Illinois State Board of Education

PARCC Parsed

Sep 18, 2015
Tony Smith
Illinois State Board of Education

News director Sean Crawford quizzes me about what the just-released preliminary PARCC scores do -- and do not -- say about Illinois students.

Illinois State Board of Education

Today, Illinois became the first state to release results of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers -- or PARCC -- assessment. It's the new standardized test linked to the Common Core. 

I should begin with a word of warning: This story contains several F-words -- and by that, I mean facts, figures and school funding formulas. These have been known to befuddle the very state officials in charge of understanding this stuff. For example, here’s Curt Bradshaw, a third-year member of the Illinois State Board of Education (commonly referred to as ISBE), thinking out loud at the last board meeting: 

U.S. Department of Education

Illinois received $20 million from the federal government for expanding access to early childhood education.

Illinois currently enrolls 27 percent of its 4-year-olds in state-funded preschool for low-income families. Reyna Hernandez of the Illinois State Board of Education says it's hoping to expand that number with Gov. Bruce Rauner's proposed increase of 25 million dollars to early childhood education.


As Illinois struggles with public school funding, state officials received some expert advice today:

You have a rare opportunity; don’t mess it up. 

Here's ISBE's press release with the highlights of the budget request that it will send to the General Assembly
ISBE recommends nearly $730 million increase in education funding

Board members acknowledge fiscal challenges facing state, but urge lawmakers to fully fund General State Aid commitment, increase funding for early childhood programs

Illinois State Board of Education

When the Illinois State Board of Education met yesterday in Springfield, there was a new chairman running the agenda.

  Even as Illinois runs ever shorter on cash, the board of education is asking for $730 million increase in state funding.

Illinois' superintendent of schools is well aware of the state's financial strain. Christopher Koch has been in charge as over the past several years, the state has failed to come through with all the money it's supposed to give to meet local district's basic needs.

But, Koch says, "education is the smartest investment we can make in the economic future of our state."

Democratic state Sen. Heather Steans of Chicago
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Just before leaving office yesterday, now-former Governor Pat Quinn signed a slew of bills. One of those bills spells out when the state can take over a school district. 

Before this bill became law, the Illinois State Board of Education was theoretically required to intervene when any school district spent at least three years on the academic watch list. That’s about a hundred districts, but the board has neither the resources nor the desire to take such drastic action in so many schools.


An internet event next week is aimed at reaching out to parents in the state. 
The Illinois State Board of Education and the Illinois PTA have teamed up to offer their first Back To School webinar on Tuesday September 9.   It will feature the state superintendent and others giving parents more details about changes in schools.  That includes new learning standards and tests.

Race & Education: The Real Issue is About Justice

Sep 1, 2014


"Once you learn to read, you will be forever free."

— Frederick Douglass

 The balls in this Illinois lottery bounced inside a clear bowl as the number-holders anxiously watched. I was among them in a middle school commons in Matteson, a south suburb of Chicago. Our daughter’s number was 10. But would it be our lucky number tonight? 


It’s expected to be some time before the courts decide whether Illinois can trim retirement benefits for public school teachers, university workers, and state employees. But the uncertainty continues to affect the credit outlook of schools and community colleges across the state.  

Eastern Kentucky University

The Illinois State Board of Education says Illinois' high school graduating class of 2014 earned a composite score of 20.7 on the ACT.  

The score on the four-subject test is slightly higher than the class of 2013's score of 20.6. The national average is 21.  

Board officials say Illinois had the second-highest composite score among the 12 states that tested 100 percent of graduates, next to Utah.  


Illinois has broken its streak of late grant payments to schools for the first time since 2007.
 State Superintendent Christopher Koch praised the news in a letter to school officials dated July 1.  But Koch warned them not to bank on the same thing
happening next year.
 Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka's office says timely payments for specialized grants and programs in 2014 are due to an influx of $1.3 billion in revenues the
state hadn't originally budgeted for.  
 Next year's $35.7 billion state budget signed by Gov. Pat Quinn banks on


  Downstate schools would be the primary winners under a proposed school funding overhaul before the General Assembly. A report from Illinois' board of education could lead to a regional divide when it comes up for a vote.

Illinois' public school system relies heavily on property taxes, often meaning the quality of a student's education will depend on his or her zip code.

But a proposal in the General Assembly would completely change the state's complicated funding formula.


After more than two years of trying, Illinois has finally won a waiver from the federal education law known as No Child Left Behind. Brian Mackey reports on what this means for schools in Illinois.

  The short answer is not much.

Illinois has already been moving beyond the No Child Left Behind law for some time, even as it waited for permission from the federal government.

Matt Vanover, a spokesman for the Illinois State Board of Education, says there were problems with No Child Left Behind.

creative commons

State education officials are considering retaining a
traditional college-readiness test for high school juniors but passing the cost along to school districts and possibly the students' families.
The move is one cost-cutting possibility after Illinois schools have seen close to $1 billion in cuts since 2009. Educators warn of more drastic cuts if
lawmakers decide not to extend a temporary income tax hike set to expire at the end of 2014.
State board officials estimate it will cost $14 million for all high school

Maureen Foertsch McKinney headshot 2014 / WUIS - Illinois Issues

Odds are, if a child doesn’t experience good parenting, schooling in early development programs and care for mental illness or other health care needs, he or she will face arrest for a violent crime.

A tragedy for the child and the victim or victims. But the long-range consequences of the child’s situation touch the rest of society. Those costs are tangible and will grow exponentially. 

  Governor Pat Quinn is selling his budget plan — with its extension of Illinois' income tax increase — as a way to better fund schools. But that boost doesn't come right away.

During his budget address, Gov. Quinn introduced big plans for education: modernizing classrooms. A "birth to five" early learning intiative. And more money for elementary and high schools.

"Over the next five years, my plan calls for the biggest education investment in state history," he said. "Every child should have an excellent school."

Notice he said "over the next five years."

Brian Mackey/WUIS

  All four of the Republican candidates for governor have said they will make education funding a priority if elected, but they face an uphill battle finding the money to send to schools. Each of the contenders has an unique solution for fixing education funding in Illinois.

First, some background: Illinois is ranked last in the nation when it comes to how much the state kicks in to public education.


A new report has found that Illinois high school graduates are slightly above the national average for Advanced Placement exam scores.  

According to a Advanced Placement Program report released Tuesday, 21 percent of 2013 graduates received an AP exam score high enough for college credit. The national average is 20 percent. Scores of three or more out of five are generally eligible for college credit.  

  Illinois schools have seen state funding cut again and again in recent years. A Democratic lawmaker wants to change how that money is distributed. But it remains to be whether they can get more money in the system.

State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) says inequality is basically guaranteed by Illinois' complicated education funding laws. That's because it's based on property taxes, so schools in impoverished areas can struggle to get by.

State Changes Map Of Regional Offices Of Education

Nov 22, 2013

The Illinois State Board of Education has redrawn the map of regional education offices to meet a deadline set by the Legislature.  

The board voted Friday after hearing from regional superintendents who objected to the way the map would consolidate their offices.  

A new state law required the board to cut the number of regions from 44 to 35. New regional superintendents will be elected next year to lead the new offices.  
Sangamon County regional superintendent Jeff Vose was among the school leaders who spoke Friday. 

Illinois schools and school districts get report cards Thursday. Many will appear to have suffered a significant drop in student achievement. But state officials say that’s just because they’ve changed how students are evaluated.

ISBE Warns Of School Funding Cuts

Oct 18, 2013

School administrators in Illinois are being warned to prepare for even less state funding for the next fiscal year.  
The Springfield Bureau of Lee Enterprises newspapers reports ( ) the Illinois State Board of Education is telling school districts to prepare to receive about 85 percent of the normal general state aid payments.  
This year, the qualifying districts are getting 89 percent of the money.  

Testing Teachers Causes Unexpected Racial Division

Sep 24, 2013
Odette Yousef/WBEZ

Across the nation, states are considering ways to make teaching a more selective profession. The push for “higher aptitude” teachers has often come from the nation’s top education officials. “In Finland it’s the top ten percent of college grads (who) are going into education,” U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said to an audience of educators in Massachusetts last year. “Ninety percent don’t have that opportunity.”

The Capitol
Brian Mackey/WUIS

Illinois ranks 50th among the states in the share of education funding that comes from state government. The formula used to distribute that money dates back to the '90s.

On Monday afternoon, a group of state senators began working on an update.

Rachel Otwell/WUIS

District 186 students might be on break, but many are still showing up at schools. Six different schools offer free meals to students during the summer months. In this story we take you to Butler Elementary, where lunch is being served:

Outside of the elementary school, right off of MacArthur Boulevard, kids are swinging, climbing equipment, and bouncing balls — but this isn't recess. They are waiting to be fed.

Peter Gray

The State of Illinois caps the number of high needs learners who share the attention of a single special education teacher.

For the past decade, there has also been a limit on how many children with disabilities can be placed in what are known as “general education” public school classrooms.

But those rules could soon be repealed.

The mother of a young man with autism has joined advocates for the disabled who say the proposed change has to do more with cost-savings than with properly educating kids.

FARNSWORTH: “My name is George Farnsworth.”