Focused Monitoring = Key Educational Procedures and Practices (federal and state government) + Educational Benefit (evidence based practices to positively impact student results)
Federal and state laws require the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) to monitor and enforce special education regulations. The primary focus of the required general supervision activities is improved education results and functional outcomes for all students with disabilities. Focused monitoring is one process that the ISBE uses to implement special education general supervision requirements.
Focused monitoring is a data-driven approach to monitoring that focuses on a small number of carefully chosen priorities that have demonstrated the greatest impact on improving results for students with disabilities. This process purposefully selects priority areas to examine for compliance/results to maximize resources, emphasize important variables and increase the probability of improved results - i.e., improved student performance. This approach is a shift from a culture of compliance to a culture of accountability. It places the focus of a monitoring review on results versus process.
The identification of findings of noncompliance is also data-driven. Any finding of noncompliance is based on the data collected and triangulated through the focused monitoring process. The ISBE team leader collects and reviews data submitted by the district, conflict resolution data, staff interviews and surveys, parent surveys, student file reviews, any classroom observations that may be completed, and information gathered at the public forum.
In an effort to promote collaboration and to ensure commitment and ownership on the part of the district, the ISBE involves the district’s superintendent throughout the on-site monitoring visit and improvement/corrective action process. District interdisciplinary teams develop an improvement plan to address and correct the identified findings of noncompliance. ISBE team leaders are available for guidance and to provide information on other resources and best practices.
Critical Performance Indicator 5A of the State Performance Plan (SPP) addresses the educational environment of students with disabilities, specifically:
- Free appropriate public education (FAPE) in the Least Restrictive Environment, and
- The percentage of students with disabilities, ages 6-21, inside the general education classroom 80% or more of the school day
The focused monitoring priority area is determined based on the State Performance Plan, which includes 20 critical performance indicators. Illinois school districts are required to submit annual reports on specific special education data related to each critical performance indicator. The ISBE utilizes that data to rank school districts on the focused monitoring critical performance indicator. Because districts are selected for a focused monitoring on-site review based on the data they report to the state, the importance of accurate district data is evident.
The critical performance indicator 5A, Educational Environment (EE), has been chosen from the indicator pool as the priority area for focused monitoring. Districts are selected for focused monitoring specifically on the percentage of students in the general education setting for 80% or more of the school day.
Following an on-site visit, the ISBE team leader develops a final report which is issued to the district within 45 calendar days of the visit. The final report presents conclusions based on the data collected and analyzed through the focused monitoring review and includes the following components:
- District strengths
- Findings related to indicator
- Year of Correction
- Improvement Plan
- Year of Change
Focused monitoring is based on a two-tiered system of improvement for districts: (1) improvement plans are developed and implemented within the first year of the final report to meet the required evidence of correction, and (2) improved outcomes/performance as evidenced in data two years from the date of the final report and which demonstrates the required evidence of change. The evidence of correction of the selected critical performance indicator and evidence of change are designed to ensure that modifications have been made and will lead to improved performance on the indicator as reflected in the district’s data.
Evidence of correction is the first year of the process, during which time the district develops and implements the district improvement plan and corrects the areas that were identified as noncompliant. A district must provide evidence of correction of the supporting evidence that is specific to the critical performance indicator within one year from the date of the final report.
Evidence of change is verified through district-level data that is specific to the selection data. The data analysis is conducted demonstrate the required evidence of change two years from the date of the final report. The data change is specific to the critical performance area; the ISBE prescribes the specific data change the district must demonstrate in order to be released from focused monitoring status. The evidence of change is designed to ensure that changes have been made within the district that have ultimately led to improved performance on the indicator as reflected in the district’s data.
School districts with identified findings of noncompliance are required to develop and implement activities into their new or existing district improvement plan to correct the noncompliance. The plan must be developed by the district team in order to assure that the improvement plan is comprehensive, interdisciplinary, and district-wide. Each plan must include activities aimed at students, staff, and parents that will address and correct the noncompliance within the one-year period. The plan must not be a uniquely special education response developed in isolation from other district initiatives.
In developing the district improvement plan, the district team must review the findings, supporting evidence, required corrective action, and the evidence of change identified in the final report. The supporting evidence contains the specific reasons why the district was found to be identified for needing professional development and technical assistance. It is critical that the improvement plan activities are directly tied to the supporting evidence. This ensures that the improvement plan activities are responsive and directly tailored to the district’s specific needs that led to their selection and identification of findings of noncompliance.
Each improvement plan must be approved by the ISBE team leader and local school board. The district submits improvement plan progress reports to the ISBE throughout the year of the correction process. The ISBE team leader is available as a resource to the district throughout the development and implementation of the improvement plan.
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