From: STATESUP
Sent: Friday, August 01, 2003 12:25 PM
To: Regional Superintendents and Special Education Directors District Superintendents
Subject: Weekly Message from State Superintendent Robert Schiller 8-01-03

Good afternoon.

 

Now that August is here, we will again be providing you with information via weekly messages. I wish you the greatest success in the school year about to begin and we at ISBE pledge to you our full efforts in support of your work.

As you are all aware, we have been undergoing many significant changes here as a result of changes in the state’s education budget. This message contains more detailed explanations of these changes and their impact on services we provide. In addition, we will send you a separate e-mail communication today specifically addressing teacher certification issues. Please look for it.

This message includes the following items:

·         RFP Issued for System of Support – Mandatory bidder’s conference August 4

·         State assessment results

·         State and federal grant policy guidelines

·         Status of non-public school recognition process

·         K–8 Youth essay and map making contest – entry deadline September 1, 2003

·         Notice of completed rulemaking

·         Reminder regarding the Superintendent’s six regional conferences in September.

 

Every day, I receive copies of numerous education news stories that run in Illinois and other papers, as well as e-mail communications from various national education groups. Some of these might be of interest or use to you, and so I plan to include some of them as a regular feature of this weekly message to you. A few of these stories that have run since my last regular message to you about a month ago are appended to this message.

Line Item Vetoes Will Mean Cuts in Some Programs

For your reference, here is a brief recapitulation of what has happened regarding the elementary and secondary education budget since my last regular weekly message to you on June 27.

On July 10, Governor Blagojevich signed HB2663, containing most of the education budget. The Governor’s intent, in his own words, was to reduce “agency administrative costs.” The cuts were made without our prior knowledge of areas that would potentially be affected. As the Board has made clear in subsequent statements, the cuts eliminate more than administration; they eliminate some programs. The summary analysis of the veto and line item appropriation chart are on our website:

http://www.isbe.net/news/pdf/04_veto_budget_summary.pdf

http://www.isbe.net/news/pdf/04_veto_budget.pdf

On July 15, the State Board met to discuss the impact of the cuts on the agency’s ability to provide services to districts. At that meeting the Board directed me to complete my analysis of the impact of the proposed cuts and report to them regarding available options. The news release from that meeting can be seen at:

http://www.isbe.net/news/2003/jul15-03.htm

On July 24, the Board held another special meeting to hear my report regarding options. Sadly, the options were limited. The board authorized me to take the necessary steps to bring our agency’s FY04 budget expenditures in line with available appropriations, and those steps will include the elimination of additional positions in the agency and of some programs supported and administered by the employees in those positions. The news release we distributed after the meeting, along with supporting materials, can be viewed as follows:

·         News release: http://www.isbe.net/news/2003/jul24-03.htm

·         Detailed description of the effect on agency programs: http://www.isbe.net/news/pdf/staff_reductions_plan_072203.pdf

·         Graph of the agency headcount from FY85 to FY03: http://www.isbe.net/news/pdf/yearly_headcount_graph.pdf

The Governor precisely identified cuts without seeking input from ISBE, and their impact will be severe in some program areas, particularly: certification of teachers; GED testing (High School Equivalency exam); nonpublic school recognition (see separate item in this message); Private Business and Vocational Schools (PBVS) oversight; Early Childhood and Career Technical Education grants (ISBE oversight of the use of grants funds will be curtailed); and Health/Life, Safety program.

The cuts required by the vetoes will go into effect on August 15, which is also when the staff reductions will take place. The Board will continue to discuss its long-term options in these areas, whether that involves attempting to restore funding in the fall veto session or making the case for funding these programs in the FY05 budget deliberations.

This is a very challenging time for the agency as we try to balance these cuts with our mission to support your work. We appreciate that the state budget is in a difficult situation, and we understand the Governor’s goal of eliminating administrative spending. Make no mistake, though: these cuts will eliminate programs, not just administrative spending.

I will give you more detailed information about how these cuts will affect our operations as it becomes available.

RFP Issued for System of Support

As part of its system for academic accountability, ISBE may place schools in academic difficulty in Academic Early Warning, or Academic Watch status, based on the performance of their students on the state assessment. Both state and federal law require that technical assistance or a system of support be established to help these schools improve academic performance. ISBE has issued a request for proposals (RFP) for the purpose of identifying grantees that can establish regional support systems to provide improvement support to schools in academic early warning and academic watch list status, as well as to assist other schools whose performance makes placement in Academic Early Warning or Academic Watch status in the near future likely.

The following entities are eligible to apply: Regional Offices of Education (ROEs), Intermediate Service Centers (ISCs), public school districts possessing sufficient staff and service capacity, colleges and universities, and established public and private entities with proven records of success in providing school improvement services.

Consortia or partnerships between or among these agencies and providers are also eligible to apply. If a joint application is submitted, then a fiscal agent must be designated, and the authorized official from each participating entity must sign the application.

A mandatory bidders’ conference will be held at ISBE on Monday, August 4, 2003, 1:00-4:00 p.m. or viewable on the Internet as a webcast. The application deadline is 4:00 p.m., September 1, 2003. For more information on this RFP, contact Christopher Walczak, Division Administrator, System of Support Division, at 217/524-4832 or cwalczak@isbe.net.

Additional specifics on the RFP, bidders’ conference and webcast are available at www.isbe.net.

State Assessment Results

The results of the state assessments have been shipped to each district in the state. Districts have 45 days from receipt of the data in which to notify ISBE of any errors or discrepancies in the data.

This 45-day period ends on September 14, 2003, and as of September 15, ISBE will consider the data as final and no further changes will be made.

State And Federal Grant Policy Guidelines

All entities who receive either state or federal grant money from ISBE need to be aware of the ISBE grant policies for proper implementation. The State and Federal Grant Administration Policy handbook can be downloaded and printed off the web site of the Division of Funding and Disbursement Services: http://www.isbe.net/funding/PDF/fdsprochandbook.pdf.

The policy guidelines that must be followed and will be enforced for all grant programs are found in Section A POLICY, pages 3 and 4 of this document. As we begin FY04, please make special note that no obligation or activity that will be charged to a grant can occur until a substantially approvable document is signed and submitted by the entity to ISBE. If you have any questions, please contact staff in the Division of Funding and Disbursement Services at 217/782-5256.

Non-public School Recognition Process Update

Non-public schools in Illinois seeking recognition status from ISBE for the upcoming school year and which met the procedural deadlines will be notified next week whether their application has been approved. Last year, some 800 of 1400 (a list of currently recognized schools can be viewed at http://www.isbe.net/quality/nonpublic/directory02.htm) non-public schools received such recognition through participation in the voluntary program. However, line item vetoes to the agency’s budget by the Governor has cut ISBE’s capacity to carry out the function of registering and recognizing these schools beyond August 15, 2003.

Non-public schools seek recognition for various reasons including that:

·         It gives assurance that the school’s educational program has been approved by ISBE and meets at least minimum state requirement;

·         It is an aid/requirement to entrance in many colleges, universities, and other post-secondary institutions and training programs;

·         It is a requirement for membership in the Illinois High School Association and student participation in Illinois Elementary School Association sanctioned sports, contests, tournaments, etc;

·         It is a requirement for acceptance/assignment to most military training programs;

·         It is a requirement for eligibility of students to sit for licensing examinations in fields covered under the Illinois Nursing Act;

·         Teaching in a recognized nonpublic school is often used to determine placement on the salary schedule when teachers transfer to other schools, both public and private, especially in other states; and,

·         Student transfers from recognized schools are expedited and credits can be generally accepted.

In May, ISBE sent letters to all non-public schools in the state informing them that in order for their applications for recognition to be processed for the 2003-2004 school year, the schools had to send their applications to ISBE (schools in Chicago) or to the local Regional Office of Education (all other schools) no later than June 30, 2003. All applications that met that deadline were processed before the Governor’s cuts were announced, and those schools will be notified of their status next week. Any application received after June 30 will not be processed because of the budget cuts. The recognition program will shut down fully August 15. Chicago schools that are recognized for 2003-2004 will receive their certificates from ISBE; all other schools in the state will receive their certificate from the Regional Office of Education.

Contest: K-8 Summer Essay and Map-Making Challenge

The Midwest Literary Festival is sponsoring a contest for students in K-8 grades. Students may draw a map or write an essay about the Lewis and Clark expedition. Deadline for entries is September 1, 2003. For further information contact Mary Bates, Associate Dean of Community Education, Waubonsee Community College,
630
/466-5715.

Notice of Emergency Rulemaking and Invitation to Comment
on Accompanying Regular Amendments

 

Part 25 (Certification)

At its June meeting, the State Board of Education adopted emergency amendments to the rules for Certification (Part 25) and released very similar regular amendments for public comment. These documents have been posted on the agency’s web site at www.isbe.net/rules; choose “Rules Currently in Effect” to view the emergency amendments effective June 26, 2003, or “Proposed Rules and Amendments” to view the version on which comments may be submitted.

Much of this material will serve to assure Illinois school districts that individuals they hire will be considered highly qualified under the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). For example, Section 25.92 responds to NCLB by providing a separate, full certificate to individuals from other countries whose preparation and background have been evaluated against standards established by the State.

Another principal purpose of these amendments is to clarify current policies and practices for issuing elementary, secondary, special, and early childhood certificates and to make explicit how the requirements are applied to candidates who are completing approved programs, those who come to Illinois with comparable credentials from other states or countries, and those who are seeking “subsequent” certificates. Within this context, ending dates for several provisions are being deleted so that those provisions will continue in effect for the foreseeable future. In particular, it would be counter to NCLB’s provisions to allow the requirement for a major to “sunset” this year as has previously been slated in Sections 25.30 and 25.40.

Finally, Sections 25.20 and 25.30 are being amplified to eliminate a point of confusion regarding professional education by reinserting specific coursework requirements in place of a cross-reference. This is not a substantive change and merely serves to state all applicable requirements for each certificate in one location.

Affected Sections:      25.20, 25.30, 25.35, 25.40, 25.80, and 25.92 (new); Section 25.11 in proposed amendments only.

Notice of Completed Rulemaking

Please be advised that two other rulemaking items recently adopted by the State Board of Education are now in effect. Both these sets of rules have been posted on the agency’s web site at www.isbe.net/rules; choose “Rules Currently in Effect” and scroll to the relevant Part number. (If you print only the affected Sections, remember to include the table of contents for the Part, which changes every time the Part is amended.)

 

Transitional Bilingual Education (Part 228)

These amendments are technical revisions needed to implement P.A. 92-604, which took effect in July of 2002 and changed the requirements for the notice districts must provide to parents of children enrolled in bilingual education programs. The statute added a great deal of specificity regarding the content and timing of these notices. Section 228.40(a)(1) has been amended to provide a cross-reference to that statutory language.

P.A. 92-604 also strengthened parents’ right to have their children removed from bilingual education programs on demand. The revisions to Section 228.40(a)(2) reflect that new statutory provision.

Affected Section:       228.40

Effective Date:           June 20, 2003

 

Alternative Learning Opportunities Program (Part 240)

Section 13B-50.15 of the School Code [105 ILCS 5/13B-50.15] provides that regional offices of education that operate approved Alternative Learning Opportunities Programs (ALOPs) on behalf of school districts that established such programs “are entitled to receive general State aid at the foundation level of support.” The law, however, does not explicitly state whether these regional offices can submit a claim directly to the State Board of Education to receive General State Aid (GSA) or receive it from the school district or districts that contracted with the regional office to operate the ALOP.

These amendments provide that regional offices of education may directly submit GSA claims to the State Board, provided that there is a cooperative agreement between the regional office and school district(s) that are establishing the program. This provision to allow for submission of the claim by the regional office does not apply to other entities, such as intermediate service centers, community colleges, health and human services agencies, and other public and private, not-for-profit agencies, that may be under contract with a school district to operate an ALOP.

Since students may enter an ALOP in the middle of a school year, the amendments further provide that GSA can be claimed only for the time period during which those students are enrolled in the program. A similar provision is included for school districts.

Affected Section:       240.90

Effective Date:           June 23, 2003

State Superintendent’s September Regional Conferences

As we have told you previously, the centralized Superintendent’s conference traditionally held in Springfield will be split into six regional conferences this year. They will be held on September 3 in Champaign, September 4 in Matteson, September 9 in Galesburg, September 15 in Mt. Vernon, September 22 in Naperville and September 23 in Lincolnshire.

The registration form can be accessed at http://www.isbe.net/pdf/suptconf_reg.pdf, and agenda for the meetings at http://www.isbe.net/pdf/suptconf_agenda.pdf.

 

Robert Schiller

State Superintendent

  of Education

statesup@isbe.net

 

NEW FEATURE: STATE AND NATIONAL STORIES

1.      Is school funding discriminatory?

2.      Struggling schools ‘think outside box’

  1. Parents face choice about failing schools

4.      First-of-a-Kind Report: What Does Research Say About How To Prepare Quality Teachers?

5.      NAEP Report Shows Writing Scores Improve In Fourth and Eighth Grades, Remain Flat In 12th Grade

 

Is school funding discriminatory?

Sunday, July 27, 2003

(Daily Southtown)

Proponents of school funding reform are weighing their next step in the wake of Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s decision that the state constitution does not prescribe "a specific level of funding by the state."

Apparently hoping Madigan would issue an opinion that would bolster a possible lawsuit over funding levels, Sen. Miguel Del Valle (D-Chicago), chairman of the Senate Education Committee, asked Madigan for a formal opinion on whether the constitution requires the state to give every student access to a "minimally adequate education."

A New York court recently issued a ruling that the state had a legal mandate to provide a "meaningful high school education." Reform advocates in Illinois thought the ruling might help their argument that the constitution here requires the state to provide at least half of the cost of public education.

But Madigan’s answer, issued at the end of May, stated that there is no such guarantee in the constitution. Nor does it require any "specific level of educational funding," Madigan said. The Illinois Supreme Court has ruled repeatedly, Madigan said, that the level of school funding is "the province of the General Assembly," not the courts.

Madigan concluded that the judgment of the attorney general on how much funding the state should provide "cannot be substituted" for that of the General Assembly, nor can the courts’.

Now reform proponents are considering whether to push for a constitutional amendment to force the state to meet the 50 percent target. Most reform advocates are skeptical that the Legislature will ever approve a reform package that would include a tax increase of some kind at the state level. Re-election is the top priority of many legislators, and Illinois politicians generally believe that any vote in favor of a tax hike would hand their opposition a victory.

Madigan described herself as an education supporter during her campaign, and said that if she was elected she would be an "advocate of changing the way the schools are funded." She specifically mentioned that the method of school funding in Illinois might be vulnerable to a legal attack alleging it was discriminatory, but said she had no intention of filing such a lawsuit herself.

Reform advocates, especially those from the Southland, ought to consider that approach. The state’s heavy reliance on property taxes to fund public education results in vast disparities in funding between school districts. Affluent communities with expensive homes and lots of businesses have far more money to spend on their schools than communities with little property wealth.

The undeniable fact is that a disproportionate percentage of minority children are in schools that suffer from the current funding system. On the face of it, that looks discriminatory.

Of course, a lawsuit would take time, perhaps years, and implementation of a court-ordered solution might take years more. But the Legislature has demonstrated for decades that it is not going to address this issue. And a referendum on a constitutional amendment would likely lead to a court battle itself.

The state’s inadequate and unfair funding system needs to be junked and replaced with a system that is fair to all Illinois children. The Legislature and 30 years of governors have refused to act. Maybe it is time to ask the courts to step in and force a change.

 

 

Struggling schools ‘think outside box’

Friday, July 25, 2003

(Daily Southtown)

Two financially struggling school districts, Union School District 81 and Laraway School District 70C, have agreed to try sharing a superintendent to save money.

Each district expects to save about $60,000 a year by sharing District 81 Supt. Al Gegenheimer, who will split his time between the two. Union officials said they will use the savings to help restore some teaching positions that were cut because of budget problems.

We commend these two districts for finding an innovative way to help weather the type of financial crisis that has befallen many school districts statewide.

With the state failing to adequately support public education and legislators showing no immediate signs of fixing the problem, districts such as these have been forced to — as Will County regional Supt. Richard Duran said — "think outside the box.’’

Union and Laraway have the right idea, and we urge other small school districts with financial problems to consider following their lead. In fact, we urge them to go a step further and look critically at the option of consolidation.

Leaders in Union District 81, which has about 180 students at one school, say they have researched the idea. They say Union and Laraway District 70C, which has about 450 students in two buildings, simply are too poor to benefit from sharing anything other than a superintendent.

But a centralized administrative staff might allow the districts to trim expenses. A larger, consolidated district might be able to bargain for products and services at better prices.

Until the state commits to encouraging consolidation and fixing the flaws in school funding, school districts such as Union District 81 and Laraway District 70C must by themselves find courage to further examine the idea of unification.

True, consolidation likely would eliminate jobs. Some independence may be lost. But those are concerns reserved for adults — and should not impact what might be the right decision for Illinois’ children.

 

 

Parents face choice about failing schools

By CHRISTOPHER WILLS
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Tens of thousands of Illinois families face a decision: Leave their children in familiar but troubled schools this fall or move them to new schools and hope they get a better education.

If it works as planned, parents will make informed decisions that result in better schools either way.

If they stay put, parents are expected to put more pressure on the old schools to improve. If they move the children, administrators at the old school are supposed to find ways to offer a better education and lure children back.

That’s the theory.

Another possibility is that parents won’t get a clear explanation of how the choice option works, few children will really be able to move and administrators will end up pumping lots of time and money into a program that makes little difference.

Which version is more realistic should start to become clear about a month from now, when children troop back to the classroom.

The choice facing parents is a product of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, which set new standards for school performance. Schools that fail to meet certain standards for two straight years are put on the state’s "academic warning list," and children are supposed to have the option of moving to new schools.

Last year, when the choice option did not apply to high schools, 149,500 children at 232 schools - 179 of them in Chicago -were supposed to be able to switch, the State Board of Education said. Only 2,375 did.

This year, 627 schools fell below standards and must offer a choice, the board said. Board staff said last week they had not analyzed the list enough to say where the schools are located or how many students they serve.

"Generally speaking, I think we’re going to have more children eligible to exercise choice and not a high percentage of parents exercising that option," said state Superintendent Robert Schiller. "One of the things that will hold it back in Illinois is that the choice is limited to your own school district."

In other words, children cannot transfer to just any school - only certain schools within the same district.

Some districts have only one high school or junior high, and some have only one school, period. That leaves the students nowhere to go.

Neighboring school districts can agree to take the students, but so far none have, officials said. Schools that can’t offer students another option can provide extra help, such as tutoring.

"Personally, I think it’s more of a shell game, a political shell game," said David Grace, superintendent of the single-school Lincoln Elementary District 156 in Calumet City. "If we really wanted choice to work, we would take some of the children from the lowest-performing districts and move them to the highest-performing districts and see if it made any difference."

Another problem is that students can switch to a new school only if there is room for more students, and schools in many areas are overcrowded already.

Chicago school officials, facing crowded schools, got federal permission not to offer the option of moving too many students who were supposed to qualify. Instead, it offered tutoring and other assistance.

But even when the door is open, few parents end up taking their children out of the troubled schools.

"When it comes to their school, the one their child is in, they often have a very positive opinion of that school. I think it has to do with family, with knowing the teachers and principal, with it being near home," said Janet Ring, associate superintendent for curriculum at Waukegan District 60.

Waukegan had three schools eligible for choice last year. It sent information about the option to 2,500 homes and had a couple of hundred students apply, Ring said. Because of crowded schools, only 45 were able to move.

One school in the Elgin U-46 district was required to offer choice. Six of the school’s 400 students applied, and none of them ended up moving.

Still, both districts had to analyze students’ test scores, write up policies for switching schools, send letters to parents explaining the program, collect responses, figure out whether other schools had room for new students and get the parents’ final decision on whether to move their children.

"We went through a lot of time and effort and expense and came up with zero," said Elgin U-46 spokesman Larry Ascough.

Schiller, the state superintendent, acknowledged the potential for confusion and expense as the choice programs gets going.

He also admitted critics make "a compelling argument" that letting more students move - and thus take some state funding with them - will leave troubled schools with less money and more students whose parents lack either the resources or the interest to switch them to better schools.

But Schiller said he has seen choice programs make a difference in other states, particularly when he was state superintendent in Michigan.

"It drove schools that were lower-performing or not perceived as consumer friendly to the parents to rethink what they were doing so they wouldn’t lose the children," he said. "Communities and their demands on principals, superintendents, school boards many times can transform a school."

 

First-of-a-Kind Report: What Does Research Say About How To Prepare Quality Teachers?

 Denver, CO -- While educators have always known that teachers are the key factor in how well students perform in school, there is a woeful lack of adequate research on what it takes to make a good teacher, according to a breakthrough report issued today by the Education Commission of the States (ECS).

 

The report cautions governors and education officials that almost no teacher preparation strategy has more than limited research evidence to support it. At the same time, the report attempts to draw implications for policy from the small amount of research evidence that does exist.

 

"To be sure, the lack of solid research about teacher preparation is disappointing," said Michael Allen, a program director at ECS and author of the report, "Eight Questions on Teacher Preparation: What Does the Research Say?" "On the other hand," Allen said, "I believe the report can provide some very helpful guidance for policymakers and should, at the very least, caution them that those individuals who insist the research supports their position are likely overstating their case."The report, called "a monumental undertaking" by David Imig, chief executive officer of the American Association of Colleges, is the most comprehensive effort to date to analyze teacher preparation research and determine what evidence it provides, and how it might guide education policies and teacher

preparation programs.

 

"The report is very clear that higher education and the federal government need to get serious about supporting better educational research in many domains, including research on effective strategies to prepare teachers," Imig said.

 

The discovery that there is little concrete evidence about one of the most important areas of high-quality education should "serve as a call to arms for policymakers, teacher educators, researchers and funders," said Ted Sanders, ECS president.

 

Eight Questions on Teacher Preparation summarizes 92 research studies selected from a group of 500 and explores topics such as:

 

How much teachers benefit from having varying amounts of subject-specific knowledge (e.g., a minor in mathematics versus a bachelor’s degree)

 

How much classroom experience prior to certification contributes to teacher effectiveness

 

The pros and cons of traditional teacher preparation routes versus alternative routes

 

The report also discusses the appropriate role of research in policy decisions and recommends ways teacher preparation research can be improved to be more useful. Those recommendations include:

 

Improve the quality and increase the amount of teacher preparation research to make it more useful to policymakers and teacher educators

 

Connect teacher preparation research to student achievement

 

Create a culture that believes education practice should be research-based much like medical practice

 

Cristopher T. Cross, ECS Distinguished Senior Fellow and a former assistant secretary for research in the U.S. Department of Education, said the report will "at last give policymakers a map to what [research-based information] exists and where we

are simply flying in the dark."

 

Former Wyoming Governor Jim Geringer, 1999-2000 ECS chairman, said, "I still remember every great teacher I had during my school days. But what made them great? Up until recently, we’ve left that question unanswered except by the stories that parents

and students tell about their experiences.

 

"We should answer that question through quality research-based on clear standards so that we can properly guide teacher preparation and properly support teachers," Geringer said. "We owe it to our kids and those who are called to teach."

 

Eight Questions on Teacher Preparation was developed with a grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s (USDE) Fund for the Improvement of Education. Subsequent reports about research related to teacher recruitment and retention and licensure and

certification will be released over the next 18 months.

 

Eight Questions on Teacher Preparation and a summary of it are available on the ECS Web site at http://www.ecs.org/tpreport. A print copy of the 140-page report is available for $20 (plus postage and handling) by calling ECS at 303.299.3692. Ask

for publication #TQ-03-01.

 

 

NAEP Report Shows Writing Scores Improve In Fourth and Eighth Grades, Remain Flat In 12th Grade

 

July 10, 2003

(From White House daily report)

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in a report released this morning found that "the writing of American students in fourth and eighth grades has improved significantly since 1998, but the average writing performance of high school seniors was unchanged." The report added, "At all three grades, about 75 to 85 percent of students were able to reach the Basic achievement level, a standard of partial mastery for their grade that indicates at least minimal effectiveness in getting their main points across. The proportion at Proficient rose significantly at both fourth and eighth grades. Even so, only about a quarter to 30 percent could reach the standard for Proficient writing, which requires an organized and coherent response with clear language and supporting detail."

Education Secretary Rod Paige said in a statement, "Overall, there is good news in this NAEP report. White, Black and Hispanic students all had higher average scores than four years ago, and it’s encouraging to see that scores for lower-income students have gone up at both the fourth and eighth grades. ... Meanwhile, we still have to find creative ways to encourage our high school seniors. Their results haven’t changed since 1998. While it appears that our nation’s schools are moving in the right direction in producing better writers, there is cause for guarded optimism. We still have a lot of work to do: despite these significant gains, more than two-thirds of the nation’s students still perform below the proficient level in writing. We need to make a collective effort to help our students become better writers. It will require diligence because one size does not fit all in any endeavor to improve student performance in any subject. We must find out what works best for which students."