Weekly Message 12-20-02

 

 

Good Afternoon. The State Board meeting this week produced a number of significant actions that I’d like to share with you before the holiday.  This includes:

 

·     The Condition of Education/FY04 Budget Proposal

·     2002 Academic Early Warning List and Academic Watch List

·     Assessment and Accountability Task Force Recommendations

·     Supplemental Education Service Providers

·     Livingston School District Financial Oversight Panel

 

In addition, I want to let you know about the “transferability” of some No Child Left Behind funds and to comment on P-16 Partnerships.

 

 

The Condition of Public Education 2002 and the FY04 Budget

 

The State Board of Education is required to submit an annual report to the Governor and General Assembly on the condition of education in Illinois.  The 2002 report, which will be presented in tandem with the FY04 budget request, was the subject of lengthy discussion by the Board at this week’s meeting. 

 

This year’s report is unique in that it summarizes major issues facing Illinois education in a year that will almost surely be marked by severe fiscal pressure on public funds. The report presents five funding options in areas that have long been identified as priorities by the State Board -- current funding level, maintenance of the status quo, low moderate improvement, high moderate improvement and full support for quality programs and services.

 

The report is an attempt to help all of us focus our thinking as we face the difficult task of allocating scarce resources among many worthy programs. It is not intended as a comprehensive listing of all programs funded in past budgets or deserving of inclusion in the upcoming budget.

 

The Board will take action on the FY04 budget during a special meeting on Tuesday, January 7.  Prior to that meeting, we would like to have your reaction to the scenarios laid out in the Condition of Education report, as well as any other thoughts you have on how best to meet the budget challenge ahead of us. I hope you will take time over the holidays to look at this report, which is available on the State Board website (http://www.isbe.net), and let us know your reactions and recommendations.  You can send them by e-mail (statesup@isbe.net) or regular mail to the Springfield office.

 

 

 

 

 

 

2002 Academic Early Warning List and Academic Watch List

 

The Academic Early Warning List (AEWL) identifies elementary and secondary schools in which fewer than 50% of the students have met standards for two consecutive years.  The 2002 AEWL, which was adopted by the State Board at the Thursday business meeting, includes 661 schools from 125 districts.  This is an increase of 160 schools and 60 districts over last year.  One hundred twenty eight of the additional schools are high schools  

 

The Board also adopted the first Academic Watch List, which identifies 52 schools in five districts that have been on the Academic Early Warning List for two years and have failed to make adequate yearly progress during that time.

 

The State Board’s “System of Support” will help the AEWL districts develop a new school improvement plan and target resources for its implementation.  A School Improvement Panel appointed by the State Superintendent will be assigned to each school named to the Watch List. 

 

A list of schools on the 2002 Academic Warning List may be found at http://www.isbe.net/pdf/02aewl.pdf.  Watch list schools are identified at http://www.isbe.net/pdf/02watchlist.pdf.  Press releases relevant to Board action on these schools can be found at http://www.isbe.net/news/2002/dec18.htm

 

Good News About the AEWL

 

Sixty three schools that were on the 2001 Academic Early Warning List earned removal from this year’s list because of their students’ progress on the state assessments.  These schools, located in thirty districts, are identified at http://www.isbe.net/pdf/02aewlremoved.pdf.

 

Congratulations to the students, teachers, administrators, boards, parents and community members who have supported these schools in making substantial achievement gains.

 

 

2002 Academic Early Warning and Watch Lists:

Setting the Record Straight

 

 

A recent Alliance Legislative Report (92-72) included some misinformation regarding the 2002 Academic Early Warning and Watch Lists approved by the State Board of Education at its December 19th meeting.

 

To clarify:

 

·     The Superintendent’s Assessment and Accountability Task Force is considering recommendations for a future unified accountability system.  Current state law and rules are still in force.  The 2002 Academic Early Warning and Watch Lists were issued in conformance with current state law and regulations governing school accountability.

·     The 50% meets + exceeds standard for school performance is congruent with the federal 1994 ESEA standard for the state.  This is the last year this standard will be applied, as new federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) standards take effect in the coming year.  States must have final plans filed with the USDOE by May 1, 2003.

·     The Task Force never voted on a 40% standard; instead, the State Board of Education adopted a federally prescribed methodology in April 2002 that resulted in an automatic calculation of 2002 test data resulting in a 40% starting point for both reading and math meets + exceeds scores.  This starting point will be applied in the system beginning in 2003-04.  The Task Force did vote on a “stairstep” schedule of improvement starting from the 40% starting point and leading to 100% meets+ exceeds scores by 2014.  The State Board has asked the Task Force to further review this recommendation.

·     It is risky to guess the numbers of schools that will be affected when the 40% “starting point” is applied.  The Alliance estimate of 200 schools does not take into account the future requirement to separate scores for all student groups (racial and ethnic, poverty, Limited English proficiency, special education) and that ALL groups meet the state performance target.  It is very likely that schools whose composite scores look relatively good now will find that one or more student groups will not score highly enough, resulting in identification for improvement.

 

The Superintendent wants to reiterate that current state law applies, the 2002 lists were issued in conformance with that law, and that he is working closely and collaboratively with his task force to build an assessment and accountability system that will best serve students and schools.

 

 

 

Assessment and Accountability Task Force Recommendations

 

The State Board approved two sets of recommendations from the Assessment and Accountability Task Force.  The first will modify the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) in ways that respond to your concerns about the current assessment and that will bring Illinois into compliance with the No Child Left Behind Act.  The second set of recommendations will result in immediate changes to the Illinois Alternate Assessment (IAA), with the understanding that additional modifications to the IAA will be considered in the future.  A summary of the Task Force recommendations on ISAT may be found at http://www.isbe.net/news/2002/dec17-01a.htm/.  Approved changes to the IAA are described at the end of this message.

 

I hope you will join me in thanking the members of the Task Force for their extraordinary accomplishments during the past three months.  The members of this group faced challenges that appeared insurmountable, especially within this timeframe, but the group was dedicated, passionate, fair, and focused.  As a result, they succeeded in crafting assessment proposals that we can implement with pride. 

 

After the holidays, the Task Force will focus on developing recommendations regarding the accountability system.  In addition, the Board has asked the Task Force to give further consideration to its recommendations regarding Adequate Yearly Progress. 

 

 

 

Supplemental Educational Service Providers

 

The Board approved thirteen applicants to provide Supplemental Educational Services in Illinois, as required by the No Child Left Behind Act.  This group was recommended by staff and they were chosen from a total of 25 applications.  The Initial Approved List of Supplemental Service Providers will be distributed to affected districts next week.  For more information, see http://www.isbe.net/news/002/dec17-02.htm

 

 

Livingston Financial Oversight Panel

 

The Livingston School District in Madison County was certified by the State Board as “in financial difficulty” in 1988.  Although the district has made some progress toward stability, its financial condition has deteriorated so badly in recent months that the school board voted in November to petition the State Board to appoint a financial oversight panel.  Although that decision was subsequently rescinded, the State Board has used its statutory authority to approve the appointment of an “involuntary” financial oversight panel.  For more information, see the press release located at http://www.isbe.net/news/2002/dec17-02b.htm.

 

 

Transferability of No Child Left Behind Funds

 

The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 provides a new option for districts to transfer a portion of certain federal grant funds to their allocations under other federal programs to more effectively meet the district’s needs.  Draft guidance on this transferability authority is now available on the Internet at http://www.ed.gov/flexibility/#transguid.

 

Funds that may be transferred include:

·      Title II-A, Teacher Quality

·      Title II-D, Technology (formula grant only)

·      Title IV-A, Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities

·      Title V-A, Innovative Programs

 

Districts that have not been identified for Title I District Improvement may transfer up to 50 percent of their allocations for these grants to one or more of these same grants as well as to their Title I-A grant.  Districts that have been identified for Title I District Improvement are subject to a 30 percent limitation, and the transferred funds must be used for LEA improvement activities.  Districts that have been identified for corrective action may not transfer any funds.

 

ISBE is developing a process for eligible districts to make these transfers on grant amendments.  As soon as the process is finalized, revised amendment forms will be mailed to all districts currently receiving federal funds under No Child Left Behind.

 

 

P-16 Partnerships

 

As State Superintendent, I want to encourage you to engage in partnerships with institutions of higher education.   The P-16 Partnership joins the public schools, post-secondary education, and the three State education agencies (i.e., State Board of Education, Board of Higher Education, and the Community College Board) in a common endeavor to improve teaching and learning and to provide enhanced educational opportunities from pre-kindergarten through the baccalaureate degree.

 

The partners recognize that there are common issues that confront education at all levels in Illinois, including funding, access to technology, quality teaching, student achievement, personnel shortages, and more.  The partners further agree that resolutions to these issues must be found across the spectrum of education rather than in its individual components (e.g., elementary, secondary, community colleges, etc.).

 

The partners join the citizens of Illinois, the Governor’s office, the General Assembly, the business community, and other valued stakeholders in formulating educational policies that emphasize the links among the various education sectors rather than the differences that break down long-standing barriers rather than erect obstacles.

 

 

Final Message for 2002

 

Barring unforeseen circumstances, this will be the last message from me until Friday, January 10, 2003.  Until then, I want to wish each of you a happy and healthy holiday.

 

 

 

 

Improvements in the Illinois Alternate Assessment!

 

 

You’ve asked for some changes in the Illinois Alternate Assessment (IAA).  Changes have been adopted for 2002-03.  Keep reading!

 

Assessment and Accountability Task Force

State Superintendent Schiller convened an Assessment and Accountability Task Force earlier this year.  He co-chairs that task force with Dr. Robert Nielsen, Superintendent of Bloomington #87.  The task force members -- parents, teachers, administrators, business community, and education organization representatives -- have studied issues regarding assessment since early September.  To date they've had five public hearings and six meetings of the full task force around the state.

 

 

Illinois Alternate Assessment and Feedback on the Assessment

The assessment arena receiving the largest number of public comments and task force dialogue was the Illinois Alternate Assessment (IAA), which assesses students with significant disabilities through a portfolio process.  IAA has been used for two years now, with about 7,000 students in Illinois. 

 

Comments in the public hearing process concerning the IAA ranged from little value for the students, little value for the staff, and not meaningful to all parties. 

 

At the Homewood hearing on November 7th, a director of special education said:  "   the current Illinois Alternate Assessment (IAA) is a waste of funds, time and talent…The only feedback that is received is a single sheet with a single performance score for each content area tabulated by "dimension scores" 1 to 4 scoring from six categories.  There is no explanation for scoring.  "

 

At the Wheaton hearing on September 24, 2002, a building principal said:  “I have a school that has students that are included in the regular education classroom as well as two instructional classrooms for students with disabilities….While we know that it’s important to assess them, what the state has come up with is the IAA…We are asking our teachers to do much more for assessing these students than we are for our general education students.  They have to chart; they have to graph; they have to do it on a weekly basis for each one of their students.  This is in addition to keeping progress on their individual education plans on their goals for those as well...In response to "How much time does this take?" the response was about 50 hours per student taking the IAA. 

 

At the Mt. Vernon hearing on September 30, 2002, a classroom teacher said:  In asking teachers of students with disabilities for feedback on IAA, the teachers thought it was a test on them rather than the student.  The portfolio is due in April and results returned in the fall.  Tests count.  The three most difficult areas to assess are self-determination, independence, and support.”

 

Another classroom teacher said “For a teacher it is overwhelming.  There is an average of 25-30 pages of data that must be presented per student per portfolio…Why not use IEPs?  The IEP has goals including independence.  We are bound by that IEP, keep data and progress goals which are reviewed quarterly in writing and with parents.  Instead of these portfolios with no validity, can we expand upon IEP processes...concerned about the materials, shipping, scoring and travel/lodging costs for staff/consultants...The scores are meaningless.” 

 

As another comment during the public hearing timeframe, a director of special education said:  “The IAA assesses students in five major areas, as reflected in the scoring rubric:  Student Progress; Self-Determination; Multiple Settings; Support; and Link to Standards.  Scores in the category of Student Progress are based on a given student's growth or progress during the year.  Scores in the next three categories are seen as reflecting a given student's educational program…recommendations offered were to have IAA only assess students in Student Progress and Link to Standards.  The assessment of program quality is critical but use of the IAA is an inappropriate vehicle for accomplishing that necessary task.”

 

Revisions to the State Assessment System

At the November 6, 2002 meeting of the full task force, a proposal to revise the state assessment system was drafted and disseminated statewide on the Illinois State Board of Education's web site (http://www.isbe.net/aatf/pdf/assessprop.pdf).  While the main focus of the proposed revisions were to state a sense of direction of the task force on necessary changes, it was silent on specific changes for IMAGE and IAA.

 

Although the proposal was silent on IAA, there was feedback from throughout Illinois.  Those comments echoed the ones heard at the five public hearings -- too much time is spent on the portfolios, these are complex tasks, the focus is on the teacher and not the student, and improvements need to be made."

 

IAA Subcommittee

The task force appointed an IAA subcommittee in November to study the concerns heard to date.  The IAA subcommittee is composed of members of the full task force as well as parents, teachers and administrators who were members of the general public.  They identified a need for some short-term and long-term improvements in the method of doing alternate assessment for individuals with significant disabilities in Illinois.  These changes would link the assessment process from 2001 and 2002 into future alternate assessments in order to assure a smooth transition.

 

The IAA subcommittee offered recommendations to the full task force, which were adopted by the task force on December 10, 2002.  Dr. Schiller presented those same recommendations to the State Board of Education on December 18, 2002, and the Board adopted the following motion on IAA on December 19, 2002.

 

The Assessment and Accountability Task Force recommended and the State Board of Education approved some improvements in IAA during 2002-03 (and additional years as needed, until long-term changes are in place).

 

§ Use only "student progress" and "link to standards" areas of the current rubric (and not the multiple settings, etc.).  These are the only two areas of the rubric that will be "counted" in the scoring process as of 2003.

 

§ Inform teachers again that the introduction portion of the IAA doesn't count in the scoring, to be succinct in its preparation, and most assuredly don't include information on program or eligibility.

 

§ Use two reporting periods rather than three for 2002-03, i.e., beginning of the school year through November 15, 2002 and from December 2002 forward until April 5, 2002.  This will show growth in terms of the student and require two rather than the currently-required three reporting periods.

 

§ Use only certified teachers in the scoring period at the end of 2002-03.

 

§ In the scoring process, emphasize to the contractor to score the portfolios as they come in, and do not relate a given portfolio to program or eligibility.

 

Now What Must Be Done

Communicate the necessary actions to all parties who need to know – parents, teachers, related services personnel, administrators and others – so that these changes can be made during 2002-03.

 

School personnel who are preparing these portfolios should remember that the introduction is not part of the scoring process.  The introduction should be succinct and not address student program or eligibility.  Staff and student time expended on this aspect should be minimal.

 

School personnel should focus during the second reporting period on two aspects of the rubric only – “student progress” and “link to standards.”

 

School personnel should prepare the portfolios for 2002-03 for two reporting periods only, and one has been completed.  The first one was the beginning of the year until November 15th.  The second one is from December 2002 until April 5, 2003.

 

The IAA subcommittee is now looking at long-term options for alternate assessments.  Suggestions are always welcome.  Feel free to contact the State Board of Education at feedback@isbe.net.

 

 

 

Good Afternoon. The State Board meeting this week produced a number of significant actions that I’d like to share with you before the holiday.  This includes:

 

·    The Condition of Education/FY04 Budget Proposal

·    2002 Academic Early Warning List and Academic Watch List

·    Assessment and Accountability Task Force Recommendations

·    Supplemental Education Service Providers

·    Livingston School District Financial Oversight Panel

 

In addition, I want to let you know about the “transferability” of some No Child Left Behind funds and to comment on P-16 Partnerships and

 

 

The Condition of Public Education 2002 and the FY04 Budget

 

The State Board of Education is required to submit an annual report to the Governor and General Assembly on the condition of education in Illinois.  The 2002 report, which will be presented in tandem with the FY04 budget request, was the subject of lengthy discussion by the Board at this week’s meeting. 

 

This year’s report is unique in that it summarizes major issues facing Illinois education in a year that will be almost surely be marked by severe fiscal pressure on public funds. The report presents five funding options for in areas that have long been identified as priorities by the State Board -- current funding level, maintenance of the status quo, low moderate improvement, high moderate improvement and full support for quality programs and services.

 

The report is an attempt to help all of us focus our thinking as we face the difficult task of allocating scarce resources among many worthy programs. It is not intended as a comprehensive listing of all programs funded in past budgets or deserving of inclusion in the upcoming budget.

 

The Board will take action on the FY04 budget during a special meeting on Tuesday, January 7.  Prior to that meeting, we would like to have your reaction to the scenarios laid out in the Condition of Education report, as well as any other thoughts you have on how best to meet the budget challenge ahead of us. I hope you will take time over the holidays to look at this report, which is available on the State Board website (http://www.isbe.net), and let us know your reactions and recommendations.  You can send them by email (statesup@isbe.net) or regular mail

to the Springfield office.

 

 

 

 

 

 

2002 Academic Early Warning List and Academic Watch List

 

The Academic Early Warning List (AEWL) identifies elementary and secondary schools in which fewer than 50% of the students have met standards for two consecutive years.  The 2002 AEWL, which was adopted by the State Board at the Thursday business meeting, includes 661 schools from 125 districts.  This is an increase of 160 schools and 60 districts over last year.  One hundred twenty eight of the additional schools are high schools  

 

The Board also adopted the first Academic Watch List, which identifies 52 schools in five districts that have been on the Academic Early Warning List for two years and have failed to make adequate yearly progress during that time.

 

The State Board’s “System of Support” will help the AEWL districts develop a new school improvement plan and target resources for its implementation.  A School Improvement Panel appointed by the State Superintendent will be assigned to each school named to the Watch List. 

 

A list of schools on the 2002 Academic Warning List may be found at http://www.isbe.net/pdf/02aewl.pdf.  Watch list schools are identified at http://www.isbe.net/pdf/02watchlist.pdf.  Press releases relevant to Board action on these schools can be found at http://www.isbe.net/news/2002/dec18.htm

 

Good News About the AEWL

 

Sixty three schools that were on the 2001 Academic Early Warning List earned removal from this year’s list because of their students’ progress on the state assessments.  These schools, located in thirty districts, are identified at http://www.isbe.net/pdf/02aewlremoved.pdf

 

Congratulations to the students, teachers, administrators, boards, parents and community members who have supported these schools in making substantial achievement gains.

 

 

2002 Academic Early Warning and Watch Lists:

Setting the Record Straight

 

 

A recent Alliance Legislative Report (92-72) included some misinformation regarding the 2002 Academic Early Warning and Watch Lists approved by the State Board of Education at its December 19th meeting.

 

To clarify:

 

·    The Superintendent’s Assessment and Accountability Task Force is considering recommendations for a future unified accountability system.  Current state law and rules are still in force.  The 2002 Academic Early Warning and Watch Lists were issued in conformance with current state law and regulations governing school accountability.

·    The 50% meets + exceeds standard for school performance is congruent with the federal 1994 ESEA standard for the state.  This is the last year this standard will be applied, as new federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) standards take effect in the coming year.  States must have final plans filed with the USDOE by May 1, 2003.

·    The Task Force never voted on a 40% standard; instead, the State Board of Education adopted a federally prescribed methodology in April 2002 that resulted in an automatic calculation of 2002 test data resulting in a 40% starting point for both reading and math meets + exceeds scores.  This starting point will be applied in the system beginning in 2003-04.  The Task Force did vote on a “stairstep” schedule of improvement starting from the 40% starting point and leading to 100% meets+ exceeds scores by 2014.  The State Board has asked the Task Force to further review this recommendation.

·    It is risky to guess the numbers of schools that will be affected when the 40% “starting point” is applied.  The Alliance estimate of 200 schools does not take into account the future requirement to separate scores for all student groups (racial and ethnic, poverty, Limited English proficiency, special education) and that ALL groups meet the state performance target.  It is very likely that schools whose composite scores look relatively good now will find that one or more student groups will not score highly enough, resulting in identification for improvement.

 

The Superintendent wants to reiterate that current state law applies, the 2002 lists were issued in conformance with that law, and that he is working closely and collaboratively with his task force to build an assessment and accountability system that will best serve students and schools.

 

 

 

Assessment and Accountability Task Force Recommendations

 

The State Board approved two sets of recommendations from the Assessment and Accountability Task Force.  The first will modify the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) in ways that respond to your concerns about the current assessment and that will bring Illinois into compliance with the No Child Left Behind Act.  The second set of recommendations will result in immediate changes to the Illinois Alternate Assessment (IAA), with the understanding that additional modifications to the IAA will be considered in the future.  A summary of the Task Force recommendations on ISAT may be found at http://www.isbe.net/news/2002/dec17-01a.htm/.  Approved changes to the IAA are described at the end of this message.

 

I hope you will join me in thanking the members of the Task Force for their extraordinary accomplishments during the past three months.  The members of this group faced challenges that appeared insurmountable, especially within this timeframe, but the group was dedicated, passionate, fair, and focused.  As a result, they succeeded in crafting assessment proposals that we can implement with pride. 

 

After the holidays, the Task Force will focus on developing recommendations regarding the accountability system.  In addition, the Board has asked the Task Force to give further consideration to its recommendations regarding Adequate Yearly Progress. 

 

 

 

Supplemental Educational Service Providers

 

The Board approved thirteen applicants to provide Supplemental Educational Services in Illinois, as required by the No Child Left Behind Act.  This group was recommended by staff and they were chosen from a total of 25 applications.  The Initial Approved List of Supplemental Service Providers will be distributed to affected districts next week.  For more information, see http://www.isbe.net/news/002/dec17-02.htm

 

 

Livingston Financial Oversight Panel

 

The Livingston School District in Madison County was certified by the State Board as “in financial difficulty” in 1988.  Although the district has made some progress toward stability, its financial condition has deteriorated so badly in recent months that the school board voted in November to petition the State Board to appoint a financial oversight panel.  Although that decision was subsequently rescinded, the State Board has used its statutory authority to approve the appointment of an “involuntary” financial oversight panel.  For more information, see the press release located at http://www.isbe.net/news/2002/dec17-02b.htm.

 

 

Transferability of No Child Left Behind Funds

 

The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 provides a new option for districts to transfer a portion of certain federal grant funds to their allocations under other federal programs to more effectively meet the district’s needs.  Draft guidance on this transferability authority is now available on the Internet at http://www.ed.gov/flexibility/#transguid.

 

Funds that may be transferred include:

·      Title II-A, Teacher Quality

·      Title II-D, Technology (formula grant only)

·      Title IV-A, Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities

·      Title V-A, Innovative Programs

 

Districts that have not been identified for Title I District Improvement may transfer up to 50 percent of their allocations for these grants to one or more of these same grants as well as to their Title I-A grant.  Districts that have been identified for Title I District Improvement are subject to a 30 percent limitation, and the transferred funds must be used for LEA improvement activities.  Districts that have been identified for corrective action may not transfer any funds.

 

ISBE is developing a process for eligible districts to make these transfers on grant amendments.  As soon as the process is finalized, revised amendment forms will be mailed to all districts currently receiving federal funds under No Child Left Behind.

 

 

P-16 Partnerships

 

As State Superintendent, I want to encourage you to engage in partnerships with institutions of higher education.   The P-16 Partnership joins the public schools, post-secondary education, and the three State education agencies (i.e., State Board of Education, Board of Higher Education, and the Community College Board) in a common endeavor to improve teaching and learning and to provide enhanced educational opportunities from pre-kindergarten through the baccalaureate degree.

 

The partners recognize that there are common issues that confront education at all levels in Illinois, including funding, access to technology, quality teaching, student achievement, personnel shortages, and more.  The partners further agree that resolutions to these issues must be found across the spectrum of education rather than in its individual components (e.g., elementary, secondary, community colleges, etc.).

 

The partners join the citizens of Illinois, the Governor’s office, the General Assembly, the business community, and other valued stakeholders in formulating educational policies that emphasize the links among the various education sectors rather than the differences and that break down long-standing barriers rather than erect obstacles.

 

 

Final Message for 2002

 

Barring unforeseen circumstances, this will be the last message from me until Friday, January 10, 2003.  Until then, I want to wish each of you a happy and healthy holiday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Improvements in the Illinois Alternate Assessment!

 

 

You’ve asked for some changes in the Illinois Alternate Assessment (IAA).  Changes have been adopted for 2002-03.  Keep reading!

 

Assessment and Accountability Task Force

State Superintendent Schiller convened an Assessment and Accountability Task Force earlier this year.  He co-chairs that task force with Dr. Robert Nielsen, Superintendent of Bloomington #87.  The task force members -- parents, teachers, administrators, business community, and education organization representatives -- have studied issues regarding assessment since early September.  To date they've had five public hearings and six meetings of the full task force around the state.

 

 

Illinois Alternate Assessment and Feedback on the Assessment

The assessment arena receiving the largest number of public comments and task force dialogue was the Illinois Alternate Assessment (IAA), which assesses students with significant disabilities through a portfolio process.  IAA has been used for two years now, with about 7,000 students in Illinois. 

 

Comments in the public hearing process concerning the IAA ranged from little value for the students, little value for the staff, and not meaningful to all parties. 

 

At the Homewood hearing on November 7th, a director of special education said:  "   the current Illinois Alternate Assessment (IAA) is a waste of funds, time and talent…The only feedback that is received is a single sheet with a single performance score for each content area tabulated by "dimension scores" 1 to 4 scoring from six categories.  There is no explanation for scoring.  "

 

At the Wheaton hearing on September 24, 2002, a building principal said:  “I have a school that has students that are included in the regular education classroom as well as two instructional classrooms for students with disabilities….While we know that it’s important to assess them, what the state has come up with is the IAA…We are asking our teachers to do much more for assessing these students than we are for our general education students.  They have to chart; they have to graph; they have to do it on a weekly basis for each one of their students.  This is in addition to keeping progress on their individual education plans on their goals for those as well...In response to "How much time does this take?" the response was about 50 hours per student taking the IAA. 

 

At the Mt. Vernon hearing on September 30, 2002, a classroom teacher said:  In asking teachers of students with disabilities for feedback on IAA, the teachers thought it was a test on them rather than the student.  The portfolio is due in April and results returned in the fall.  Tests count.  The three most difficult areas to assess are self-determination, independence, and support.”

 

Another classroom teacher said “For a teacher it is overwhelming.  There is an average of 25-30 pages of data that must be presented per student per portfolio…Why not use IEPs?  The IEP has goals including independence.  We are bound by that IEP, keep data and progress goals which are reviewed quarterly in writing and with parents.  Instead of these portfolios with no validity, can we expand upon IEP processes...concerned about the materials, shipping, scoring and travel/lodging costs for staff/consultants...The scores are meaningless.” 

 

As another comment during the public hearing timeframe, a director of special education said:  “The IAA assesses students in five major areas, as reflected in the scoring rubric:  Student Progress; Self-Determination; Multiple Settings; Support; and Link to Standards.  Scores in the category of Student Progress are based on a given student's growth or progress during the year.  Scores in the next three categories are seen as reflecting a given student's educational program…recommendations offered were to have IAA only assess students in Student Progress and Link to Standards.  The assessment of program quality is critical but use of the IAA is an inappropriate vehicle for accomplishing that necessary task.”

 

Revisions to the State Assessment System

At the November 6, 2002 meeting of the full task force, a proposal to revise the state assessment system was drafted and disseminated statewide on the Illinois State Board of Education's web site (http://www.isbe.net/aatf/pdf/assessprop.pdf).  While the main focus of the proposed revisions were to state a sense of direction of the task force on necessary changes, it was silent on specific changes for IMAGE and IAA.

 

Although the proposal was silent on IAA, there was feedback from throughout Illinois.  Those comments echoed the ones heard at the five public hearings -- too much time is spent on the portfolios, these are complex tasks, the focus is on the teacher and not the student, and improvements need to be made."

 

IAA Subcommittee

The task force appointed an IAA subcommittee in November to study the concerns heard to date.  The IAA subcommittee is composed of members of the full task force as well as parents, teachers and administrators who were members of the general public.  They identified a need for some short-term and long-term improvements in the method of doing alternate assessment for individuals with significant disabilities in Illinois.  These changes would link the assessment process from 2001 and 2002 into future alternate assessments in order to assure a smooth transition.

 

The IAA subcommittee offered recommendations to the full task force, which were adopted by the task force on December 10, 2002.  Dr. Schiller presented those same recommendations to the State Board of Education on December 18, 2002, and the Board adopted the following motion on IAA on December 19, 2002.

 

The Assessment and Accountability Task Force recommended and the State Board of Education approved some improvements in IAA during 2002-03 (and additional years as needed, until long-term changes are in place).

 

§ Use only "student progress" and "link to standards" areas of the current rubric (and not the multiple settings, etc.).  These are the only two areas of the rubric that will be "counted" in the scoring process as of 2003.

 

§ Inform teachers again that the introduction portion of the IAA doesn't count in the scoring, to be succinct in its preparation, and most assuredly don't include information on program or eligibility.

 

§ Use two reporting periods rather than three for 2002-03, i.e., beginning of the school year through November 15, 2002 and from December 2002 forward until April 5, 2002.  This will show growth in terms of the student and require two rather than the currently-required three reporting periods.

 

§ Use only certified teachers in the scoring period at the end of 2002-03.

 

§ In the scoring process, emphasize to the contractor to score the portfolios as they come in, and do not relate a given portfolio to program or eligibility.

 

Now What Must Be Done

Communicate the necessary actions to all parties who need to know – parents, teachers, related services personnel, administrators and others – so that these changes can be made during 2002-03.

 

School personnel who are preparing these portfolios should remember that the introduction is not part of the scoring process.  The introduction should be succinct and not address student program or eligibility.  Staff and student time expended on this aspect should be minimal.

 

School personnel should focus during the second reporting period on two aspects of the rubric only – “student progress” and “link to standards.”

 

School personnel should prepare the portfolios for 2002-03 for two reporting periods only, and one has been completed.  The first one was the beginning of the year until November 15th.  The second one is from December 2002 until April 5, 2003.

 

The IAA subcommittee is now looking at long-term options for alternate assessments.  Suggestions are always welcome.  Feel free to contact the State Board of Education at feedback@isbe.net.

 

 

 

 

 

Robert Schiller

State Superintendent

 of Education

statesup@isbe.net