Thursday, September 3, 2015

ISBE News

Heat and weather-related response options for schools
With the start of school during the hot summer months, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) is reminding districts that the School Code allows for the use of Interrupted School Days in the case of extreme heat and cold. Four options for schools are sanctioned by ISBE to address such weather-related challenges:

  • Amend the public school calendar to start school at a later date
  • Dismiss after five clock hours of instruction
  • Use an emergency day
  • Use an interrupted day

Emergency and interrupted days must be submitted through ISBE’s online IWAS system to the regional office of education for approval. The submission of interrupted days requires the inclusion of student attendance time and a brief explanation of why the day was interrupted. The state board also has informed school districts that the previous policy prohibiting districts from pre-announcing interrupted or delayed start days has been removed. A guidance document on the various options is available at the ISBE website.

ACT/SAT funding
During ISBE’s August meeting, the agency’s board agreed to enter into a “college entrance exam” contract at a cost of approximately $6.8 million per year to provide the testing for Illinois high school students. It is still not determined; however, what amount of money will be available from the state to spend on the exams as the assessment portion of the budget has not been finalized.

In a recent Daily Herald news article, ISBE spokesman Matt Vanover said the board took action on the contract so it “can award a contract to a successful bidder as soon as we receive money to do so.” This will allow for the tests to be ready in time for spring.

From 2001 to 2014, the ACT exam was included as part of mandatory testing as a way to ensure disadvantaged students could more easily apply for college. With the shift to testing for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), the ACT is no longer included in the annual assessment materials.

Back-to-school webcast
State Superintendent Tony Smith hosted a back-to-school webinar for school administrators on Aug. 5. Superintendent Smith discussed state assessments, supports, and resources available to Illinois districts, and other initiatives, including PARCC, educator evaluations, and the Kindergarten Individual Development survey. The webcast was recorded and is available here.