Below are two statements from parents: one is a Chicago parent speaking about the ISBE inquiry into CPS special education and the other is a Downers Grove mom speaking about the new ISBE school ratings system.
Kylie Spahn, Downers Grove, speaking on ISBE's new accountability or school ratings system.
Good morning. My name is Kylie Spahn. I am a parent from the Western Suburb of Downers Grove. We have two school districts in Downers Grove: Downers Grove School District 58 and Community High School District 99. I am here today to address the new Tier Rating System that ISBE has implemented under the Every Student Succeeds Act.
ISBE’s accountability system approved by the US Department of Education, took effect during the 2017-2018 school year. Schools are ranked on a four Tier System – Tier 1 is Exemplary, Tier 2 is Commendable, Tier 3 is Underperforming, and Tier 4 is Lowest Performing School. In June of this year, ISBE notified Illinois public schools that fell into the Tier 3 and Tier 4 categories. The only criteria used to make this determination was PARCC scores. No other criteria was used to rank schools for the 2017/2018 school year. To date, ISBE has not notified school districts or stakeholders which schools were Tier 1 and Tier 2. Downers Grove District 58 had one school that was ranked Tier 3. That school was El Sierra, the smallest school in the district with the highest population of low income students. El Sierra will receive $15,000 in grant money to improve the test scores of the Special Education student population. Anyone in education can tell you, that $15,000 will not even cover a half-time teaching position, and is insufficient money to improve educational outcomes in the 14% of students who make up the special education student population at El Sierra.
This school year, ISBE fully implemented the ESSA accountability system. 70% of a school’s ranking is based on PARCC scores of which 50% of this measure is based on change in scores, also known as “growth”. This is particularly onerous as a school may have high PARCC proficiency scores, but if their growth component is low, they will be penalized by their school rating. An example is Hillcrest Elementary School in Downers Grove District 58. This school has a PARCC proficiency rate of 46%. Their growth was less than the mean district growth rate at 55.5%. As a result, they were deemed a Tier 2 school. Now consider El Sierra. Remember that this school was designated a Tier 3 last year. This school’s 2018 PARCC proficiency in reading and math, is only 36% but because they had significantly substantial growth between 2017 and 2018 on PARCC, they are now deemed a Tier 1 school. This is where the system is fundamentally flawed. El Sierra has only 36% proficiency but they are now considered to be in the top 10% of all public schools in Illinois. How can that possibly be? Consider Monroe Elementary School in Hinsdale Community School District 181. They have a PARCC proficiency rate of 68%, that’s almost double El Sierra’s proficiency rate, but because their growth is below the District’s mean growth, they are deemed a Tier 2 school. ISBE is essentially penalizing schools for educating students in a consistent manner, while elevating schools like El Sierra who actually need additional resources and support to assist their teachers and students, to a Tier 1 ranking.
Next spring, ISBE has adopted yet another brand new summative standardized test. PARCC---the test that determined 70% of a school’s rating this year, is being thrown away. Its replacement is called the Illinois Assessment for Readiness. While the IAR will contain some questions from the PARCC, it’s not clear how a growth measure that depends primarily on the change in scores from one year to another could possibly be valid, when the majority of the test will be new. What evidence is there that an IAR score in one year will be meaningfully comparable to a PARCC score from a previous year? Once again, ISBE will be using an invalid, unvetted, non-peer reviewed test to sort, rank and label our schools in the most punitive and damaging manner. The 2018 PARCC scores will not be comparable to the 2019 IAR scores because they are DIFFERENT tests. This is not fair to our students, teachers and schools.
One final aspect of the accountability system that I find most damaging, is the definition of chronic absenteeism which is defined as 10% or more of excused and unexcused absences. The only exceptions being hospitalization or a death in the family. This measure accounts for 20% of a school’s rating. Schools with high mobility, that is schools serving the most vulnerable and needy populations, are essentially penalized for serving this population. The chronic absenteeism measure applies to any student enrolled for more than 10 days. A school will be dinged for enrolling a child who attends school for two months and is sick for four days. This measure sets up very negative incentives for schools and will encourage them to avoid serving the students that our state should be most concerned with educating.
In addition, the definition of chronic absenteeism means that any student with legitimate excused absences will hurt their school rating. ISBE is sending a message to chronically ill students that being in their seat is more important than their health and well-being. ISBE is telling every parent that they have no right to take their children out of school for sporting competitions, orchestra performances, religious holidays, overseas trips to see families, medical treatment, the flu! Like it or not, parents have rights in educating their children. The state should not be setting up parents to be bullied by schools by a punishing measure such as this.
The intent of ESSA is to improve how schools are evaluated. The inclusion of measures besides test scores was to capture how well schools are doing at educating the whole child: nurturing their physical, mental and social health and development. The definition and use of chronic absenteeism is the perfect example of the punitive nature of ISBE’s accountability system. Just because something is an easy measure does not mean it is a meaningful measure. ISBE needs to go back to the drawing board and develop a system---with the input of parents and communities---that thoughtfully identifies schools that truly need additional support and resources to provide the education that any child who comes through the door deserves.
Kerry Sloyan, Chicago mom, speaking on the ISBE investigation into CPS special education practices & policies.
I am Kerry Sloyan from the Southwest side of Chicago. Today, I am here on behalf of all the families who could not be here in person to share their frustration and the concern they have for their children who are being denied FAPE. Every day that passes is critical and is filled with missed opportunities in our children’s lives.
When ISBE first announced that they would be holding CPS accountable for the systemic special education violations, I was hopeful and so appreciative of ISBE’s efforts. However, I am disappointed in the lack of progress and frustrated that there is with no process in place for remedy at this juncture. At the end of the day it is once again our children who are
harmed and left with the “short end of the stick”.
I personally have been seeking the correct process to follow since June. Over 5 months of mis-direction, wasted personal time and personal expense is unacceptable, especially when you layer it on top of my child, and so many other children’s, already being denied their rights under Federal Law for years. I was initially told by the Executive Director of ISBE Special Education to File a State Complaint since no process was in place, so I did. Then ISBE Complaints told me that Exec Director spoke out of line, and to file due process since my complaint was over a year old. I was then advised to reach out to the monitor and after multiple emails have not even had an acknowledgement of receipt of my emails.
I do not think that recommending due process is a fair and equitable recommendation for families to seek remedy for these circumstances. Due process is a grueling, painstaking, financially draining venture for families, especially against a district like CPS with unlimited resources. And even when you “win” you really don’t. You still need to go to federal court to try to recoup some of your personal funds invested. And more importantly in these circumstances ISBE has already found CPS to be at fault. There needs to be an easier process for families!
With CPS being the 3rd largest school district in the US, it is not realistic to have one person responsible for the monumental task of monitoring CPS Special Education and making children whole from 2016 to present. From a parent who is REQUIRED to live in the CPS district, I implore you to provide the resources needed to truly provide remedy from 2016 to present and monitor CPS Special Education. Our children with disabilities deserve this chance.