ISBE Seeks to Ditch State Assessments, Address Declining Public School Enrollment During Pandemic

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For the second year in a row, the Illinois State Board of Education is seeking a waiver from the US Department of Education for standardized tests normally conducted during the schools’ spring semester.

Earlier this month, State Superintendent Carmen Ayala sent a letter to the United States Department of Education requesting waivers of assessments, noting that more than one million Illinois students are still receiving their education fully. through distance learning.

“We believe that bringing students back in person only to immediately begin state assessments will have a very detrimental effect on their socio-emotional well-being, their mental health and, more importantly, their reconnection with the school community,” he said. Ayala told the board. Education at its monthly meeting on Thursday.

If the federal government agrees, tests like the SAT and certain graduation requirements – like high school civics – would be waived for the class of 2021.

More than 600 district superintendents across the state also signed the waiver request.

Tony Sanders, the superintendent of U-46 school district in Elgin, told the board that a disproportionate number of students of color in his district are taking classes entirely online. He said the student population would be negatively affected by the required tests.

“It’s 13,700 mostly colored students that we’ll have to try to figure out how to get them into a building to test, and take 6-7 days of in-person instruction to make that happen,” Sanders said. .

Decreasing registrations

The pandemic has also accelerated the decline in enrollment in Illinois public schools.

Prior to the pandemic, the ISBE predicted that public school enrollment would decline 1.1% for the 2020-2021 school year – a rate consistent with declines in the previous five school years.

But in October, that enrollment drop was closer to 1.9% – about 36,000 students.

ISBE Finance Officer Robert Wolfe explained that a school’s enrollment level affects the amount of funding it receives from the evidence-based school funding model adopted by schools. state legislators in 2017.

“If there is a distribution at several levels in [fiscal year 2022], there will be an impact in these calculations potentially by [fiscal years 2023 and 2024]”Wolfe said.” Because we’ll be using the higher of the current school year average size or that three-year average. “

Under the new school funding act passed in 2017, Illinois is expected to increase district funding by $ 350 million per year for ten years to help schools meet specialized financial adequacy goals. These targets are calculated based on local tax support and district academic needs.

Lawmakers initially advocated that the new funding formula would allow schools to meet 90% of their respective adequacy targets by 2027. But Gov. JB Pritzker this week proposed to suspend the $ 350 million increase. in funding for the second year in a row, saying federal sources will fill gaps in local school districts so they don’t have to cut budgets.

Senate Majority Leader Kim Lightford (D-Maywood), a prominent member of Illinois’ black legislative caucus, said this week she was concerned about Pritzker’s school funding plan disproportionately affecting low income districts.

“We need to look in more detail at the consequences of pushing back investment in education yet again,” Lightford said. “The longer we wait, the more students in low-income schools suffer. “

If a school district’s enrollment numbers decline, its adequacy goals decrease with it. However, the decrease in enrollment will not affect a school’s minimum base funding for the upcoming school year.

Wolfe said that if the state wanted to make changes to the enrollment calculations in the school funding formula – such as instituting a multi-year disclaimer to avoid loss of funding due to a temporary decline in enrollment – that will require legislative action.


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