Technical Assistance in Illinois: Year 5

Midwest Comprehensive Center (MWCC) is collaborating with the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) on work around competency-based education, professional learning communities, school funding, educator evaluation, ESSA, and school turnaround.

Illinois Projects

Project 1: Competency-Based Education (CBE)

House Bill 5729 establishes a pilot program for voluntary school district participation to move Illinois from “seat-time” high school graduation requirements to competency-based high school graduation requirements. The awarding of a high school diploma should be based on what a student knows and is able to do—not the amount of time that the student sits in a class (ISBE, 2016). Pilot districts will need to establish a plan for replacing existing high school graduation requirements with competencies aligned to the standards.

Project 2: Scaling Up Professional Learning Communities (PLCs)

Integrating lessons from ISBE’s 5Essentials Survey (a survey of school climate and learning conditions administered statewide), Race to the Top reform initiatives, and For Each and Every Child Education Equity and Excellence Commission, ISBE is partnering with associations and organizations from around the state to create a guiding coalition focused on building high-achieving collaborative districts through PLCs that focus on learning and results.

Project 3: School Funding Task Force

The Illinois governor established a school funding task force to examine how the state funds public education. The new commission had its first meeting on August 3, 2016. The governor has given the group until February 2017 to come up with recommendations that could be incorporated into the state’s fiscal year 2018 budget, and take effect at the start of the 2017–18 academic year (Pritchard, 2016). MWCC will partner with ISBE to provide supports to the task force in documenting decisions and synthesizing discussion from task force meetings.

Project 4: Performance Evaluation Advisory Council Guidance (PEAC)

As all districts across the state begin to implement new evaluation systems in the 2016–17 school year, PEAC has begun to consider the kinds of additional support it might provide to districts, specifically creating an environment that is focused on implementation of best practices in evaluating all aspects of teacher practice. In addition, several Race to the Top districts and early implementers, such as School Improvement Grant (SIG) schools and districts, have begun to think about the next evolution of their evaluation systems.

Project 5: ESSA Stakeholder Engagement

ESSA provides an opportunity for ISBE to secure educational equity for all Illinois children, ensuring success for students and schools. ESSA allows Illinois flexibility to try new approaches, including successful innovations implemented in districts and schools (ISBE, 2016). In addition, ESSA aligns with Illinois goals for education reform. Illinois identified five key reforms. The new law builds on key areas of progress in recent years made possible by Illinois educators, communities, parents, and students across the state (ISBE, 2016).

Project 6: Systems of Transformation

In Year 4, ISBE’s cross-divisions team engaged in a yearlong school transformation academy, specifically increasing its knowledge base on research and practice relative to closing the achievement gap for subgroups of students (e.g., English learners, students with disabilities, students living in poverty) through three lenses: the opportunity to learn, equitable access to quality teachers, and differentiation and personalization of instruction. ISBE remains committed to this work.