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April 20, 2006

IBHE Welcomes Challenge to Improve Higher Education Outcome For CPS and All Illinois Students

A report on the collegiate performance of graduates of the Chicago Public Schools (CPS), released today by the Consortium on Chicago School Research, underscores the need to improve academic preparation for college when students are in elementary-secondary school and to strengthen higher education academic services to help them succeed in college, according to Judy Erwin, Executive Director of the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE).

And, she noted, it reinforces the need to rejuvenate a statewide panel to focus on improving teacher training, as recently recommended by Governor Blagojevich. In a letter earlier this month to the heads of state education agencies and workforce development agencies, the Governor urged that the state’s Joint Education Committee (JEC) take on the issue of strengthening teacher preparation and professional development. (The Governor’s letter is attached.)

The report of the Consortium, a research arm of the University of Chicago, found that although CPS students have high collegiate aspirations, many graduates do not enroll in college, and those who do are generally not well prepared for the academic rigors of college and have lower than average graduation rates.

“This research provides strong evidence to further support Governor Blagojevich’s recent call for the JEC to reconvene and focus on improved teaching training among Illinois’ postsecondary institutions,” Erwin said. “The JEC is charged in the Illinois School Code with implementing cooperative P-16 initiatives that span the full spectrum of a student’s education. The Governor has asked the Illinois State Board of Education, the Illinois Community College Board, the Illinois Board of Higher Education, and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity to better coordinate education at all levels of student learning.”

Erwin said the Consortium report illustrates that the emphasis on high school preparation is well-placed and higher education institutions must continue to press for improved academic standards, as well as providing support services that help students overcome educational deficits and enable them to persist to graduation. “It is crucial to recognize that any effective response to this report must involve educators at all levels, from pre-school through universities. Clearly, with Illinois colleges and universities preparing teachers, we need to accept the challenge to improve the teaching of teachers, as well as continued professional development.”

Erwin also noted that the Consortium report points to the need to improve, strengthen, and consolidate data about all students attending Illinois colleges and universities. Traditional methods of evaluating student persistence and graduation rates may offer an incomplete mosaic of enrollments, time-to-degree, and graduation in modern postsecondary education.

“We know that today students attend many types of institutions over a longer period of time, including private institutions, community colleges, online programs, and proprietary schools,” Erwin said. “We need to do a much better job of tracking student activity and integrating student data collection at all levels of education to better inform the General Assembly, the Governor, the Mayor of Chicago, and all education policymakers. With a more complete and comprehensive picture of students and their performance, we can better focus our limited resources to those areas that will improve student achievement.”

Erwin noted that the General Assembly is considering resolutions aimed at improving data collection. Senate Resolution 701 and House Resolution 1101 direct the Board of Higher Education to expand the existing shared enrollment data consortium to collect additional information on college student preparation, participation, mobility, and performance. The resolutions also instruct IBHE to work with the JEC to evaluate current data collection and to develop an integrated longitudinal information system that can provide educators and policymakers with the information needed to align curriculum and instruction at all levels of schooling and to ensure that tax dollars are deployed effectively and efficiently.

“There is much we can all learn from this report. The Board of Higher Education welcomes the challenge to work constructively with the Chicago Public Schools, all Illinois school districts, colleges and universities to improve student preparation for college and the work place,” Erwin said.


Don Sevener



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