I just saw the first commercial for "back-to-school savings," which for me has always marked the middle of the summer in the education world. Given that important mile marker, I think it appropriate to share with you some updates on two of the priority initiatives currently underway at ISBE: the Strategic Plan and the Illinois School Purchasing Network.
As you know, a series of Strategic Plan hearings are underway. Hearings have already been held in Bloomington, Chicago, Belleville, Paris, and Wilmette, and going forward, hearings will continue to cover other parts of the state. At these hearings State Board members and I have had a chance to hear from parents, teachers, superintendents, regional superintendents, advocacy groups, and even legislators with their ideas for improving our state's public education system. I think it goes without saying that any time we are able to bring together this many interested parties in one room, the outcome will be positive for Illinois schools; I am very encouraged by the healthy dialogue that these hearings have begun to generate.
Having attended each of these hearings, it has been interesting for me to note the emergence of some common themes. On several occasions participants have voiced their belief that more needs to be done to attract and retain good teachers, especially for hard-to-staff schools and subject areas. We have been asked to look at induction and mentoring programs so that we not only get more people to teach, but are able to support new teachers in their first few years so that they stay in education. A number of participants have also suggested that the final Strategic Plan should include a broad definition of literacy, and one that is not limited to proficiency in reading. Among other subject areas, a broader definition should include math, science, and social literacy. A final issue heard loud and clear by ISBE has been the need for our agency to continue its advocacy efforts with the federal government for more special education funding for local school districts.
A second, major initiative now underway is the new Illinois School Purchasing Network. I would again encourage you to follow the lead of more than 60 school districts to date, and register with US Communities, our shared services partner, so that your district will have access to the thousands of products from multiple vendors available through its contracts. You can register today at www.uscommunities.org or through the Illinois State Board of Education’s website at www.isbe.net/savings. Again, in registering for the program you are neither committing to participate nor binding your district in any manner; your district will still have the ability to make choices outside of US Communities.
As always, have a great week.
Also included in today’s message:
Superintendents’ Conference – September 1 and 2, 2005
The registration form and detailed information about the 2005 Superintendent’s Conference is now available at http://www.isbe.net/pdf/supt_conf_registration_2005.pdf. Dr. Thomas G. Carroll from the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future will provide one of the keynote addresses for the conference. Registration deadline is August 15, 2005. Please share this information with all school administrators who may be interested in attending.
Reading Improvement Block Grant Update
The Reading Improvement Block Grant application is now available on the eGMS. The application is due July 25, 2005. Please note the budget section of the application asks for more detail than in years past and is similar to other grants. Make sure names of staff are listed on the budget detail page along with the building where they work. Also, the due date for the FY06 annual performance report will be June 15, 2006 for districts not using ISAT to establish performance progress and 30 days after districts receive ISAT scores for those using ISAT to demonstrate progress.
The FY05 annual performance report is available on the ISBE website under Curriculum and Instruction – Reading. The form for the report may be typed, printed out, and submitted with data any time before November 1. Please feel free to contact Laurie Lee, principal consultant, with any questions regarding the Reading Improvement Block Grant. She may be reached at 217-557-7323 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Social and Emotional (SEL) Learning Standards Performance Descriptors
The Illinois State Board of Education has now released Performance Descriptors http://www.isbe.net/ils/social_emotional/descriptors.htm to compliment the previously developed Social and Emotional (SEL) Learning Standards. They are designed to help educators select and design curricula, classroom activities and instruction, and performance-based and other assessments aligned with the standards. Descriptors are also helpful in mapping curriculum or validating what a school or district has already developed and implemented. Performance descriptors offer a representative, rather than exhaustive list of learning targets that provide greater detail of a specific SEL knowledge, reasoning, and skills highlighted in the standards.
School bus driver “S” endorsement information
The Illinois Secretary of State (ISOS) has issued two memoranda regarding the new school bus driver “S” endorsement that will be required on all school bus commercial driver licenses (CDL) by September 30, 2005. The ISOS will mail these memoranda to each school bus employer and driver in the state. If you have questions regarding the “S” endorsement, please contact the Illinois Secretary of State Safe Ride Section at 217-782-7674, Monday thru Friday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Links to the memoranda are included here:
· School Bus Employer Memorandum
· School Bus Driver Memorandum
ISBE employment opportunities
Management has released an External Vacancy List (05-17), which can be accessed through the following link: http://www.isbe.net/hr/pdf/VL05-17.pdf
Weekly news clips
This week’s news clips may be reviewed at http://www.isbe.net/news/2005/newsclips/050708.htm