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Illinois again at risk of losing federal education dollars

Thursday, Apr 30, 2015

* Tribune

In the latest controversy over state exams, Illinois is in hot water with the federal government for not administrating statewide science tests this school year.

Failure to give the exams is a violation of the law, according to a stern letter from the U.S. Department of Education, and the Illinois State Board of Education has been placed in what the federal agency calls “high-risk status” for not complying with testing requirements.

The letter dated April 20 states that the board must come up with a plan and timeline by June 30 to come into compliance and give the science assessments in 2015-16.

“We’re working on our plan to provide a science assessment in 2015-16 and will submit it to the U.S. Department of Education by June 30, per the letter,” board spokeswoman Mary Fergus said Wednesday in an email to the Tribune.

* From the letter

Due to the significance of its non-compliance and the fact that the pilot assessments administered in 2014–2015 will not result in information about student performance that can be shared with parents and teachers to inform instruction, I am placing ISBE on high-risk status under 34 C.F.R. § 80.12.

ISBE must fully implement its new science assessments in SY 2015−16 to come into compliance with section 1111(b)(3)(A) of the ESEA and 34 C.F.R. § 200.2(a)(1). As a condition of its high-risk status, the ISBE must provide a detailed plan and timeline to the U.S. Department of Education (the Department) by June 30, 2015, in order to address this non-compliance issue for SY 2015–2016.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

29 Comments
  1. - Demoralized - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 10:52 am:

    How about schools just spend the year testing.


  2. - Precinct Captain - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 11:02 am:

    I really gotta get in on this testing biz.


  3. - A guy - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 11:03 am:

    If you know the rules going in…


  4. - Downstate Illinois - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 11:11 am:

    This is what happens when you federalize education. No where does the Constitution give the U.S. Government explicit authority to do this.

    I was recently told by a middle school librarian who they are going to start testing kindergarten students next year.


  5. - Wordslinger - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 11:15 am:

    Do kids learn anything at parochial and private schools? How can you tell? They don’t engage in this obsessive and endless battery of standardized tests.

    I’m guessing they get their learn on just fine without them, and the teachers can do crazy things like teach, and not just drill for the next test.

    Like with charter schools, these testing products are a way for private interests to ge fat on the taxpayer dime without demonstrating any real benefit “for the children (will someone think of the children!).”

    All these tests


  6. - OneMan - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 11:23 am:

    Double secret probation…


  7. - Mama - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 11:25 am:

    There is big money in testing students. The test should not be mandated by withholding federal funding from the schools. The feds know the schools need the money. If parochial and private schools get federal funding, they have to take the tests.


  8. - Team Sleep - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 11:30 am:

    The federal government is a bully. They threaten to take away OUR tax dollars for doing what is best (by our officials, voters and schools) for us.

    This is also the danger of basing state budgeting on matching dollars - some of which are not guaranteed past the current federal fiscal year budget.


  9. - Ray del Camino - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 11:30 am:

    Yo, Downstate.

    The feds aren’t forcing anyone to do anything. If you don’t want the fed dollars, don’t comply.


  10. - sparky791 - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 11:41 am:

    If you ask Rauner I am sure it is those big Union bosses that are to blame. Seriously though, the testing has gotten out of hand. PARCC testing this year is a disaster. And yes Kindergarten will be tested. Kindergarten today is like most peoples second or third grade when they were kids. Of course they cannot tie shoe and pee their pants and cannot socialize but lets give them more tests and while we are at it base the teachers evaluation on it.


  11. - Wordslinger - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 11:46 am:

    – no where does the Constitution give the U.S. Government explicit authority to do this.–

    Pass laws? Appropriate money?

    Dude, do you trot that one out for everything you don’t like?

    I don’t like this, but your argument is beyond weak. It doesn’t make any sense.


  12. - Carhartt Representative - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 12:07 pm:

    My wife gave the PARCC test to her junior high class this week. The stupid thing keeps crashing and you manually have to keep rebooting it for every student individually. In the private sector, we’d never put up with a lousy program like this, but in Illinois we spend tens of millions of dollars for it.


  13. - MrJM - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 12:31 pm:

    Who tests the test-men?

    – MrJM


  14. - the Cardinal - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 12:57 pm:

    Don’t Take the Test Dont get the Money. Its rather simple. Many Illinois districts could walk away from State and Federal Dollars but they will get hammerd by Dept of Ed and ISBE for evry other requirement that is out of compliance.


  15. - Carhartt Representative - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 1:28 pm:

    =Who tests the test-men?

    – MrJM=

    Is that a quote from Rorschach?


  16. - TheMostOfficialOne - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 2:08 pm:

    We give money to the federal government, so that we can fight to get it back. This makes sense to me because I received a public education.


  17. - Anonymous - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 2:36 pm:

    =testing kindergarten students next year= Not exactly. The new (sort of) KIDS program (being pushed by EdWest and wait for it…Ounce of Prevention) is an assessment but not a standardized test. Unsurprisingly Illinois is using a Kindergarten readiness assessment while the kids are already in kindergarten. This program is actually a burden on teachers due to the ridiculous burden of data collection and reporting. There is nothing in education statutes requiring the program so we will be taking a pass until that changes and they fund the extra costs. Of course the ISBE says that the 140 hours or so that will be dedicated to implementation does not cost anything so the mandate does not need to be funded. They may want to ask the teachers if they are volunteering the equivalent of three and a half weeks of time.

    The data will be collected by the ISBE for reporting needed to hang on to a grant. They admitted that earlier in the year but now are a bit more tight lipped about it since there was a lot of push back.

    We also received a notice from the ISBE over the weekend indicating that they WILL hold PARCC “opt outs” against schools. Nice, not sure how they can.

    We have been giving standardized tests for decades and have always experienced push back when the tests changed. Three distinct differences this time. 1) PARCC was intended to be given 4 times per year to get needed growth data points but Illinois is broke and is only giving two. Preparation for the roll out was years behind, fractured, and poorly communicated. The ISBE simply wasn’t ready and badly under resourced. 2) Illinois schools were not prepared for a computer based assessment. 3)This assessment takes longer to give. Some of the session requirements were simply too long for some of the age groups.

    It has gone well for us, we were prepared and dedicated the time needed to implement correctly on our end. We are one of the lucky ones in that regard.


  18. - Mama - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 2:55 pm:

    MrJM ++Who tests the test-men?++ Either the State Board of Education or the governor’s office determines which company to hire to administer & grade the statewide test.


  19. - AnonymousOne - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 3:00 pm:

    Data collection and reporting. PR and accountability. Test proctoring and evaluation. Statistics and ratings. The world of being a teacher these days. And you parents thought we should actually know and understand your child?


  20. - Pylorus - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 3:10 pm:

    As a high school science teacher I find this decision to be a bit frustrating. I appreciate that ISBE asked for an exemption from the science testing while we changed to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

    I’m interested in what test will be given next that it is required again. The old Prairie State Achievement Exam (PSAE) is not aligned to the new standards, and as far as I know there is not yet a test that is aligned to NGSS.


  21. - Anon PR Guy In Chicago - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 3:41 pm:

    My eighth-grade daughter took the PARCC test this week. Her teacher called my wife after to inform us that at the end they survey the kids and have a section for comments. My daughter wrote eight long paragraphs that detailed her issues with the test. Her comments ranged from questioning why she was being tested on concepts that were never taught to criticizing the colors used in test as “dull and depressing.”

    Her teacher said she doubled over in laughter reading the comments and wanted to take a screen shot but that would have broken the law.

    We never coached her nor commented on the testing. She simply over-dosed on all the testing she receives.


  22. - low level - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 3:54 pm:

    Another constitutional “expert” again I see. You don’t have to do anything. The testing is part of receiving the funds. Now, if you say the testing should not be linked with funding I think you’d find many in agreement.


  23. - Cheap seats - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 4:36 pm:

    So wait…states have to agree to the “college and career standards” gambit (ie common core) and the tests that go with them or lose federal funding. So we agree.

    But then those same standards, and tests that go with them, don’t have a science component… So we lose funding…

    It makes my head spin.


  24. - Mama - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 4:58 pm:

    FYI:
    School Funding History
    http://www.isbe.net/funding/pdf/mcat-history.pdf

    Overview of Mandated Funding
    http://www.isbe.net/funding/pdf/mcat-narrative.pdf


  25. - ugh - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 7:07 pm:

    - Mama - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 11:25 am:

    There is big money in testing students. The test should not be mandated by withholding federal funding from the schools. The feds know the schools need the money. If parochial and private schools get federal funding, they have to take the tests.”
    Mama, parochial and private schools receive Federal Funds through Title I and II grants. They do not have to take the State or Federal tests.


  26. - Arthur Andersen - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 7:23 pm:

    Anon PR guy, you have a heckuva daughter right there.


  27. - Ryan Evans - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 10:14 pm:

    Best part is Illinois is in flux with what state mandated curriculum wil be taught. If you can’t set that how do you write a test? #bogus


  28. - truthurts - Thursday, Apr 30, 15 @ 11:22 pm:

    Silliness. Period. These are matching funds, so if you spend a dollar on education you get another dollar to spend on education. Perhaps this is accounted for in “Ruiner”’s budget? If so he is smarter than he looks. But why cut when you can double your money for nothing while still providing essential services? Fund everything that gets matched the same as last year and dissect from there. Free money! Take a lesson from your constituents.


  29. - Dudeman - Monday, May 4, 15 @ 2:36 pm:

    This plan was in place before Rauner. ISBE was/is run by people completely ignorant of education. Kris Koch let this testing plan go forward without understanding crap about PARCC. Now someone is going to have to fix this mess or Illinois will lose its federal dollars too.


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