opportunities when they enter kindergarten. We then can identify where more resources are needed within schools and communities so that we can provide all children with the same opportunities in Illinois.

We are gearing up for the first Mastering KIDS Summit on Thursday, Dec. 14 in Rosemont. Kindergarten teachers, district KIDS contacts, and partners are invited to participate in this exciting day of learning and sharing best practices. The summit will include sessions on eliminating gaps in school readiness, the power of observation, translating KIDS data into practice, and meeting the needs of dual language learners. Participants will also be able to connect with KIDS coaches to ask questions, and share feedback about how ISBE can continue providing the training and resources districts need to be successful in implementing KIDS. Find more information about the summit below. Register online by Dec. 6. Thank you to our partners, the Robert R. McCormick Foundation and the Steans Family Foundation, for making this summit possible.

Have a great week!

Tony

11/28/2017NoRules & WaiversSpecial Education ServicesBudget & FinanceNonpublic Schools5EssentialsCollege & Career ReadinessEarly Childhood EducationNutrition ProgramsGrant Accountability Transparency ActNoNo51/Documents_Superintendent_Weekly_Message/message_11282017.pdfYes
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Hello,

We continue to celebrate the great work of students and educators across the state, as well as exciting new learning opportunities.

Congratulations to Kirsten Perry, a school counselor at Lawndale Community Academy in Chicago, for being named the 2018 National School Counselor of the Year! The American School Counselor Association has recognized Kirsten for her tireless work to improve student attendance, promote college and career readiness, support social emotional learning, and build a positive school climate. Kirsten has collaborated with students, staff, and community partners to create new learning and leadership opportunities for students and develop the necessary supports for all students to thrive. She strives to make all students feel included and cared for and to ensure families stay informed and engaged in her school. This is an incredible national honor, and we are proud to call Kirsten one of Illinois’ own! Learn more about Kirsten’s work and the award.

Countless educators in Illinois share Kirsten’s dedication to preparing children for socially and economically secure futures. Many districts are empowering students to participate in real work that matters to them. One way districts are making school more relevant for the success of our students and communities is through competency-based education. Competency-based education expands the learning that “counts” to include collaborative, project-based, and work-based learning – moving away from lectures and one-size-fits-all learning to anytime, anywhere education. 

On Nov. 30, ISBE released the request for applications for the second cohort of the Competency-Based High School Graduation Requirements Pilot Program. I appreciate the thoughtfulness with which the first cohort of districts has approached this work. The 10 current pilot districts are at different stages of developing the flexible supports students need to assume responsibility for their own learning and master competencies in alignment with the Illinois Learning Standards. Districts such as Round Lake Community Unit School District 116 and Williamsfield Community Unit School District 210 are redesigning the student experience schoolwide. Other districts are beginning with specific subject areas, such as Ridgewood High School District 234 and its initial focus on math competencies. The participating school districts convened in September to study national best practices, build relationships, find points of connection, and begin moving their pilots from vision to action.

The competency-based learning pilot might be the most exciting opportunity available to school districts right now. So much of the student experience has been organized around time, rather than around students demonstrating what they know. Competency-based learning recognizes students' individual starting points and allows them to pave a personalized pathway with no ceiling. It gives students the opportunity to do something that helps their community – and to have that learning experience count. The competency-based learning pilot maximizes autonomy, providing an important chance to engage educators as learners, too.  

I look forward to welcoming a second cohort of pioneering districts. All Illinois school districts serving grades 9 through 12 are eligible to apply by February 16, 2018, to participate in the pilot. Find the application, a library of research, program implementation plans, and descriptions of current pilot districts on the Competency Pilot page.

The yearlong Illinois Bicentennial Celebration kicked off Dec. 3 with events across the state. The Bicentennial offers us a unique opportunity to engage Illinois students in learning about our shared heritage and collective history. ISBE is providing new educational resources for students and teachers to get to know our “homegrown heroes” and the rich history of our state. ISBE has partnered with the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum and What on Earth Publications to develop a first-of-its-kind book, Illinois Chronicles, as well as a wallboard and an online platform. Hard copies of the materials will be provided to every school in the state in spring of 2018. ISBE’s Bicentennial Education webpage offers sample activities created by ISBE staff and educators related to Illinois Chronicles. We invite educators and students to share how they are using these resources and to submit their own innovative ideas to IL200ed@isbe.net. Together we can empower students to engage with Illinois history and imagine their own roles in shaping the future of Illinois.

Have a great week!

Tony

12/5/2017NoCompetency-Based High School Graduation Requirement PilotEvery Student Succeeds ActAssessment & AccountabilityRules & WaiversSpecial Education ServicesEarly Childhood EducationNutrition ProgramsNonpublic SchoolsGrant Accountability Transparency ActNoNo52/Documents_Superintendent_Weekly_Message/message_12052017.pdfYes
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Hello,

High school students across the state continue to demonstrate outstanding academic achievement. Congratulations to the 2018-19 Illinois State Scholars honored by the Illinois Student Assistance Commission! The Illinois Student Assistance Commission recognizes Illinois high school students who perform in the top half of their class and/or score at or above the 95th percentile on the ACT or SAT. See the complete list of scholars

Our high school students are also excelling as leaders in their communities. The Pittsfield FFA chapter was recognized as the 2017 National Premier Chapter in the Building Communities category at the National FFA Convention. Their “Heroes Among Us” project honored active-duty service members. Pittsfield FFA members created and displayed aluminum street signs near the local courthouse with names of local service members who have been deployed. The chapter also collaborated with the City of Pittsfield to plant more than 150 trees, leading to a "Tree City USA" designation by the Arbor Day Foundation.

I look forward to seeing more examples of students empowered to play a role in strengthening their communities. I am excited by the opportunities across the state for students to gain skills, build relationships, and connect to real-world challenges.

Students at O’Fallon Township High School are developing math skills using real-world applications. Math teacher Dr. Kelly Remijan teamed up with Illinois State Trooper Brad Brachear from the Region IV Traffic Crash Reconstruction Unit to show ninth-grade pre-algebra students how crucial math is in reconstructing vehicle crashes. Students appreciated the hands-on opportunity to practice math concepts, as well as the chance to build relationships with the community and learn about potential careers. Read more about the accident reconstruction activity in Dr. Remijan’s article “Building Mathematical Skills and Community Relationships Through Crash Reconstruction” for ASCD Express.

The Sangamon CEO program offers another hands-on learning experience. Students gain leadership, teamwork, and entrepreneurial skills while learning how to plan, start, finance, and run a successful company. Classes taught by educators, business owners, and other community leaders help students make local connections. Students in the program must develop a viable business idea and work on an entrepreneurial venture as a class. Some of the business concepts have gone on to Innovate Springfield, a business incubator that supports start-up companies. Students who complete the Sangamon CEO program earn high school credits and six credits at Lincoln Land Community College. The program, now in its fifth year, has grown to almost 50 students across 14 participating high schools. This collaboration supports local economic development by encouraging students to invest in their communities.

All of these opportunities make high school more relevant to both students and their communities. I appreciate schools and districts sharing their innovative programs, community partnerships, and student successes with us.

On a more somber note, families in Puerto Rico continue to suffer in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Due to widespread damage to residential structures and public infrastructure, thousands of families have been displaced to areas across the United States and here in Illinois. In light of the very real possibility that your district may receive one or more students or educators displaced by Hurricane Maria, we have detailed protections and opportunities that apply to students, families, and educators of Puerto Rico in a letter released on our website Monday. Critically important is connecting, when necessary, students and families to community-based health and mental health programs and other social programs, including programs that provide a framework for trauma-informed care.

Additionally, a new policy allows any educator displaced by Hurricane Maria to apply for a comparable license in Illinois without application or registration fees. ISBE is also waiving the requirement of official documentation for the issuance of the license sought.   

Building healthy schools and strong communities requires fostering a real sense of belonging for every student and educator in our schools. Thank you for your commitment to caring for and fully preparing every student you serve.

Have a great week! 

Tony

12/12/2017NoEducator EffectivenessWellness ProgramsEarly Childhood EducationCareer and Technical EducationCompetency-Based High School Graduation Requirement PilotEvery Student Succeeds ActAssessment & AccountabilityRules & WaiversNutrition ProgramsGrant Accountability Transparency ActNoNo53/Documents_Superintendent_Weekly_Message/message_12122017.pdfYes
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Hello, 

As we go into holiday break, I want to share my appreciation for all of our partners who have pushed and pulled for us to reach where we are. Two historic events in 2017 shifted the public education landscape statewide, positioning Illinois to provide even more support to students and families. Both shifts resulted from the feedback, collaboration, and engagement of dedicated educators and advocates over months and years. Illinois now has fairer school funding and a balanced accountability system, reflecting renewed commitments from leadership across the state to providing all children the supports they need to thrive.

Evidence-based funding (EBF) helps us take an important step toward equity. We continue to receive questions about EBF, particularly about the relational funding structure that determines the amount of additional tier funding each district will receive. I understand the uncertainty; this is fundamentally different from our past system of funding. Under the new structure, those districts furthest away from adequacy will receive more tier funding and those districts at or above adequacy will receive less additional funding. ISBE staff are on track to calculate the tier funding every district will receive in addition to the base funding minimum (hold harmless). We are working to complete the data verification process and understand where all 852 districts are in relation to one another so that we can voucher the tiered funding by April. Thank you for engaging in this process with such diligence and curiosity. Please continue to send your questions to EBFhelp@isbe.net​, as we are regularly updating our Evidence-Based Funding Frequently Asked Questions webpage. The "Understanding the Evidence-Based Formula Distribution Calculation" webinar modules share more information about the processes for determining a district’s adequacy target and local resources and for distributing state funds based on a district’s percentage of adequacy.

We are now two years into Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) work. ISBE submitted the Illinois ESSA State Plan this past spring after 16 months of collaboration and thoughtful development spurred by more than 100 stakeholder meetings. This shared ownership of the Illinois ESSA State Plan is incredibly important. I want to recognize all the ways in which different communities have pulled together to bring the best thinking, questions, and positive intent. The U.S. Department of Education approved Illinois’ new balanced accountability system on Aug. 30. Our plan centers on equity; schools with lower outcomes will receive the strongest support. Implementation is really hard work. Our shared commitment will continue to move us toward our ambitious goals.

The Illinois Report Card is another example of strong partnership to create a tool that helps inform parents, families, and communities equally about the outcomes and opportunities in public education at school, district, and state levels. Illinois was recognized as one of five “bright spots” in the Data Quality Campaign’s Show Me the Data 2017: States Can Improve Report Cards This Year report. The Illinois Report Card was highlighted for going above and beyond what is required by law to allow for a deeper understanding of each school.

The New America Foundation also identified Illinois as a national leader for how our ESSA State Plan conveys a more complete picture of how former English Learners (ELs) are faring. We created a longitudinal category to track how former ELs perform after exiting classification and through graduation. We will include data for all relevant former EL metrics on the Illinois Report Card. It’s been a landmark year for Illinois, so it’s nice to be acknowledged for our collective work and commitment to serving all students.

Over the next two weeks, the Weekly Message will be used to communicate only upcoming dates and deadlines. I will return with more in the New Year. 

Happy holidays!

Tony

*** The Dec. 26 and Jan. 3 Superintendent’s Weekly Messages will only include upcoming dates and deadlines. ***

12/19/2017NoIllinois Green Ribbon SchoolsCollege & Career ReadinessNutrition ProgramsEducator EffectivenessWellness ProgramsEarly Childhood EducationCareer and Technical EducationNonpublic SchoolsGrant Accountability Transparency ActNoNo54/Documents_Superintendent_Weekly_Message/message_12192017.pdfYes
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12/26/2017NoNoNo55/Documents_Superintendent_Weekly_Message/message_12262017.pdfNo
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1/2/2018NoNoNo56/Documents_Superintendent_Weekly_Message/message_01022018.pdfNoYesThe full Weekly Message will return next week.
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Hello,

Fair access to a quality education continues to be at the heart of the State Board’s mission. We have entered this new year with a renewed commitment to innovation in support of Illinois children, a commitment that includes exploring ways to move away from the constraints of seat time and maximize opportunities for every one of our students.

The Board and I remain steadfast in our pursuit of equity.  It is a Board goal that all students in Illinois are supported by highly prepared and effective teachers. As you know, teacher and substitute teacher shortages are affecting all of us across the state. The Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools (IARSS) shared the results of its newest educator shortage survey at the Dec. 13, 2017, State Board meeting. According to the superintendents surveyed, teacher shortage concerns were more prominent in rural districts in the central part of the state, and substitute teacher shortage concerns were most evident in southern part of the state. The most difficult positions to fill include bilingual teachers, Spanish teachers, special education teachers, nurses, and school psychologists. I appreciate the leadership from the ROEs around these teacher shortage crises, including IARSS President Mark Jontry. The Board committed to a year of inquiry regarding the teaching profession in the state. We will continue to do everything we can to build public awareness and to advance strategies to recruit, retain, and take better care of our teachers.

Fair access to a quality education for all students, across all demographics and geography, also includes high-speed internet access. Though broadband can be overlooked, it is critical to a quality education in the 21st century. Nearly 90,000 students in 106 school districts in Illinois do not have bandwidth sufficient to engage in digital learning, according to estimates provided by EducationSuperHighway. We have to equip educators with the connectivity and digital tools they need to support the strengths and challenges of all students in order to prepare them for college and career and fuel our growth as a state.

​ISBE recently released a Notice of Funding Opportunity/Request for Proposals (NOFO/RFP) for pending state funds to expand internet connectivity in schools.  If appropriated, the funds would reimburse school districts for the cost of upgrading their broadband infrastructure to fiber optic technology, opening up new opportunities to use free online resources, teach coding, and integrate technology across the curriculum. The Illinois Classroom Connectivity Initiative provides free services to school districts across the state to accelerate bandwidth upgrades through a partnership with EducationSuperHighway. The initiative has helped 756 Illinois school districts, which educate more than 1.2 million students, meet the 100 kbps per student minimum connectivity goal. EducationSuperHighway connects districts to competitive service provider options and helps districts take advantage of the discounts offered through the Federal Communications Commission's E-rate program.

I encourage eligible districts to apply now for funds to expand their broadband capabilities and all districts to explore more affordable options for faster connectivity. School districts can access the NOFO/RFP on the Broadband Information page on the ISBE website. Proposals must be received in the ISBE offices no later than 3 p.m. Feb. 9. The RFP Technical Assistance webinar under the “E-Rate State Matching Grant” dropdown can help districts as they prepare their submissions. Districts can also contact EducationSuperHighway for free support and consultation. The Learning Technology Centers of Illinois provide districts with free workshops and support for E-rate applications.

Please stay in dialogue with us as the school year progresses. We continue to ask for you to share your stories with us – the ways you are innovating, maximizing opportunities, and supporting the whole child, whole school, and whole community. We want to know the unique strengths and opportunities of every district. And as part of our work to change the narrative around teaching, we want to highlight stories about incredible educators. With your partnership, we can elevate the great work you are doing and better support the continued progress of students and communities across the state.

Have a great week!

Tony

1/9/2018NoIllinois Bicentennial CelebrationEducation TechnologyCulture & ClimateIllinois Green Ribbon SchoolsCollege & Career ReadinessNutrition ProgramsRules & WaiversEducator EffectivenessEarly Childhood EducationWellness ProgramsNonpublic SchoolsGrant Accountability Transparency ActNoNo68https://www.isbe.net/Documents_Superintendent_Weekly_Message/message_01092018.pdfYesNo
109
  

Hello,

As states across the nation, including Illinois, face increasing challenges recruiting and retaining educators, I believe we have to prioritize support, mentorship, and professional learning for our teachers. Title II funding is the only federal money focused specifically on teacher improvement and growth – and a bill approved by the U.S. House of Representatives puts Title II funding at risk. The bill would eliminate more than $2 billion in federal funding for teacher development. Tennessee Commissioner of Education Candice McQueen and I highlighted the importance of Title II funding to support educators in a piece we put out last week. We have to do a better job of caring for our teachers if we hope to turn the tide on the national teacher shortage and, in turn, improve student outcomes. We urge Congress to maintain this critical funding to ensure all students are supported by highly prepared and effective teachers. Please reach out and share your stories about how these funds help staff and students and please add your advocacy to the national conversation.

As educators, we all know that children are situated differently and need different supports to meet the same high expectations. The adequacy target in the evidence-based funding (EBF) formula gives us common language to describe the core of what all of our children deserve. For the first time, we can have a common conversation about how close or how far the state is from providing each district the resources to meet all students’ needs. EBF also creates a distribution system in which each district’s allocation depends on the needs of all 852 school districts. ISBE is moving ahead quickly to understand where all 852 districts are situated against their individual adequacy targets. This is the baseline year of the new formula, so the process begins with verifying each district’s enrollment numbers for the past three years. A number of districts still have not submitted their enrollment verification through IWAS. PLEASE PRIORITIZE THIS WORK. You can find instructions and other resources on the Evidence-Based Funding Enrollment page. If the information we have isn’t verified and accurate, then the records ISBE currently has will become a permanent part of the formula for future years. I shared more information about this last week on “Chicago Tonight.”

While ISBE was working to implement the new EBF law, we found that the adequacy targets of many school districts would unfairly include local resources that those districts are not able to access – to the sum of $37.8 million. This was not the intent of the legislature, according to the sponsors of the legislation. To correct this drafting error, ISBE requested that the changes be included in SB 444. That trailer bill was approved by the General Assembly and ISBE requested that the Governor sign it as soon as possible. The Governor issued an amendatory veto to SB 444 last week. If the changes included in SB 444 are not enacted, a number of school districts will see a reduction in funding. ISBE is continuing to gather and clean the data needed to distribute tier funding as we wait for the General Assembly to act on this amendatory veto. 

Another update from D.C. that’s important to share is that the U.S. Department of Education recently completed its peer review of PARCC. PARCC is now the first and only large-scale summative accountability assessment to fully meet federal assessment guidelines. This is an extraordinary moment for Illinois, as our state remains committed to using the highest-quality assessment design. Illinois educators were instrumental in establishing PARCC as the highest-quality assessment and they are critical in leading the future assessment development. Science assessment is the field that presents the most opportunity for innovation. Illinois is rich in educators, administrators, legislators, and communities that value high-quality science education supported by a high-quality science assessment. The PARCC recognition highlights the deep capacity Illinois has to lead the country in creating accountability assessments that also meet the needs of students, educators, and families. The evolution of the Illinois Science Assessment requires thoughtful partnership with the amazing people we have here in Illinois and the investment of the time required to create something of the highest quality.

Tomorrow, the State Board will consider ISBE’s fiscal year 2019 budget request. This year’s budget request -- informed by testimony from community members across the state, with direction provided by the Board in December -- is an advocacy document that requests doubling the state’s investment in education. The budget recommendation reflects the state’s constitutional mandate to assume the primary responsibility for financing the system of public education. ISBE believes “primary responsibility” constitutes ensuring that every district can meet at least 90 percent of its individual Adequacy Target through a combination of state and local funding, with federal funds on average supplying the remaining 10 percent of adequacy. The children in Illinois’ schools today can’t wait for another opportunity for a quality education. A better social and economic future for the state depends on providing all children with the quality education they deserve today.

Thank you for doing all you can in your schools and communities today to help children and their families thrive!  I’m looking forward to our work together in 2018!!

Take care,

Tony

1/16/2018NoThose Who ExcelSchool Business ServicesNutrition ProgramsIllinois Bicentennial CelebrationEducation TechnologyCulture & ClimateCollege & Career ReadinessRules & WaiversEducator EffectivenessEarly Childhood EducationWellness ProgramsGrant Accountability Transparency ActNoNo69https://www.isbe.net/Documents_Superintendent_Weekly_Message/message_01162018.pdfYesNo
110
  

Hello,

The federal government shutdown concluded late Monday after three days, with Congress and the president agreeing to a spending plan to fund the government through February 8. ISBE staff confirmed that a federal government shutdown does not limit our ability to continue to draw federal funds to provide reimbursements to grantees, as most federal education funding is advance funded to states. We will continue to closely monitor the situation. The temporary spending bill passed Monday maintained level funding for education programs and extended the Children’s Health Insurance Program for six years. The State Board and I are urging Congress and the president to come to a long-term resolution that protects critical funding for students, families, and schools.

This morning, I spoke on WBEZ’s The Morning Shift about ISBE’s fiscal year 2019 budget recommendation. Evidence-Based Funding provides a path toward equity and adequacy for all students; as we all know, the primary funding source for public education in Illinois remains local property taxes. As we also know, a long history of political decisions have concentrated resources and opportunity in some communities and stripped resources and opportunities from others, resulting in deeply inequitable funding for schools. At this point, the state has not fulfilled its constitutional mandate to assume the “primary responsibility for financing the system of public education.” Without that commitment from the state, the wide variance in what school districts can commit locally will persist, with an inequitable result for students. Federal funds support our highest-needs children and families and on average make up 10 percent of funds provided to districts. Therefore, we believe “primary responsibility” constitutes ensuring that every district can meet at least 90 percent of its individual Adequacy Target through a combination of state and local funding support. Creating the conditions for each and every child to thrive requires naming what it really takes to provide an adequate education for all our children. View the State Board’s recommended Fiscal Year 2019 Investment to Support Educational Excellence herePDF Document.

Our vision for equity includes expanding access to high-quality learning opportunities to better prepare students for college and career. At our budget hearings, we heard how important Advanced Placement (AP) is across the state and therefore we requested $3 million to increase AP opportunities and provide AP exam fee reimbursement for low-income students. Our budget request reflects our commitment to ensuring students have access to diverse pathways and advanced opportunities, no matter their family income or where they live. We also have to change the mindset of students, their families, and the adults in our schools about who can and should be in AP or International Baccalaureate courses. We must believe deeply in all of our children and support all of our students, particularly our low-income students and students of color, in realizing all that is possible for them. Across Illinois, 52 high schools are partnering with Equal Opportunity Schools (EOS) to eliminate their AP enrollment gaps. The EOS Network Rally last week provided a space for districts involved in this work to connect and share best practices. I want to celebrate the districts leading our growing work to expand access across the state and to thank EOS for supporting Illinois students.

At the State Board meetingPDF Document last week, stakeholder groups shared their recommendations for how the state should measure school quality and student success in our new balanced accountability system. I want to express my appreciation for the collaborative work that has helped us reach this point. We are now requesting feedback on the recommendations stakeholders submitted for the Preschool to Second GradePDF Document, Elementary/Middle GradePDF Document, and College and Career Readiness​PDF Document indicators. Please send feedback to ESSA@isbe.net by February 16, 2018. We want this work to continue to be a partnership and look forward to learning more as we implement together.

Have a great week,

Tony

1/23/2018NoThose Who ExcelFunding & DisbursementsCollege & Career ReadinessEarly Childhood EducationEducator EffectivenessCulture & ClimateSchool Business ServicesNutrition ProgramsGrant Accountability Transparency ActNoNo71https://www.isbe.net/Documents_Superintendent_Weekly_Message/message_01232018.pdfYesNo
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