SPRINGFIELD – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today signed a law improving the way Illinois measures student progress under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. House Bill 3678 recognizes the individual needs of students with disabilities and makes sure that schools receive credit for their successes in helping students with disabilities, while still requiring schools to focus on areas that need improvement.
“Teachers and students in Illinois are working hard and making steady gains every year,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “But we have to be sure that the gains our kids and our schools are making are measured fairly. This law helps schools target their efforts on the subject areas and student groups that need the most attention.”
Sponsored by Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Peoria) and Sen. Kimberly Lightford (D-Chicago), HB 3678 addresses the ongoing concern that Gov. Blagojevich and the General Assembly share about certain aspects of the implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) in Illinois. The law outlines changes to the Illinois Accountability Workbook, the State’s plan for NCLB implementation.
"House Bill 3678 eliminates a serious flaw within the federal No Child Left Behind legislation. It creates a level playing field for our special needs and disabled children to succeed. This leislation will have a positive impact on every school district in the state of Illinois," said Rep. Schock.
The new law addresses the current measurement system, which requires students with disabilities to take a State assessment as outlined in NCLB and places schools and districts in “improvement status” if they fail to make adequate yearly progress (AYP) for two consecutive years in any of their subgroups or any subject tested.
“By helping schools focus on specific groups of students and subjects, they will be better able to target their efforts to make progress where it is needed the most,” said Sen. Lightford. “We must make sure that each school’s hard work is directed at its unique areas of greatest need and that we are not unfairly labeling them as failing.”
The Illinois State Board of Education has formally requested that the United States Department of Education (USDE) review and approve these provisions as part of Illinois’ system of school and district accountability.
“Federal law is supposed to encourage school improvement, but the punitive nature of some portions of the original law could actually discourage schools that are getting better,” said Ken Swanson, president of the Illinois Education Association. “HB 3678 brings some badly-needed common sense to the implementation of federal law, and we applaud the bill's sponsors and the Governor for their action."
HB3678 provides that, unless the U. S. Department of Education formally disapproves their use, Illinois will interpret specific provisions of the federal law as outlined below:
· The indicators to determine AYP for students with disabilities shall be based on their Individualized Education Plans (IEP), not a State assessment.
· Placing a school or district on academic early warning status for not meeting AYP criteria for two consecutive annual calculations shall not begin until the 2005-2006 school year.
· A school or district must fail to meet criteria in the same subgroup and in the same subject or in the school's or district's participation rate, attendance rate or graduation rate for two consecutive years in order for the school or district to be placed on academic early warning or watch status.
· A school or district on academic early warning or academic watch status that meets AYP criteria for one annual calculation will be removed from any federal status designation. Previously, a school or district had to meet AYP for two consecutive years to be removed from status.
While the law is effective immediately, until the requested changes receive USDE approval, Illinois schools and districts must continue with Illinois’ current implementation of NCLB.