Recent News

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

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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.

National report shows inequity in Illinois’ education funding system deeper than previously known: Report updates widely circulated data on educational inequity

CHICAGO (Feb. 27, 2018) – A new report shows that Illinois’ education funding system provides 78 cents to a low-income student for every dollar spent on a non-low-income student and remains the most regressive system in the nation. Funding Gaps 2018, released today by The Education Trust, is an update to a report that was widely circulated by Advance Illinois and other partners as part of the effort to fix Illinois’ school funding formula. The previous Funding Gaps report showed that Illinois spent 81 cents on a low-income student for every dollar spent on a non-low-income student.

“The Education Trust data has been instrumental in drawing attention to the inequity of Illinois’ funding system and galvanizing action toward a solution,” said Ginger Ostro, Executive Director of Advance Illinois. “Today’s report underscores why the school funding formula needed to be fixed.”

The report also features Advance Illinois and its campaign toward school funding reform, noting that the new formula went into effect for the 2017-2018 school year, after the education funding data reflected in this year’s analysis were collected. Data in the analysis is from 2013-2015.

“It will be a number of years before these reforms are evident in the school district financial data used in these analyses,” the report states.

Advance Illinois and Funding Illinois’ Future are calling for further investment in public education in this year’s state budget. School districts will not receive $350 million in new funding for this school year until April.

“This report shows how far we still need to go before we reach equity and adequacy for funding of public education in Illinois,” said Ed Fletcher, Superintendent, Monmouth-Roseville School District 238. “Our schools don’t have access to resources that are commonplace in wealthier districts such as access to instructional coaches, staff to provide interventions to struggling students, and ESL and bilingual teachers for our increasing population of English learners.”

Above: Gaps in state and local revenues per student between districts serving the most and the fewest students in poverty. In Illinois, the highest poverty districts receive 22 cents less in state and local funds per student than the highest poverty districts. Source: Funding Gaps 2018, The Education Trust

 

Contacts: Bob Dolgan, bdolgan@advanceillinois.org, 773-447-1980 cell
Anna Schneider, aschneider@advanceillinois.org, 217-242-9645

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.

 

Equity, innovation and scaling impact emphasized at 5th Annual 60 by 25 Network Conference

Jocelyn Sharif addressed the crowd at the 5th Annual 60 by 25 Conference on Feb. 6.

Jocelyn Sharif has been interested in cooking since she was a young child watching the Food Network with her parents.

“I was a shy child,” said Jocelyn, “and cooking was a way to express myself.”

Now Jocelyn has taken her interest in cooking and applied it to a career path. She is enrolled in Bloomington Area Career Center’s culinary arts program and will further her pursuit of culinary arts and hospitality management at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, R.I.

“This program has really made me realize what exactly I want to do,” said Jocelyn. “It made me realize I could be a chef and be my own boss.”

High school students across the state are more prepared to attain postsecondary degrees and credentials because of career pathways programs like those in Bloomington. Career pathways and aligning the education system were among the topics at the 5th Annual Illinois 60 by 25 Network Conference, which took place February 6-7 in Bloomington. More than 200 attendees representing all corners of Illinois came together for two days of learning, resource sharing and inspiration. The Illinois P-20 Council’s 60 by 25 goal is to ensure 60% of Illinois adults have a postsecondary degree or credential by the year 2025 (Illinois currently stands at 50.1%). This year’s conference’s theme was Scaling for Impact, with an eye toward expanding cross-sector collaborations and furthering innovation in local communities. Conference speakers emphasized equity and providing educational opportunities that will lead to ongoing success in careers and life for all students.

“Our system is designed for the comfort and complacency of adults,” said Dr. Tony Smith, State Superintendent of the Illinois State Board of Education. “We are not designed for unique supports for all kids.”

The 60 by 25 Network, formed in 2013, supports communities to increase meaningful and equitable postsecondary attainment and civic engagement. Advance Illinois, Education Systems Center at Northern Illinois University and the Illinois Student Assistance Commission are the network organizers. Thirteen Leadership Communities across the state have developed collective impact strategies that bring together early childhood, K-12, higher education and business and community organizations.

“I’m hopeful because the policy windows are open and Illinois has a structure to strengthen connective tissue between policy and implementation,” said Jason Quiara, Senior Program Officer for the Education and Economic Mobility Program for the Joyce Foundation, a network funder. “That structure is the Illinois 60 by 25 Network. Other states are looking to this model as an inspiration for their own collaboration and policy implementation.”

Among the high points of the conference was the first-ever Program Data Walk, which featured interactive displays on the impact Leadership Communities are making on student outcomes. The data walk provided a venue for communities to interact while sharing local successes and ideas for the future. Additionally, the Humans of 60 by 25 video made its debut at the conference, featuring Leadership Communities sharing their stories in their own words.

Alex Fralin, Chief of Schools for Madison (Wis.) Metropolitan School District, delivered a keynote address titled “The Equity Imperative: Without an Equity Lens, Our Capacity to Scale is Always Limited.” Additional speakers at the conference included Dr. Al Bowman, Executive Director of the Illinois Board of Higher Education, Dr. Karen Hunter Anderson, Executive Director of the Illinois Community College Board, Julie Koenke of ConnectEd California, Dr. Amy Loyd of Jobs for the Future, Dr. Landon Mascareñaz of A Plus Colorado and Achieve Inc. and Jeffrey T.D. Wallace of LeadersUp.

“The public good requires extraordinary schools,” added Superintendent Smith. “Your leadership will be what makes the difference.”

Sign up to receive email updates from the Illinois 60 by 25 Network, or apply to become a Leadership Community here.

 

Downstate superintendents join teacher coalition

“We have done a pretty good job at demonizing teacher positions in this state,” said Chuck Lane, Superintendent of Centralia High School. Read what recommendations Lane offers to change the teacher shortage crisis affecting Illinois. Read more.

 

 

Education organizations announce new coalition, Teachers for Illinois’ Future, to address teacher shortage and elevate the teaching profession

SPRINGFIELD (Feb. 12, 2018) – A diverse coalition of teachers, K-12 administrators, higher education institutions, and advocacy organizations have come together to call on leaders to address the state’s urgent need to increase the number of teachers and to elevate the teaching profession in 2018 and beyond.

The coalition, Teachers for Illinois’ Future: Investing in teachers for all students today and tomorrow, has a vision that all students, especially those who need the most, have access to the teachers they need to prepare them for college and career.

Over the last decade, the supply of future Illinois teachers has tightened. This shortage varies by region and subject area and is most acute outside of the Chicagoland area in rural and suburban districts. The subjects where this shortage is most severe include special education, bilingual, high school STEM, and career and technical education. To view unfilled teacher positions by district, and to see how the shortage affects our most vulnerable students, visit coalition member Advance Illinois’ interactive data visualization here.

“The supply of quality teaching candidates simply isn’t meeting the demand– especially in rural Southern Illinois. We must think outside the box to draw more people into the profession. The numbers are getting worse every year,” said Chuck Lane, Superintendent of Centralia High School.

The teacher shortage is impacting all students in all regions of the state. Schools hire substitute teachers in lieu of fulltime teachers, cancel classes, and convert classes to online instruction. Tia Taylor, a Teach Plus fellow and kindergarten teacher said,?“We have failed our students when we can’t provide them with a consistent, quality education.?How can we expect our students to succeed when we can’t recruit and retain the teachers that they need?”

The Teachers for Illinois’ Future coalition is a collaborative effort to:

  • Ensure students have the teachers they need in order to learn.
  • Support teachers’ growth from exploration of profession and throughout their career.
  • Increase the respect for and the desirability of the teaching profession.
  • Provide school and program leaders with systemic flexibility to meet their students’ needs.

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Teachers for Illinois’ Future is a campaign led by Advance Illinois, Association of Illinois Rural and Small Schools, Center for the Study of Education Policy at Illinois State University, Equity First Superintendents, Northern Illinois University, Roosevelt University, and Teach Plus.

Contacts: Bob Dolgan, Advance Illinois, Cell: 773.447.1980, Email: bdolgan@advanceillinois.org

Anna Schneider, Advance Illinois, Cell: 217.242.9645, Email: aschneider@advanceillinois.org