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School money, school testing

Tuesday, Jan 29, 2013

* The Illinois State Board of Education has asked lawmakers to fully fund education this coming fiscal year. The $5 billion figure would be an increase of $800 million over the current year. Not gonna happen

“The state board should get in on the reality of the world,” said state Rep John Bradley, D-Marion.

Bradley runs the powerful House Revenue Committee, and it is his job to set a spending cap for the new state budget.

Bradley said Illinois’ pension debt and other unpaid bills will make it impossible to spend more on schools.

“We have a pension payment that will go up $1 billion. We have $2.3 billion in employee health insurance claims. We have another $8 billion to $9 billion in unpaid bills,” Bradley said. “We are going to have to figure out how to cut a billion dollars from operations to make end meet.”

Bradley says things will not get better.

Bradley set the spending cap for the current budget at $33.2 billion. Illinois schools received $4.2 billion for education. Illinois’ pension payment was just over $6 billion.

“We are upside down, and things are getting worse,” said Bradley. […]

Bradley said the numbers are stacked against the $5-billion budget request from the State Board of Education.

“If we have to cut $1 billion from operations, and education is 40 percent of operations, that’s nearly $400 million,” Bradley added.

* Meanwhile, there’s something important missing from this otherwise very good piece on teacher evaluations

Teachers and administrators must now all be rated according to four clear categories: excellent, proficient, needs improvement or unsatisfactory.

While student growth on standardized tests is not yet a factor in a majority of districts across the states, all teachers, beginning this fall, must be evaluated using these categories. […]

In Illinois, a separate, complimentary piece of legislation to PERA was pushed through both chambers of the state legislature in the spring of 2011, allowing teacher evaluations to be used in decisions about tenure and layoffs. That piece, Senate Bill 7, passed at the time because of “exquisite timing,” says Robin Steans, director of Advance Illinois, an organization that promotes education reforms. […]

Teachers with exceptional reviews could be placed on a fast track to earn tenure within three years instead of four. In turn, teachers with two unsatisfactory evaluations during a seven-year period could have their certificates revoked.

Many years ago, lots of special education students were “mainstreamed” into the classroom. Needless to say, those special needs students can bring down a lot of test scores. I’ve talked to teachers who are worried sick about losing tenure because they have large numbers of special needs students in their classrooms. This ought to be addressed.

* Related…

* Your kids could fail the Illinois state test, but they aren’t stupid

* School closing panel to advise 20-schools-a-year limit, source says

- Posted by Rich Miller        


37 Comments
  1. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Jan 29, 13 @ 11:09 am:

    Illinois has and is cutting spending, has raised taxes substantially and is making big-time pension system contributions.

    That, of course, gets you regular rating downgrades.

    Yet during the Blago years, when spending kept going up, tax rates remained unchanged and pension payments were being blown off, the ratings remained unchanged until his last year or so.

    Makes perfect sense.


  2. - Wensicia - Tuesday, Jan 29, 13 @ 11:24 am:

    ==lots of special education students were “mainstreamed” into the classroom.==

    Special ed students are not only being mainstreamed in the classroom, the teachers are not allowed to modify the curriculum or given time to provide accommodations (longer exam time, one-on-one instruction, readers for tests).

    Many of these special ed students are failing in these mainstream classes, which means at the high school level they must retake the classes until they pass. This seriously harms the self-esteem of the student and delays the graduation date. I fear many of these students will quit, rather than try to reach an impossible goal, some already have. It’s not just the teachers paying a horrible price for this experiment.


  3. - langhorne - Tuesday, Jan 29, 13 @ 11:30 am:

    what bradley said.

    every advocacy group wants full funding. the need is not in question. we do not have the means to cover the needs. and we have to prioritize our outstanding, overdue, obligations and do the best we can.

    advocacy groups need to fight their battles according to the degree of cuts being made,(we been cut 20%, thats enuf) not dreams of increases or restorations.


  4. - David Ormsby - Tuesday, Jan 29, 13 @ 11:37 am:

    What Langhorne said. @ 11:30 am


  5. - I don't want to live in Teabagistan - Tuesday, Jan 29, 13 @ 11:48 am:

    We could all move to Alaska

    “Mark Ewing, City Councilman, Republican State House candidate (and former candidate for Alaska Lt. Governor in 2010), made his position on whether or not every child should be provided an education very unclear last week in a debate. During the debate with his opponent Lynn Gattis he said:

    “We are spending millions and millions of dollars educating children that have a hard time making their wheelchair move and, I’m sorry, but you’ve got to say, ‘no’ somewhere. We need to educate our children, but there are certain individuals that are just not going to benefit from an education.”


  6. - ArchPundit - Tuesday, Jan 29, 13 @ 12:05 pm:

    ===Special ed students are not only being mainstreamed in the classroom, the teachers are not allowed to modify the curriculum or given time to provide accommodations (longer exam time, one-on-one instruction, readers for tests).

    This is not accurate–in fact, if extended time is in the student’s IEP, the student must be given extra time. If such accommodations are not in the IEP, then the teachers are limited in anything not allowed for the class. Now, you may be seeing something like this happen, but that’s not what the law says. Administrators are known to resist some of the accommodations so I don’t doubt that it happens, but if it is happening that’s a violation of the law.


  7. - Small Town Liberal - Tuesday, Jan 29, 13 @ 12:11 pm:

    - Then they just at home with mom and dad and collect food stamps and play video games. -

    Ahhh, the sweet life of welfare. I can’t wait to someday have my own food stamp collection, way better than baseball cards.

    I say we strive to improve access to quality education, attract quality teachers, embrace innovative education methods, make sure kids nutrition needs are met, make sure they have warm clothes and can get to school, and make sure they have the best tools available to excel in school.

    What’s your plan, ask them if they want to learn before letting them in?


  8. - ArchPundit - Tuesday, Jan 29, 13 @ 12:13 pm:

    ===Many years ago, lots of special education students were “mainstreamed” into the classroom. Needless to say, those special needs students can bring down a lot of test scores. I’ve talked to teachers who are worried sick about losing tenure because they have large numbers of special needs students in their classrooms. This ought to be addressed.

    First, students with disabilities aren’t necessarily dumb and some do quite well on standardized tests or as well as similar students without disabilities as long as they receive the appropriate accommodations. Stanford, as an example, has a students with disabilities rate of nearly 15% now.

    That said, the concern is entirely legitimate because if students with disabilities may or may not be receiving the appropriate treatment and may be behind if not diagnosed correctly. Additionally, of course, some cognitive disabilities do lead to lower performance.

    To go back to my hobby horse though, it doesn’t matter because the testing from year to year has random errors associated with it that often reach the level of significance. In simple terms, the instruments are not valid and reliable measures of teaching. We are currently stuck with this sort of evaluation, but what would scare me the most is that I could have my students’ test scores randomly move up and down and be penalized for that movement when the movement is nothing, but an artifact of different students in different years. Being concerned about DR students bringing down the scores only matters if the measure is rational–and it is not. IOW, the teachers should be far more concerned about the tests in general.


  9. - Wensicia - Tuesday, Jan 29, 13 @ 12:14 pm:

    ==but if it is happening that’s a violation of the law.==

    It’s happening, more often than you realize. Unless a parent complains and/or asks for due process, little is done to make sure IEP accommodations are delivered to all students on a regular basis. The administration will make an “earnest effort” to provide, but does not always follow through.


  10. - ArchPundit - Tuesday, Jan 29, 13 @ 12:19 pm:

    ===It’s happening, more often than you realize.

    It doesn’t surprise me. Students with parents who have resources for independent testing are often the ones who get services. Students without such resources are often left behind–unless they have something like ADHD/ADD that disrupts the classroom. Then the schools act.


  11. - Cook County Commoner - Tuesday, Jan 29, 13 @ 12:23 pm:

    I agree that some accomodation be made for rating teachers working with special ed children. But how this will work eludes me. Do we assign some sort of handicap to a particular special ed deficit which can be increased by severity? Do we factor in the number of special ed kids and days in class? Oh, the union distress, negotiations and likely strikes this will generate will take years to resolve. And then the lawsuits.
    And then what about deficits induced by socio-economic conditions which can inhibit learning as much as recognized handicaps in some instances. We’ll have to adjust for those too.
    Public education as it is presently structured in Illinois has insufficient funds as it is. It will never have the money, expertise, flexibility or the objectivity to create another layer of bureaucracy to create and monitor such a system of teacher metrics across a large school system.
    The solutions to delivering quality education to those lacking funds to attend private school will require a competitive matrix of public, charter and private schools each competing for students across a marketplace which does not assign students to a building based on residence.


  12. - Demoralized - Tuesday, Jan 29, 13 @ 12:27 pm:

    It’s not the state board’s problem to solve the state’s fiscal crisis. Their job is to ask for what they think education needs. It’s Rep. Bradley’s job to accept it or reject it and to craft a budget if he doesn’t like thier request. It annoys me when legislators say stuff like “they need to get real.” You need to get real and do your job.


  13. - Wensicia - Tuesday, Jan 29, 13 @ 12:37 pm:

    ==unless they have something like ADHD/ADD that disrupts the classroom. Then the schools act.==

    Not necessarily. The administration will act only if the student(s) present a danger to others in the classroom. Disruption alone isn’t enough. It’s not easy to teach a classroom of 30 or more students when two or three are acting out on a regular basis. But, classroom management is the responsibility of the teacher. The student’s behavior cannot be used as an excuse to remove said student from class if it’s related to his/her disability.


  14. - Rusty618 - Tuesday, Jan 29, 13 @ 1:24 pm:

    The new teacher evaluations have already started at the school my wife teaches music at. Luckily, she got all excellents and proficients. She also gives private piano lessons the principal’s autistic daughter. Special needs children like this often excel in fine arts areas. Teacher pension cost shifts will likely affect my wife’s position because of the poor school district she is in. That is unfortunate, because music also teaches math, history and science. Studies have shown that children in music excel in many areas, and often graduate near the top of their class.


  15. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Jan 29, 13 @ 1:50 pm:

    When a state spends more on pension payments than on education, what future does it have?


  16. - The Springfield insider - Tuesday, Jan 29, 13 @ 1:56 pm:

    I applaud Sen Bradley who voted to raise healthcare premiums on already retired state employees. This one vote will cost downstate, and his district, millions of dollars that would have stimulated his districts already depressed economy and will probably result in hundreds of layed off workers in southern Illinois. If other politicians would have the courage to vote against jobs in their own districts…. Who knows… Maybe volume 2 of “profiles I courage”!!!


  17. - the Patriot - Tuesday, Jan 29, 13 @ 2:11 pm:

    The reality Mr. Bradley is that you and your party told the educators in this state they had to support democrats and Quinn in 2010 because Brady would cut 10% from Education. This years funding level is an 11% decrease from that election. You and your party then told educators to go along with PERA and you would leave their pensions alone, now you are cutting their pensions. The reality is, you sir are a liar!

    The other sad reality is educators not smart enough to know the democrats were going to screw them anyway, probably should not be educating children.


  18. - Small Town Liberal - Tuesday, Jan 29, 13 @ 2:25 pm:

    - because Brady would cut 10% from Education. -

    Brady said he could balance the budget with 10% cuts and no tax increase, think he was telling the truth?


  19. - titan - Tuesday, Jan 29, 13 @ 2:44 pm:

    Anonymous - “When a state spends more on pension payments than on education, what future does it have? ”

    Isn’t most of this “make up” payments for those skipped or shorted in prior years?


  20. - Demoralized - Tuesday, Jan 29, 13 @ 2:57 pm:

    @STL:

    Exactly. Unfortunately people didn’t want to do that math either. It seems to me that people shouldn’t throw stones at glass houses. To call one side a liar make me laugh. They are all masters at stretching the truth.


  21. - Just The Way It Is One - Tuesday, Jan 29, 13 @ 2:59 pm:

    ===Makes perfect sense.===

    Pretty ironic, eh? But hats off to the Comment. The one Comment I’ve read all day to which my reaction/reflection was “Wisdom, sheer wisdom.” (And actually quite hilarious–gave me quite the inner chuckle, Word. Thank you).


  22. - Small Town Liberal - Tuesday, Jan 29, 13 @ 3:03 pm:

    - Isn’t most of this “make up” payments for those skipped or shorted in prior years? -

    Yes, and now that we have a Governor who isn’t skipping or shorting the payments, they’re about to overtake education funding. Can’t undo the past, but if we short education funding we’re definitely going to screw up the future.


  23. - geronimo - Tuesday, Jan 29, 13 @ 3:47 pm:

    The constant shorting of funding to Education and the pension fund reveal the true value placed on Education in this state. I’d say it borders on contempt held toward those providing the Education to our children and dismissal of the value of student’s futures. People who call for higher standards and better quality of Education are very often those whining about not paying one more dime in taxes. If they think that lower compensation for school personnel and stiffing their pension plans is going to make young people clamor to be teachers and drive them by the thousands into the profession, they need to live on another planet.


  24. - Old and In the Way - Tuesday, Jan 29, 13 @ 4:08 pm:

    Suggesting that the cause of diminished funding for education is pensions simply does not stand up to scrutiny. Education has been short funded long before the current pension problem. The facts reveal a very different story.


  25. - Teach - Tuesday, Jan 29, 13 @ 4:16 pm:

    How about cutting sports programs. I think pensions are much more important than things that entertain the students as well as their parents


  26. - the Patriot - Tuesday, Jan 29, 13 @ 4:17 pm:

    Yes, Brady was telling the truth. He could have balanced the budget with a 10% accross the board cut. Would the legislature have let him? Who knows.

    The problem is democrats took millions from the NFT and NEA pledging not to get the money out of education then cut education more than Brady planned.

    The IEA gave Quinn $750K when Bill Brady would have hosed them for free!


  27. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Jan 29, 13 @ 4:18 pm:

    ===He could have balanced the budget with a 10% accross the board cut.==

    LOL

    Nope.


  28. - Small Town Liberal - Tuesday, Jan 29, 13 @ 4:22 pm:

    - He could have balanced the budget with a 10% accross the board cut. -

    Man we are screwed if we don’t figure out a way to invest more in education.


  29. - Old and In the Way - Tuesday, Jan 29, 13 @ 4:23 pm:

    Geronimo

    You hit the nail right on the head! Considering that nearly 60% of the pensioners were educators seems to be missed in this whole discussion. What are we saying to anyone who is thinking about entering the field of education be it K-12 or higher education when we short their pensions and then characterize them as somehow gaming the system? Governor Dufus keeps saying that the pension payments are crowding out funds for “old people and children’s education.” Pensioners are “old people” and nearly 60% were educators. My Mother spent her life as an underpaid teacher in rural schools and to see her demonized by PQ and the Tribbies is a bit too much for me to listen to!


  30. - geronimo - Tuesday, Jan 29, 13 @ 5:17 pm:

    There seem to be 2 kinds of “old people” according to some. Those on Medicare and Social Security (and those are the deserving ones, apparently) and those old ones collecting a public pension. Those public ones are the ones who shouldn’t be getting access to health care or their invested contributions as legally guaranteed pensions it is being said. And that’s how we value our highly educated people who educate the next generations for our society.
    Now that the attitude toward teachers has been made abundantly clear, I wouldn’t think too highly of anyone who did choose this profession. I don’t believe they’d be thinking clearly or intelligently.


  31. - Reader - Tuesday, Jan 29, 13 @ 5:54 pm:

    The intellegence of the Illinois voter speaks much about the Illinois school system. Throwing good money after bad never makes sense. Close the schools, hire outside internet schooling companies and progress to the 21st century. Be a leader Illinois


  32. - Old and In the Way - Tuesday, Jan 29, 13 @ 6:03 pm:

    ” Close the schools, hire outside internet schooling companies and progress to the 21st century. Be a leader Illinois.”

    Surely you jest! Online learning for elementary students? For profit online schools? Do us all a favor and go back to school!


  33. - Reader - Tuesday, Jan 29, 13 @ 7:01 pm:

    Certainly I do not jest. Me thinketh, you protesteth because you might lose your job


  34. - geronimo - Tuesday, Jan 29, 13 @ 7:18 pm:

    Reader, why trust anyone to do the job right? Do it yourself. Homeschool. Or would that maketh you loseth your job?


  35. - Arthur Andersen - Tuesday, Jan 29, 13 @ 7:38 pm:

    Good Lord, the trolls come out after dark.

    To say education spending is going down because pension costs are going up is deceit at its finest. That statement infers a “one or the other” choice. Illinois’ options are limited, but we do have more than this simplistic Squeeziness.


  36. - Old and In the Way - Tuesday, Jan 29, 13 @ 8:06 pm:

    “Certainly I do not jest. Me thinketh, you protesteth because you might lose your job”

    After practicing law for over 30 years I doubt it………I protest because of the simplistic notion that this would provide any semblance of an education.


  37. - Eve - Tuesday, Jan 29, 13 @ 11:39 pm:

    ==Many years ago, lots of special education students were “mainstreamed” into the classroom. Needless to say, those special needs students can bring down a lot of test scores. I’ve talked to teachers who are worried sick about losing tenure because they have large numbers of special needs students in their classrooms. This ought to be addressed.==

    I’m sure many teachers are worried about this and I certainly don’t blame them for it. However, there have been a ton of conversations around this by the Performance Evaluation Advisory Council, which has met at least monthly and often more frequently. Keep in mind that student *growth* is not the same a meeting a specific, arbitrary benchmark. Also, standardized tests will be just one aspect of the growth component. Teacher-developed tests based around Student Learning Objectives will represent a significant portion of the growth component, which in itself only has to comprise 25% (phasing into 30%) of the evaluation. I’m not saying your concerns for children with special needs aren’t valid - just that there are people at the center of implementation of this who are very in tune with the concern and committed to making the process work fairly.


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