Recent News

Recap: Professional Review Panel for new school funding model meets for first time

By Maryam Bledsoe
Policy Intern
Advance Illinois

On June 26, the Evidence-Based Funding Professional Review Panel (PRP) met for the first time to discuss its focus and direction. The panel, created by SB1947, a bill adopted in August 2017 that changed the way Illinois funds its public schools will continually review the new funding system to ensure it is staying true to its intent of allocating more resources to the students who need it the most.

The PRP, made up of school and district administrators, educators, parents, PTA representatives, and experts in education from across Illinois, will meet quarterly. Representatives from the Funding Illinois’ Future coalition and Fund the Formula campaign are members of this panel as well, including: Dr. Carmen Ayala, Superintendent, Berwyn North School District; Bill Curtin, Educator, Carbondale Community High School; Dr. Nakia Hall, Board Member, Crete-Monee School District 201-U; Jessica Handy, Government Affairs Director, Stand for Children Illinois; Ralph Martire, Executive Director, Center for Tax and Budget Accountability; Brian Minsker, President, Illinois PTA; and Gary Tipsord, Superintendent, LeRoy CUSD.

The first meeting took place at the Illinois State Board of Education in Springfield. State Superintendent Tony Smith conveyed that the main goal of the PRP is to complete a study of the entire Evidence Based Funding (EBF) model, assessing whether it is meeting adequacy targets set for each district within five years of implementation. The vast majority of districts in Illinois remain well below adequate funding levels. In addition, the PRP will review and recommend changes to EBF in one-, three-, and five-year periods.

During the meeting, members appointed Dr. Michelle Mangan of Concordia University the PRP chair and Susan Griffin, President of the Illinois Association of School Business Officials, the co-chair. The panel established four subcommittees on topics including: early childhood, equity issues tied to race, regional safe schools and college and career readiness.

The agenda, a full list of members, and the presentation used to review the EBF model can all be found here. The next meeting of the PRP will be Sept. 18 at 10 a.m.

Media alert: Elevate Teaching Summit Brings Together National, State Leaders for Dialogue on Teaching

June 2, 2018

WHO: More than 100 teachers, principals, advocates and policymakers will come together for a Summit aimed at informing Teach Illinois, a year of inquiry into the teaching profession launched by the Illinois State Board of Education. The event is presented by Advance Illinois and The Joyce Foundation. Speakers include: Ricky Castro (Illinois State Teacher of the Year 2017), Jason Helfer (Deputy Superintendent, Illinois State Board of Education), Lillian Lowery (VP, PreK-12 Policy, Research and Practice, The Education Trust), Audrey Soglin (Executive Director, Illinois Education Association), Julie Stephenson (Talent Pipeline Lead and University Liaison, Lincoln Parish Schools (Louisiana)), Matt Zediker (Chief Human Resources Officer, Rockford Public Schools).

WHAT: Speakers will address equity and teacher diversity from a national perspective, including efforts under way in Illinois and Louisiana to attract more teachers, and innovative career pathway models, such as those in Rockford Public Schools and District 214 (serving the Northwest Suburbs of Chicago.) Following the speaking program, participants will break into small group discussions on topics related to the teaching profession and policy. We plan to share the ideas generated during the event with the Illinois State Board of Education’s Teach Illinois effort. The state board is working to create a set of policy goals that will help address teacher shortages, while also elevating and modernizing the profession.

WHEN: Saturday, June 2, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.

WHERE: Irving Elementary School, 1125 Cuyler Ave., Oak Park, IL 60304

WHY: An effective teacher is the No. 1 predictor of student success in the classroom. However, Illinois is experiencing teacher shortages in some regions of the state and in specific subject areas. A recent survey from the Illinois State Board of Education reveals that communities of color and low-income school districts are most likely to see teacher shortages. Of the 1,006 unfilled teacher positions in the state, 74% are in majority-minority school districts while 81% are in districts where the majority of students are low-income. Over half of the state’s unfilled teacher positions are in bilingual and Special Education. Measures in this session of the General Assembly will ease access for out-of-state teachers, expand the pool of available substitute teachers and lengthen the number of days that retired teachers may work. However, more action is needed to ensure an effective educator is in every Illinois classroom.

Contact: Bob Dolgan, bdolgan@advanceillinois.org, 773-447-1980 cell

For more information on Advance Illinois, visit www.advanceillinois.org
For more information on The Joyce Foundation, visit www.joycefdn.org

League of United Latin American Citizens honors Dr. Teresa Ramos

Caroline Sanchez Crozier, left, and Dr. Teresa Ramos at the LULAC Annual State Convention.

Dr. Teresa Ramos, Director of Community Engagement for Advance Illinois, received the Latinx Advocate Leadership Award from the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) at the 62nd Illinois LULAC Annual State Convention on Saturday, June 9, at Argo Community High School in Summit.

Teresa was honored for her leadership of the Funding Illinois’ Future coalition, which successfully advocated for a fix to Illinois’ worst-in-the-nation school funding formula in 2017.

“She’s a young Latinx leader inspiring people across Illinois,” said Caroline Sanchez Crozier, Founding President, LULAC Illinois Education Council 5238. “Her amazing energy was needed to tackle a 20-year problem. My advocacy work of today was inspired by her dedication for education equity. Her work embodies the mission of LULAC.”

Teresa spent five years working to build the coalition, taking innumerable trips across the state and culminating with a final flurry of 40-plus town hall meetings in 2017.

The convention honored other education advocates, too. Juan Salgado, Chancellor, City Colleges of Chicago, and Advance Illinois Board Member, received the LULAC Latinx Higher Education Leadership Award. State Sen. Andy Manar received the LULAC Legislator Leadership Award, and Dr. Carmen Ayala, Superintendent, Berwyn North School District, received the LULAC Latinx K-12 Leadership Education Award. Jesse Ruiz, Partner, Drinker, Briddle & Reath LLP, received the LULAC Scholarship Alumni Legacy Award. Keynote speakers included Maria Socorro Pesqueira, President, Healthy Communities Foundation, and Eric B. Lugo, Executive Vice-Chancellor for Institutional Advancement of City Colleges of Chicago.

Brief details impact, mechanics of new Property Tax Relief Fund Pool

In a new brief, How the Property Tax Relief Fund Pool Drives Equity, Advance Illinois details the impact and mechanics of the new tax relief fund that received a $50 million investment in the state Fiscal Year 2019 budget last week. The Evidence-Based Funding (EBF) for Student Success Act (PA 100-0465) is a historic change to the education funding system in Illinois. While this legislation fundamentally changed how schools in Illinois are funded, it also contains a lesser-known provision called the Property Tax Relief Pool Fund which comes into effect in FY19. This new Fund enables school districts to apply for grants that compensate them for reductions in their property tax levy, the amount of dollars they receive from real estate owners. This allows the neediest districts to lower their property taxes with minimal or no loss in revenue. The FY19 budget included $350 million in education funding, including $50 million for the Fund. By law, any dollar appropriated for education above $300 million goes into the Fund, until the Fund has $50 million. Read the full brief here.

Letter to ISBE on long-term goals for student learning

May 16, 2018

Chairman James Meeks
Dr. Tony Smith, Superintendent
Illinois State Board of Education
100 North First Street
Springfield, IL 62777

Dear Chairman Meeks and Superintendent Smith:

We are driven by the twin beliefs that all kids can learn and that we should have high expectations for our education system. With school funding reform and a new ESSA plan, Illinois is at a launching point to dramatically move the state education system towards equity and excellence for all students, all schools, and all communities.  We applaud you for developing a robust accountability system. But that progress will be hindered if Illinois districts and schools do not understand the state’s goals or believe they are credible. Like a good personal trainer, goals can help us stretch to do more than we ever thought possible.

We believe in accountability and growth. But we also believe that goals should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Reasonable, and Time bound).  We are concerned that the current goal to achieve 90% proficiency by 2032 will only work to guide interim targets in the near term and then will diverge dramatically.  For example, the current goal structure would require third graders to improve proficiency from 37% to 57% by 2023, in 5 years.  It would also require starting next year the statewide average to be six years of academic growth in five years. This is possible, but not next year.

We urge the State Board to revisit in the next two years the 2032 proficiency goal.  We would focus attention instead on the state’s ultimate goal that 90% of students will achieve college and career readiness.  Interim goals derived from that would target three actionable levers for improvement.

  • Within the next 10 years improve third grade performance by one grade level. This would mean having third graders performing at the level of fourth graders today.
  • Within the next 10 years improve the growth rate from third through eighth grade by one grade level. This would mean achieving six years of growth in a five year span, what the best districts in Illinois are currently doing.
  • Set 90% college and career readiness as the ultimate goal. Achieving 90% college and career readiness by 2032 would include  assessments, grades, and GPA  This goal still requires that most students reach proficiency, perhaps up to 70%, but it also takes into account GPA and requires students to participate in career readiness activities. Reaching 70% proficiency would put Illinois on par with the most well-educated state in the nation, Massachusetts.

As the Technical Advisory Committee has noted, ISBE should be cautious about instituting a proficiency goal of 90% by 2032. We should avoid a goal that we know we will miss before we even start. We ask that in the next two years you revisit this long-term proficiency goal and instead focus on long-term college and career readiness as the goal we seek.

Thank you for your consideration,

Carmen Ayala, Berwyn North School District 98

Laraine Bryson, Peoria, Tri-County Urban League

Dan Cox, Staunton School District

Caroline Crozier, LULAC Council 5238

Jennifer Garrison, Vandalia School District

Mary Havis, Berwyn South School District 100

Josh Kaufmann, Teach Plus Illinois

Brian Minsker, Illinois Parent Teacher Association

Ginger Ostro, Advance Illinois

Brad Skertich, Southwestern School District

James Stelter, Bensenville School District #2

Shari Runner, Chicago Urban League

Rebecca Wattleworth, Teacher, Advance Illinois Board and Educator Advisory Council Member

League of United Latin American Citizens of Illinois

Equity First Executive Alliance for Equity in Education

MINDS: Mid-Illinois Network of District Superintendents

John Gordon, Voices for Illinois Children

 

 

CC:

Ms. Ruth Cross
Ms. Lula Ford
Mr. Craig Lindvahl
Ms. Susie Morrison
Mr. Eligio Pimentel
Ms. Ceslie Price
Mr. Kevin Settle

Advance Illinois, ISBE team up for School Report Card engagement sessions

This year, the Illinois Report Card will share more information about how the state and schools are working together to foster high-quality educational opportunities for all students in safe and healthy learning environments. What do families want to know about their children’s schools? The Illinois State Board of Education is partnering with Advance Illinois to host two Report Card engagement sessions for students, families, and community partners. The sessions will be held from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday, April 28, in Naperville, and from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday, May 5, in Springfield. The engagement protocol used at the sessions will be shared so that any school, district, or partner organization can host a session and send in feedback.

To learn more about Illinois’ Every Student Succeeds Act plan, and what’s in store for the new Report Card, visit the Real Learning for Real Life website or sign up for our e-newsletter.

Recap: Legislator Forum emphasizes power of communities coming together around education

Watch Full Conversation

Improving schools has often been thought of as the responsibility of the education system and the school community. But when school improvement takes place through a multi-sector, collective effort, schools thrive and students succeed as a result.

That was the message of the Seventh Annual Legislator Forum, which took place on April 11 at the State House Inn in Springfield. More than 100 education leaders, including nine legislators, attended the event, themed “School Improvement from the Ground Up.” The Forum arrived as Illinois implements a new plan under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) for providing supports to schools.

Ginger Ostro, Executive Director of Advance Illinois, led a panel featuring, from left, Rev. Dr. K. Edward Copeland, Dr. Ehren Jarrett, Anisha Grimmett and Dr. Nancy Zimpher.

“We chose this theme because with ESSA we have a tremendous opportunity to ensure that all of our schools can achieve excellence,” said Ginger Ostro, Executive Director of Advance Illinois. “We recognize that the power of communities coming together is a potent force.”

The event featured the work of the Illinois 60 by 25 Network, including 13 communities from across the state, as a collective impact, cross-sector model toward improved student success. The efforts of business and community stakeholders in one of those communities, Rockford, have received national recognition for developing career academies in high schools. Rev. Dr. K. Edward Copeland, Founding Governing Board Chairman, Alignment Rockford, and Board Member, Advance Illinois, Anisha Grimmett, Executive Director, Alignment Rockford, and Dr. Ehren Jarrett, Rockford Public Schools superintendent, served as panelists.

“It’s been slow, tough, painstaking work, but what’s happened, the biggest success, is that the community has come together to support our schools. Everyone feels differently about the work,” said Dr. Jarrett. “Everyone rolled up their sleeves to say ‘What can we do to turn this thing around together?'”

“We recognized we could keep polishing up some old tires or we could put new tires on with some tread on them,” said Rev. Copeland, who also serves as pastor of New Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Rockford. “We found a way to scale up and made it be part of the schools in Rockford.”

“I am the result of when a business community partners with schools as to what can happen,” said Grimmett, who spoke of growing up in Rockford and an internship that led to a long career in aerospace.

The event’s keynote speaker was Dr. Nancy Zimpher, former Chancellor of the State University of New York, the nation’s largest comprehensive system of public higher education, and a respected leader in collective impact. Dr. Zimpher shared experiences from SUNY and her time as president of the University of Cincinnati, emphasizing the importance of data to collective impact.

“The most important part of convening a community table is setting goals and indicators,” Dr. Zimpher said. “Focus on data and outcomes is what will ultimately move the dial. In Cincinnati, the arrows are moving up and trending positive.”

The examples shared at the Forum provided new perspective on ways to provide school supports. Schools cannot be expected to improve themselves on their own, as event attendees noted afterward.

“The degree of community engagement in turning around a school district like Rockford was enlightening,” said Rep. Robert Pritchard, Republican spokesperson on two House Education Committees. “Such efforts take not only effective school administration, leadership, focus and persistence, but also engagement of citizens and local businesses. All school districts and advocates would benefit by examining this case study and implementing relevant components.”

Partners for the event include Advance Illinois, Center for the Study of Education Policy at Illinois State University, Chicago Urban League, East Side Aligned, Equity First Superintendents, Illinois 60 by 25 Network, Illinois Association of School Administrators, Illinois Board of Higher Education, Illinois Community College Board, Illinois Education Association, Illinois Manufacturers Association Education Foundation, Illinois PTA, Illinois Student Assistance Commission, Illinois State Board of Education, Latino Policy Forum, League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Northern Illinois Regional P-20 Network, Ounce of Prevention Fund, Quad County Urban League, Real Learning for Real Life Coalition, Springfield Urban League, Stand for Children, Tri-County Urban League, United Way, University of Chicago Urban Education Institute.

Sign up to receive regular updates on school improvement and the Every Student Succeeds Act from the Real Learning for Real Life coalition. 

Legislator Forum Photos

Legislator Forum 2018

Equity Dashboard demonstrates of impact of new funding formula

We are thrilled to share with you our Equity Dashboard, a new data tool that shows Illinois’ progress toward equitable and adequate funding for all school districts. The Equity Dashboard, the latest release since we launched our Data Desk last year, takes our data visualizations to a new level, analyzing and using the new funding figures released by the Illinois State Board of Education on April 5. The Equity Dashboard shows how well districts are being funded, and the impact new funding formula dollars are having on historically under-resourced students, including students of color, low-income students and English learners. The data show that the formula is working, but that its impact will take time.

 

 

Highlights of the analysis show:

Over 400 school districts (1.2 million students) have less than 70% of the funding needed to provide adequate supports to their students. This is not surprising because the vast majority of school districts—713 districts (1.7 million students) out of the state’s 851 districts—are currently underfunded.

The least-funded district in the state has just 46% of the funding it needs—but it is getting the most from the new dollars just released—$1,108 per pupil! And looking at the Equity Dashboard shows this is true overall—the least adequately funded districts are receiving the most from the formula.

On average, Black students have only 65% of the funding they need. Latino students are only slightly better off at 67%. The good news is that from the new dollars just released, Black students are receiving $227 per pupil and Latino students are receiving $275 per pupil, the most of any demographic groups. With the Equity Dashboard, you can dig even deeper and see how funding changes based on student and district characteristics.

Low-income students on average are funded at 67%, while wealthier students are funded at 81%. The new funding begins to close that gap, by providing $245 per pupil for low-income students and $131 per pupil for wealthier students. The Equity Dashboard shows the amount of new dollars going to low property-wealth districts.

Want to know how your school district fares? You can look up any school district and see how its demographics and local resources compare with the state averages, view how much per pupil funding a district currently receives, how much new funding it will receive under the new formula and how much more funding it needs to serve its students.

You can see why we are excited about this new tool. Our goal is to provide dynamic, accessible visualizations of data—rather than loads of spreadsheets and tables—that offer you an opportunity to deepen your understanding of the education system, and what’s happening in your local district.

As you interact with the Equity Dashboard, we encourage you to think about what the new formula means for the state and our future. Behind the numbers are children who will have more opportunities for a quality education after years of pro-ration and underfunding. That’s the promise of the new funding formula, and now we have the first step toward fulfilling that promise.
We hope you’ll continue to support Advance Illinois, and we look forward to teaming up with you to further improve Illinois’ public education system.

–Ginger Ostro and the Advance Illinois team

National leaders, Illinois communities join education event to discuss opportunities for school improvement

SPRINGFIELD (April 6, 2018) — More than 150 attendees are expected for the Seventh Annual Legislator Forum: School Improvement from the Ground Up at 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 11 at the State House Inn in Springfield. The Legislator Forum will feature how Illinois communities are collaborating with their district and schools to raise achievement for all students and spur college and career readiness and success. The event arrives as Illinois implements a new plan under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act for providing supports to schools. 

The work of the Illinois 60 by 25 Network, including 13 communities from across the state, will be featured as a collective impact, cross-sector model toward improved student success. The efforts of business and community stakeholders in one of those communities, Rockford, have received national recognition for developing career academies in high schools. Rev. Dr. K. Edward Copeland, Founding Governing Board Chairman, Alignment Rockford, and Board Member, Advance Illinois, Anisha Grimmett, Executive Director, Alignment Rockford, and Dr. Ehren Jarrett, Rockford Public Schools superintendent will serve as panelists. The event’s keynote speaker is Dr. Nancy Zimpher, former Chancellor of the State University of New York, the nation’s largest comprehensive system of public higher education, and a highly respected leader in collective impact. Ginger Ostro, Executive Director, Advance Illinois, will provide welcome remarks and moderate a discussion among the panelists. 

Partners for the event include Advance Illinois, Center for the Study of Education Policy at Illinois State University, Chicago Urban League, East Side Aligned, Equity First Superintendents, Illinois 60 by 25 Network, Illinois Association of School Administrators, Illinois Board of Higher Education, Illinois Community College Board, Illinois Education Association, Illinois Manufacturers Association Education Foundation, Illinois PTA, Illinois Student Assistance Commission, Illinois State Board of Education, Latino Policy Forum, League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Northern Illinois Regional P-20 Network, Ounce of Prevention Fund, Quad County Urban League, Real Learning for Real Life Coalition, Springfield Urban League, Stand for Children, Tri-County Urban League, United Way, University of Chicago Urban Education Institute. 

About Advance Illinois

Founded in 2008, Advance Illinois believes all kids deserve a quality education. We are an independent policy and advocacy organization that works toward a healthy public education system that prepares students to achieve success in college, career and civic life. We are committed to an aligned education system that strives for equity, stresses college and career readiness and completion, and supports the whole child from the earliest years through adulthood. To learn more, visit www.advanceillinois.org, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.

Postcard from North Chicago: District builds momentum to college and career readiness

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series as Advance Illinois travels the state during its 10th anniversary year.


By Bob Dolgan
Communications Director
Advance Illinois

As part of a project for a high school STEM competition, Kaisha Johnson saw that cancer patients often felt isolated when going through treatment.

“Most of the time families can’t relate to the patient as much as other cancer patients can,” Kaisha said.

To solve that problem, Kaisha and her classmates developed a social media app that helps cancer patients connect with each other and identify where support groups are available. Kaisha’s app won the top prize as part of the Illinois Science and Technology Institute STEM Challenge at AbbVie headquarters last year.

“The idea is for patients to communicate with one another and explain their issues and the appointments they need,” Kaisha said.

North Chicago 12th graders Kaisha Johnson, left, and LeNeijha Coleman participate in the school’s IT career pathway.

Kaisha will be among the first graduates of North Chicago Community High School’s IT “pathway” this spring. She’s been accepted to the University of Illinois at Springfield, where she plans to major in computer science. Pathways programs emphasize coursework related to a profession and extracurricular opportunities like the Challenge, and North Chicago is helping Kaisha and 41 other students prepare to achieve success in college and their careers. In total, 150 North Chicago students are enrolled in pathway programs across IT, healthcare and manufacturing and take career-specific coursework as well as traditional high school classes.

“The pathway programs were developed because we realized we had to do more to connect the education students were receiving to postsecondary opportunities,” said Jeff Hollenstein, Lead Teacher for North Chicago’s Career Pathways Program. “The program gives students the opportunity to do career exploration, learn important skills, and connect knowledge in industries with job opportunities.”

Advance Illinois has been working with schools and other partners in North Chicago since 2013 to develop and support career pathways. Philanthropists and corporations like AbbVie are investing in those efforts. AbbVie provided funding last year to build a health clinic in the high school, an idea conceived of by healthcare pathway students.

“Since we began as a new company in 2013, AbbVie’s philanthropic efforts have included a focus on building strong communities and improving access to education,” said Melissa Walsh, Vice President of AbbVie Foundation. “We started in our own backyard, working to improve student success in North Chicago in partnership with the school district and our nonprofit partners. This community, which inspires us on so many levels, is our community, too. Many of our employees either grew up or currently live in or around North Chicago.”

In 2012, North Chicago School District 187 came under state control due to financial management issues. The district is working closely with the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) to serve as a model for staffing and financial planning. That work combined with the pathways program and promise of more dollars via the state’s new formula has led to a renewed sense of momentum.

“We’re at an inflection point,” said John Price, superintendent of North Chicago School District 187. “We’re bringing together our strategic work with ISBE, and we’re developing pathways that deepen our connections with business, the military and the community. We’re providing students with the opportunity to build a powerful self-identity and to see their best selves in the future.”

Support Advance Illinois’ efforts to prepare students to achieve success in college, career and civic life.

Learn more about the Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness Act, which Advance Illinois helped enact in 2016.

Contact Bob Dolgan at bdolgan@advanceillinois.org or 312-734-1446.