Monday, August 3, 2015

Vision 20/20 proposals, other education measures signed into law

Vision 20/20 proposals
Changes to state education law are around the corner as Governor Bruce Rauner begins acting on a number of initiatives passed this spring by lawmakers. With thousands of bills introduced and hundreds approved and sent to the governor, board members and schools officials should be aware of possible effects that may impact current policies and board decisions.

Legislation already signed by the governor will fund schools for the 2015-2016 school year. House Bill 3763 increases appropriations to Illinois districts by $240 million over Fiscal Year 2015 levels, with $206 million of it allocated for General State Aid. This amounts to a 92 percent proration level, as a total of $4.63 billion is allocated for General State Aid payments. Another $85 million will also be available to the neediest of school districts to limit the loss per student due to current proration practices.

In addition to the funding increase, two cornerstones of the Vision 20/20 initiative will become law in the coming year.

The first, signed on July 30 by the governor, will create a balanced accountability model. House Bill 2683 requires the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) to develop recognition standards for school improvement among all districts and their individual schools based on outcome-based, balanced accountability measurements. Student performance, which includes closing achievement gaps within districts, will count for 30 percent of the accountability measurements, while a professional practice component (implementation of evidence-based, best professional practices) will amount to 70 percent.
“The intention of HB 2683 is to focus on continuous improvement for all schools and students by creating flexibility that will recognize the diversity of struggling schools, be sensitive to local district improvements, and work toward closing achievement gaps across the state,” according to Roger Eddy, IASB executive director.

The bill requires the State Board to establish a Multiple Measure Index and Annual Measurable Objectives. And it requires a school report card to include the most current data possessed by the State Board related to a school district’s and its individual schools’ balanced accountability measurement.

The balanced accountability measuring approach will be designed to focus on two components: student performance and professional practice. The student performance component will eventually count for 30 percent of the total balanced accountability measure, and the professional practice component will count for 70 percent. The student performance portion must focus on student outcomes and closing the achievement gaps using a multiple measure index and annual measurable objectives. The professional practice component is to be focused on the degree to which a district, as well as its individual schools, is implementing evidence-based, best professional practices and exhibiting continued improvement.

For the upcoming 2015-2016 school year, however, the balanced accountability measure will consist entirely of student performance data. The professional practice component will be phased in gradually over the following five-year period.

Under the phase-in provisions covering school years 2016-2017 through 2021-2022, the State Board and a new Balanced Accountability Measure Committee will be charged with identifying a number of school districts per school year to begin implementation. By the 2021-2022 school year, all school districts should be implementing the full balanced accountability measure, including both the student performance and professional practice components.

Unlike NCLB, which only looked at test scores, the balanced accountability model will take into account test scores, but will also weigh a school district’s professional practice steps taken to improve student performance. Educators across the state worked for months developing the new model and accountability measures to change the way schools are held accountable for student performance.

The second Vision 20/20 bill to become law, House Bill 2657 will streamline education licensure reciprocity agreements with other states, helping Illinois school districts recruit and retain qualified teacher and administrator candidates.

“These changes will allow Illinois to attract high-quality instructors and principals to our schools and classrooms,” said Eddy. “The concept behind the Vision 20/20 initiative is to improve education opportunities for all students. This is one of the first steps toward that goal.”
Specifically, the bill provides that:
  • In emergency situations, school districts can employ for up to 120 days substitute teachers who hold a Professional Educator License or License with Stipulations that is endorsed for the grade level of instruction.
  • Teachers that have completed an evidence-based assessment of teacher effectiveness or a test of basic skills in another state, do not have to complete additional Illinois assessments upon initial licensure.
Out-of-state teachers seeking licensure that have completed the same required coursework as in-state candidates need only verify program completion to receive an Professional Educator License. (Those who have not completed required coursework will receive a License with Stipulations and be required to complete any deficient coursework.)

To learn more about all the Vision 20/20 legislation that was debated by the General Assembly this spring, visit the Vision website.

Gov. Rauner also signed other education-related measures. House Bill 163 will prohibit ISBE from having separate performance standards for students based on race or ethnicity. Senate Bill 1319 revises the Illinois School Code in a number of sections by deleting obsolete language and clarifying other areas for consistency. Senate Bill 1340 pushed back the date to 2016 (instead of 2015) in which the School Security and Standards Task Force must submit a report to the General Assembly, governor, and ISBE.

While the governor has approved a handful of education bills, quite a few proposals that would potentially increase mandates on Illinois school districts sit on Rauner’s desk. House Bill 152 would require carbon monoxide detectors in all schools. House Bill 4025 would add to high school graduation requirements at least one semester of civics education. And Senate Bill 7 would require local boards of education to appoint a concussion oversight team composed of, if practicable, a physician, school nurse, and athletic trainer. The team would be required to establish a return-to-play policy for high school and junior high athletes for return to both the sporting activity and the classroom.

Other education legislation debated and passed by legislators this year can be found in the IASB publication, 2015 Digest of Bills Passed.