Monday, March 19, 2018

Illinois schools rank high at boosting AP participation

The number of high school students participating in Advance Placement classes is rising in Illinois at the highest rate in the nation.

State officials said the increase resulted from a move by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) last year to cover a portion of the AP exam fee for all students who qualified as low-income in 2017. This led to an 11 percent increase over 2016 levels in the number of low-income students taking AP exams over 2016 levels – well above the 7 percent national increase and three times greater than the 3.6 percent average increase in states that did not provide funding, according to ISBE.

“We have tremendous human capital in Illinois,” said State Superintendent of Education Tony Smith. “Closing gaps in opportunity and support for our students drives economic and social growth for our communities. The success of our AP program shows what happens when we invest in equity.”

The Chicago Public School system was also named the national AP District of the Year among all large-sized school districts in the United States and Canada. AP administrators honor one such district in each size category (small-, medium-, and large-sized schools) based on an analysis of three academic years of AP data. With the award to Chicago District 299, Illinois school districts have won AP District of the Year awards in five of the past eight years.

ISBE has requested a $2 million appropriation in fiscal year 2019 to continue providing the fee reduction for low-income students and making AP participation possible for all students. The agency also has requested $1 million to expand the AP program to additional schools through teacher professional development and assistance in order for students to enroll and succeed in AP courses. Part of this funding would support the Lead Higher Initiative, whose partnership with Illinois aims to enroll 100,000 low-income students and students of color in AP and International Baccalaureate courses.

Additional highlights from Illinois' AP program include: 38.9 percent of Illinois students in the class of 2017 took an AP exam during high school – up from 21.2 percent in 2007; and 63.9 percent of AP exams taken by Illinois students in the class of 2017 resulted in a score of 3 or higher – compared to 56.2 percent nationally.

Research consistently shows that when compared to their matched peers, students who score a 3 or higher on an AP Exam typically:

  • Earn higher GPAs in college
  • Perform as well as or better in subsequent college courses in the exam discipline than non-AP students who took the corresponding introductory college course.
  • Take more college coursework in the discipline
  • Are more likely to graduate college in 4 years
  • Have higher graduation rates

What is more, as the graph below shows, the state is rapidly improving in terms of raising the percentage of its public high school graduates scoring a 3 or higher on AP exams.

Illinois ranks fifth-best among states in the five-year AP performance trend.
Source: College Board.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Alliance Legislative Report 100-60


The Illinois Senate was in session this week and continued consideration of bills in both committees and on the Senate floor. The House of Representatives was off this week and both chambers will be out of session for the next three weeks for the General Primary election and Spring Break. The House returns to the Capitol on April 9, while the Senate reconvenes on April 10. Lawmakers are then scheduled to work steadily throughout April and May.

The legislative spring break is a great time for school board members and administrators to reach out to local legislators to advocate on behalf of local schools. During the next three weeks, legislators will be in district seeking input from constituents on a variety of issues. Now is the time for school management to be heard on the pressing issues facing school districts during this important advocacy time.


The following bill was approved by the Senate and was sent to the House of Representatives for further consideration:

SB 2516 (Morrison, D-Deerfield) requires an employer, or the employer's representative, to inform an employee of available mandated reporter training prior to the employee signing a statement that the employee has knowledge and understanding of certain reporting requirements under the Act.

The following bill was approved by the Senate and will be sent to the Governor for his consideration.

HB 5812 (Davis, D-East Hazel Crest) contains the legislative fixes requested by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) in order to properly calculate disbursements for the Evidence Based Funding Formula, including the following:

  • For Property Tax Relief Pool Grants requires the ISBE to set a threshold for relief not greater than 1% of the EAV for a unit district, .69% for an elementary district, or .31% for a high school district, and relief will be calculated based upon the total amount of reduction in the school district's aggregate extension; 
  • For Special Education Cooperative Withdrawal, provides that under the Evidence-Based Funding Model (EBF), the portion of the base funding minimum be reapportioned to the school district and may be distributed under the conditions in the withdrawal agreement; 
  • Provides for funding for Pre-K English language learners; 
  • Changes the term "normal curve equivalent" to a "cumulative distribution" allowing ISBE to determine how much a school district is able to contribute locally as compared to all other districts; 
  • Designates alternative schools as Specially Funded Units; 
  • Removes Specially Funded Units from Tier 4; 
  • For FY18, provides a modified calculation for enrollment numbers that they be taken by October 1. For FY19 and subsequent years, enrollment numbers will be collected in October and March; 
  • Allows Special Ed Pre-K students to be counted in enrollment regardless of how many service hours are provided to them; 
  • Provides protections for school districts that receive a dramatic drop in their calculated EAV; and
  • Removes the RFP requirement for additional technology grants and includes these grants in a district's BFM.

Illinois district receives top NSBA award

Leyden High School District 212 is featured on the April
2018 issue of the American School Board Journal for its
Magna Award-winning efforts to advance student equity.
Leyden High School District 212, Franklin Park, is a grand prize winner in the 24th annual Magna Awards program presented by NSBA’s American School Board Journal, and is also featured on the cover of that national magazine.

The Magna Awards recognize boards of education for taking bold and innovative steps to advance public education. This year’s awards, announced on March 12, honor school districts across the country for programs that advance equity and remove barriers to achievement for vulnerable and under-served students. An independent panel of school board member and administrators was selected to judge the 2018 awards, representing large, small, rural, and urban districts.

This year’s three grand prize winners, along with numerous first place, and honorable mention winners, were selected from three enrollment categories: under 5,000 students, 5,000 to 20,000 students, and more than 20,000 students. The district was chosen a grand-prize winner in the under-5,000-students category.

Educators at the Leyden District noticed that their Latino students were not participating in the theater program. To encourage more students to take part, they created the Teatro Leyden program. The theater department staged a Spanish-language production as well as a school play in English, casting Spanish and English-speaking students for this spring’s production and plays in each of the past three school years.

The project is designed to include more Latino students in school stage productions, and to make parents and other community members feel more welcome in the schools and more encouraged to attend school activities.

“By opening the Spanish language version of the shows, we’re giving a whole new group of kids a chance to perform on stage, to find their voice, to be involved in their school,” said Superintendent Nick Polyak.

“We were looking for a way to expand our program. We have a large Hispanic population that weren’t really trying out for the shows,” says Victor Pilolla, Leyden’s theatrical productions manager and technical director. “So, we were looking for a way for them to get into our program. We came across a show [in 2015] called ‘La Gringa’ which is written in both Spanish and English, and thought, you know, it couldn’t hurt to try.”

The success of “La Gringa” convinced Pilolla and others that they should produce a Spanish language play each year. This year's production is a trio of children's stories titled “Es La Vida Un Sueno/Is Life a Dream?”

The 2018 winners are being highlighted in NSBA’s April Journal and will be formally recognized at NSBA’s 78th Annual Conference in San Antonio next month.

Winning entries are posted on the Magna Awards website, which can be found here.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Security policy expert joins IASB staff

Ken Carter
Ken Carter has joined the Illinois Association of School Boards as a policy consultant. Carter brings a background of security and risk management, and was previously a member of the Kaneland CUSD 302 Board of Education, Maple Park. 

IASB policy consultants work with school districts to develop and update their local school board policy manuals. Carter started on February 1, based in IASB’s Lombard office.

“I will be providing assistance and services to school boards throughout Illinois with regards to their school board policies so that they may be in accordance with laws and regulations,” Carter said of his new role. “While these policies are based on state and federal laws and regulations, it is important to take into account and possibly include the wishes of the individual community when establishing policy.”

Carter served as vice president of operations for Pinkerton Security Agency and was responsible for strategic planning, sales, operations, and quality control. After that, he was the founder and consultant for Integrity Consulting.

“In my leadership roles, I focused on process improvements and directing teams in the delivery of operational excellence,” Carter says. “On the client-facing side, my focus was helping clients minimize risk to their organization through the adoption and implementation of policies and procedures based on industry standards and regulations.”

A school board policy manual requires constant review and revision in response to changing state and federal laws, regulations, and court cases, as well as changes in society and the community.

“The bulk of my career has been helping teams in the delivery of operational excellence, so being able to help school boards in the delivery of education excellence by way of policies will prove to be rewarding on many levels,” Carter said.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Board Governance Recognition applications available

School boards that strive for excellence and exhibit effective governance behaviors have the opportunity to apply for IASB’s School Board Governance Recognition. The program recognizes boards of education that have actively modeled their local governance activities as outlined in the Association’s six Foundational Principles of Effective Governance.

The Governance Recognition program acknowledges full board development and participation rather than individual board member accomplishments. The program covers a two-year period, from July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2018, allowing boards that have received the recognition to apply for renewal every two years.

To qualify for the recognition, boards must demonstrate how they are meeting the Foundational Principles of Effective Governance in the following areas:

  • Adopting and communicating the districts’ mission, vision, and goals, and monitoring progress towards district ends utilizing available data;
  • Explaining the board’s two-way communication efforts and activities with the community;
  • Implementing a superintendent evaluation process that culminates in an annual superintendent evaluation;
  • Conducting regular policy reviews and maintaining an updated policy manual;
  • Having an agreed upon, written, and adopted code of conduct;
  • Implementing an orientation process for new board members; and
  • Practicing effective governance behaviors by participating in IASB programs and events.

Applications for School Board Governance Recognition and the qualifications necessary to receive the honor are posted on the IASB website. Applications must be completed, signed by the board president, and received by August 1, 2018.

School boards that earn governance recognition will be presented with plaques at IASB’s fall division meetings and recognized at the Joint Annual Conference in November.

Questions about the award program should be directed to Peggy Goone, ext. 1103, or by emailing her at: