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Topic: Illinois: Standards slow to catch on.
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Jerry P. Becker

Posts: 16,576
Registered: 12/3/04
Illinois: Standards slow to catch on.
Posted: Sep 22, 2000 5:32 PM
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From the Chicago Tribune, Thursday, September 21, 2000. See,2669,SAV-0009210388,FF.html


By Stephanie Banchero

SPRINGFIELD -- Despite an aggressive three-year push to get local
schools to adopt state learning standards, teachers and principals
are taking a cautious approach, making only small tweaks in their
curricula or ignoring standards all together, according to a study
released Wednesday.

The report, conducted for the Illinois State Board of Education by
researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, found
only a slight improvement compared with 1999 statistics.

Last year, educators in about 15 percent of schools surveyed said
they were aligning their curricula to the new state educational
standards in subjects including math, reading, writing and science.

This year, 19 percent said they are doing so.

Educators in the remaining schools said they were aware of the new
standards but are taking a conservative approach to translating those
standards into daily teaching.

State Schools Supt. Max McGee said he was not surprised by the report
but promised state officials will redouble their efforts to help
school districts implement the learning standards, a set of
guidelines outlining what students should know in 30 areas and when
they should know it. The state then uses the Illinois Standards
Achievement Test (ISAT) to test students' mastery of those subjects.

"I wish we had made more progress," McGee said. "But sometimes you
need a report like this to change how you do business."

Board of Education officials adopted the learning standards in 1997
and have spent the last three years trying to persuade educators at
the local level to embrace the standards and the accompanying exams.
In many cases, they have been met with resistance from teachers and
superintendents who believe the board's recent educational reforms
are simply a passing fancy.

In last year's survey, many teachers said they were not aligning
their curricula because they feared state officials would back away
from the tough standards if test results did not dramatically improve
and a political firestorm ensued.

"In some ways, I don't blame them," said board member Bill Hill. "We
seem to be constantly changing the game, and a lot of them want to
wait us out."

But Hill, McGee and other board members made it clear Wednesday they
are not backing down from the rigorous academic guidelines they set
for Illinois' students and schools. And they promised to step up
efforts to help districts embrace the new standards.

McGee said board officials plan to meet with local PTAs, teachers
unions and, in some cases, local school board members to raise
awareness and support for the academic reforms. He also said the
state plans to post student work online, showing how best to meet
each standard.

According to the study, the biggest obstacle to implementation of the
learning standards is that local school officials are not convinced
that getting their curricula in line with the state will translate
into higher scores on the ISAT. And it's the ISAT results that
dictate how schools and teachers will be judged in the public arena.

"School folks are not convinced that there is a direct linkage
between the learning standards and the ISAT," said Nona Prestine,
principal investigator, who helped prepare the report. "In a world
where you [teachers] have a lot of things impinging on you for your
precious time, your efforts are going to go toward raising test
scores, not aligning standards."
Jerry P. Becker
Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
Southern Illinois University
Carbondale, IL 62901-4610 USA
Phone: (618) 453-4241 [O]
(618) 457-8903 [H]
Fax: (618) 453-4244

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