Wednesday, February 10, 2016


FY 17 ed budget requested
The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) has released its Fiscal Year 2017 budget recommendation calling for an additional $262.1 million in funds and increasing the Foundation Level to $6,327 per student. The Foundation Level has not been raised since FY 2010 and hasn’t been fully funded at the statutorily required $6,119 amount since FY 2012.

In order to align ISBE’s goals of providing an equitable distribution of education dollars, the state board has suggested reallocating the $305 million line item for special education into the General State Aid (GSA) formula. Superintendent Tony Smith says that the change will ensure GSA funds will be distributed on a more equitable basis. If approved, the formula adjustment would benefit 77 percent of Illinois students in districts with the least wealth and the greatest number of low-income pupils. School districts that generate greater local resources and have a smaller amount of low-income students would receive a smaller portion of GSA funding. Losses for those schools would amount to less than one percent of their district’s operating revenue.

The complete budget proposal can be found here. A district-by-district analysis of the proposed GSA changes is available here.

SAT selected as entrance exam
After reviewing various proposals from vendors to administer a college entrance exam for all Illinois 11th grade students, ISBE selected the College Board. In a change from the past, the College Board administers the SAT. Meanwhile, ACT has filed a protest to the selection, temporarily halting the finalization of the contract, as ISBE has sought to speed up that decision.

Because the budget for Fiscal Year 2016 is still not complete, ISBE does not know if funds will be available to pay for the administration of the test this spring. ISBE’s current plan is to provide two spring dates for the test and require districts to choose one.

The College Board also offers free, personalized practice testing through a partnership with Khan Academy. Students have access to videos, numerous practice questions, an app, and four practice tests. 

ESSA guidance offered
In order to ease the transition into the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the U.S. Department of Education has outlined flexibilities available to states for the 2016-2017 school year. The majority of the 2016 grant funds will continue to use the formula allocations and procedures currently in place, with exceptions relative to educational agency interventions and supports, interventions for English learners, and No Child Left Behind provisions that were excluded from ESSA.

Most of ESSA will not go into effect until the 2017-2018 school year. ISBE is in the process of creating a webpage to help guide districts through the changes. In the meantime, questions and concerns should be emailed to

I-Star system
ISBE will begin using the I-Star system for the 2016-2017 school year, replacing the iePoint software currently in use. I-Star is a web-based special education database and data management system for all districts and joint agreements. The new system incorporates student and personnel approvals, while also offering an additional individualized education component.

The upgraded features in I-Star include:

  • Access to ISBE’s IWAS portal
  • Student demographic information will be automatically populated from the Student Information System, eliminating duplicative entries
  • Personnel data will be populated from the Employment Information and Educator Licensure Information Systems
  • Feedback and verification of data with ISBE systems will occur in real time

Additional information regarding I-Star is available through Harrisburg Project’s I-Star webpage.

ACCESS testing dates
Materials for the ACCESS for English Language Learners assessment have been shipped to districts later than originally planned, pushing back the timeframe in which tests will be given and collected. Testing should be completed by Feb. 26. Testing materials should be returned to the vendor by March 4.

Health exam forms revised
A revised Child Health Examination Form will be available for use during the 2016-2017 school year. The updated form is not required for next year, but will be mandatory for the 2017-2018 school year. All first-time students entering Illinois schools must complete a physical exam, and students entering kindergarten (or first grade if not enrolled in kindergarten), as well as the sixth, and ninth grade must provide proof of examination. The new form can be found on ISBE’s website.

Census estimate could affect Title I
The Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates (SAIPE) for 2014 have been released by the U.S. Department of Education. The data will be used by Local Education Agencies (LEA) to determine funding eligibility for Basic, Concentration, Targeted, and Education Finance Incentive grants.

ISBE will be using these numbers to calculate 2016-2017 Title I, Part A allocations. School officials and Title I directors should review the data closely as this information will determine whether the LEA may be gaining or losing in eligibility for FY 2017 Title I funds. The challenge period for the SIAPE estimates ends on March 8. Information on how to challenge the findings can be found here.