Attached is a letter to parents from Dr. Chris Koch, State Superintendent of Schools for the Illinois State Board of Education. In my opinion, the letter is a thorough explanation of a complex issue:
- how do we raise standards,
- continue reporting on student outcomes to improve accountability, and at the same time,
- not undermine public confidence in our institutions?
Thank you for considering.
Superintendent of Schools
Eastland CUSD #308
I hope that you enjoyed summer with your families and that you are excited to begin a new school year. I am writing to update you on several initiatives that we believe will better prepare our more than 2 million Illinois public school students to succeed today and ultimately become contributing citizens in the 21st century global economy.
A few years ago, a group of governors and state school chiefs, including myself, began a grassroots effort to develop a common set of more rigorous learning standards for students in grades K-12, whether they lived in Illinois or Idaho. These new Common Core Learning Standards have been adopted by more than 40 states and set clear expectations for what we want our students to know and be able to do in math and English language arts.
Since the State Board of Education adopted these standards in June 2010, our nearly 4,000 schools in Illinois have been developing and revising curriculum and preparing lessons and instructional materials to meet these higher, internationally benchmarked standards. Instruction will go deeper into the core foundational concepts, and students must show not only acquired knowledge but the application of that knowledge in real-world situations.
With these higher standards also comes the need to ensure students are performing at a higher level. Just as we raised the bar in 2010 by adopting more rigorous learning standards, we also raised the bar on the state’s annual standardized achievement tests (also known as ISATs) for students in grades 3-8 by increasing the performance expectations on the 2013 test.
By raising performance expectations on the ISATs, we are seeing a drop in the 2013 test scores for elementary students and schools. This does not mean that students know less or that teachers don’t provide good instruction, but it does give us an earlier indication of where students perform in terms of college and career readiness.
Before this adjustment, the ISAT was not a good measure of college and career readiness; that important information wasn’t generated until students took a test in 11th grade called the Prairie State Achievement Exam (also known as the PSAE), which includes the ACT. This is far too late to know that a student will not be prepared for success after high school. We have observed this disconnect when comparing ISAT scores, which showed 82 percent of elementary students met or exceeded standards in 2012, with our PSAE scores, which showed only 51 percent of 11th graders met or exceeded standards that same year. Students did not fall behind when they left grade school, but they faced a higher bar. This year, all students, in grades 3-12, are being measured against the same bar.
We know that it’s not easy to suddenly see a drop in your student’s or school’s scores but we also know our state has great teachers and leaders who are working hard every day to prepare your children for these new, higher expectations for learning. Several other states are taking similar measures, given the implementation of new learning standards.
In the spring of 2014, elementary students will once again take the ISATs, with questions written to the Common Core. Then, in 2014-15, Illinois is preparing to distribute new online assessments that are being specifically developed to align with the Common Core. The new tests will demand students show more critical thinking, problem-solving and excellent writing skills. Students will be assessed at least twice within a year’s time span in order to better gauge progress and help their teachers identify specific areas of need and provide appropriate interventions to support student success.
As we change the way we assess students, we are also improving the way we report those results to you. This year, Illinois will debut a simplified, more consumer-friendly 2013 school and district report card that offers facts such as extracurricular activities and school honors to showcase the unique qualities of our schools. We hope that the redesigned report card for schools, districts and the state will better inform and support community-wide discussions about educational opportunities in your local schools.
Finally, as part of our efforts to offer more comprehensive school information, we will release the results this fall from our first statewide survey of school climate and learning conditions, called the Illinois 5Essentials. Sixth through twelfth grade students and all teachers in the state were invited to take this survey last spring. I am pleased that 93 percent of Illinois districts participated, with 87 percent receiving enough responses to generate a report based on students, teachers or both. A summary of the survey findings will also be included on the 2013 school report card.
If you have any questions about any of these initiatives, we encourage you to talk with your local teachers and school leaders. Thank you for all you do to support your child(ren) and their educational journey. Have a great school year!
Christopher A. Koch, Ed.D.
State Superintendent of Education
Editor’s Note: For more information on how personal data about students and their parents is shared, please visit http://www.isbe.net/research/pdfs/data_inst_for_researchers.pdf. For more information on Common Core, visit http://www.isbe.net/common_core/htmls/resources.htm
Morrison Council Corner
Well, I am going to start at the end of the meeting first! Everyone has been waiting for the news of “Where will the new Waste Water Treatment Plant be located?” After a closed session of the Morrison City Council, a decision was made to purchase about 30 acres of land on the west side of Route 78, south of the Morrison Institute of Technology to put the new treatment plant. Mayor Pannier has been negotiating with the Wilkens estate for the purchase of the property. The city will be paying $439,000 for the property-contingent on the results of Fehr-Graham’s Engineering “due diligence” study.
Residents should be excited - we will retain Waterworks Park (as a park) in Ward 3. The waste water treatment plant will be located away from homes in the city. The engineering firm told us the cost should be about the same as projected when they were considering the Waterworks park site.
Chief Melton presented an award to Elizabeth Pfister, 8 years old, for saving her mother’s life by using information she learned at a school presentation by Officer Gomez. She checked that her mother was breathing, made the area safe and ran next door and called 911. This was done quickly, enabling medical crews to perform life-saving measures. We are all very proud of you, Liz.
Four action items on the agenda passed unanimously. 1) Amend the enterprise zone for Coz-E Corners; 2) Two Fiscal Year Budget Line items were added; 3) Approval of Revolving Fund Loan to Coz-E Corners as a gap loan; 4) Approval of IDOT Preliminary Drawing on Route 78 Bridge/Path Plan—to place walk/bike paths on both sides of the bridge, with no path being place on Campbell’s or Shadle’s property.
Mayor’s report: The city had 50 people apply for the City Administrator position. The list will be narrowed to 8 and then down and do the interviews with those that are left. Mayor Pannier attended Growth Rock Island and is checking on a possibility for some funding for demolition. Harvey Zuidema is named to be the city liaison for the Comprehensive Planning Committee.
The next Morrison City Council Meeting will be August 26, 2013 at 7:00 pm. If anyone has questions, comments or compliments - contact your aldermen (if you need phone numbers, contact city hall - 815-772-7657). Hope to see you all there.
A Morrison Taxpayer
Are you tired of schools receiving unfunded mandates from the state and federal government, which in turn trickle down to you, the taxpayers? Coming to a school district near you is one of those unfunded mandates – Common Core State Standards Initiative. It will cost tax payers whether or not a school district implements these standards, UNLESS taxpayers, parents, grandparents, school boards, and teachers band together with other school districts across the state of Illinois.
What is Common Core? This is a one size fits all type program. Does any program that is “one size fits all” really work? Aren’t teachers taught that each child is an individual learner and they should teach different ways in the classroom? This program has not been used before so there is no history on Common Core. Also, it is not known how much money this new standard would cost taxpayers? How does that usually turn out? Why would school districts be told you either go along with this or we’ll pull funding if it was such a good idea?
Common Core is not a partisan issue. Because the Sauk Valley Tea Party is hosting this informative event many might believe this is a Tea Party issue. Along with Republicans are Democrats calling the alarm to get rid of Common Core in Illinois. Many teachers and school board members are also concerned about these new standards and how they affect their classrooms and their teaching.
All are welcome at the Loveland Community Building in Dixon IL at 6:30pm on Tuesday, August 27th to learn about Common Core. Then you can do your own homework and decide if this is something you want to get behind to stop in Illinois. Heidi Holan from ParentalRights.org will be the speaker.
By Jim Sacia, State Representative, 89th District
“You cannot eliminate poverty by creating dependency.” Tom Brokaw’s book “The Greatest Generation” and Stephen Ambrose’ “Citizen Soldier” truly lay out what those who went before us sacrificed to give us the life we live today. The freedoms we experience in this great country are so taken for granted. The men and women who have fought to protect these freedoms deserve our unending gratitude.
Major Dick Winters, who became famous for his part in the book and television series “Band of Brothers”, probably best summed up the feelings of many GI’s as he participated in liberating the concentration camp at Landsberg, “Now I know why I am here”.
Those fighting men went through a literal hell to eliminate the evils of the Nazis. None of us want to believe that anything like it could ever happen again. We also want to believe that what they fought for will always be what makes us such a great society. Are the freedoms and way of life that we have all come to expect in jeopardy? In my opinion the answer is a resounding yes. No, I’m not talking of terror attacks. I’m talking of what’s happening from within. Great societies throughout history have become lazy and dependent and we are rapidly closing that gap.
When President Obama was first elected in 2008 there were twenty eight million Americans on food stamps. He eliminated most criteria to qualify. Now five years later there are forty seven million. Are there nineteen million more hungry people? Or is pride disappearing?
Has our own USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) been tasked with putting as many on the rolls as possible? They now run a ten part series targeting certain ethnic groups called “Happiness Park Program” that attempts to remove any perceived stigma from receiving food stamps. Its objective is to overcome any barriers of pride and the desire to make it on your own. The USDA has it backwards, making it on our own is what America has always been about – anyone can become anything they want to be if they put heart and soul into it.
The thousands of immigrants, who have flocked to this great country, including most of our ancestors, came for those very reasons, most importantly the freedom to make it on their own. They did it with hard work and “putting their shoulder to the wheel”.
Creating dependency is tragic. What happened to neighbor helping neighbor? More and more we are avoiding that road. We need a safety net, not a hammock.
The now infamous “Obama Phone” for anyone on public aid with 250 free minutes per month is now handed out regularly on street corners and if you run out of minutes you just get yourself another one. Jillian Melchior of the National Review, who easily got three of them, notes that there were 822 million handed out by 2008. We are now at 2.8 billion. Did I mention you get to pay for them and the minutes?
I honestly believe that those who built this great country through their sweat and tears and those who have fought to protect our freedoms and way of life would be deeply saddened.