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August 7, 2006


SPRINGFIELD– The Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE) will examine the best practices for using student data systems to drive important reforms in education at its August 15 meeting in Chicago. Aimee Guidera, Director of the Data Quality Campaign, and Jay Pfeiffer, Assistant Deputy Commissioner for Accountability, Research, and Measurement for the Florida Department of Education, will address the Board on the value of integrated education and workforce data systems to better inform state and education policymakers.  

Increased demands to improve teacher preparation and student retention and graduation rates have gone to the top of state and national agendas. The Illinois General Assembly approved resolutions this spring mandating that IBHE expand student information systems to provide a more comprehensive and accurate portrait of student preparation, participation, mobility, and performance. The resolutions encourage participation by all institutions in the shared enrollment data consortium and the teacher data warehouse, two existing data collection systems, as well as urge steps to integrate education and workforce data to assist state officials in making policy decisions and allocating resources.

Guidera will discuss the important policy questions that can be answered through the use of good data that tracks individual student achievement across the P-20 spectrum. She will also share with the IBHE audience the best practices across the nation to develop data warehouses and integrated systems.  The IBHE is working with the State’s public colleges and universities to develop a more transparent and useful data system that will help state legislators and education policy makers around the state.

Pfeiffer will speak about Florida’s experience in developing what many experts consider the best data warehouse in the country and provide examples of policy issues Florida has been able to address as a result.

The Commission on School Leader Preparation in Illinois Colleges and Universities, chaired by Board Member Dea Meyer and Diane Ashby, Vice President for University Advancement at Illinois State University, will present its findings and recommendations at the August 15 meeting. The Commission, which included representatives from IBHE, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), K-12 schools, colleges and universities, business groups, and professional education associations, was formed a year ago to examine how school leaders are prepared in Illinois and recommend strategies for improving training programs.

The Commission’s report notes that Illinois has large performance gaps for poor and minority students, significant numbers of children who do not meet state or national achievement standards, and a sizeable and growing number of school districts designated for federal and state improvement status. “One of the surest ways to improve student learning is to improve the quality of school leadership, which in turn requires an improvement in school leadership preparation programs,” the report says.

The report criticizes “inadequate admissions standards” at educational administration programs which fail to produce committed, high-quality leaders in K-12 schools, particularly in hard-to-staff, low-performing schools. It also states that preparation programs for school principals are hampered by an “irrelevant and outdated” curriculum, an imbalance of tenured versus adjunct faculty, and inadequate clinical experiences. Finally, the Commission says that the certification process for principals is outdated, the philosophy of school leadership is outmoded, and the evaluation of preparation programs is inadequate and disjointed.

The Commission recommends a menu of strategies for improving recruitment, preparation, and accountability of school leader programs. It urges that admissions criteria for entering school leader preparation programs be revised and that recruitment be more proactive through stronger collaboration between school districts and colleges and universities. It also recommends that assessments be revamped to determine that candidates for principal have the knowledge and skills to meet the needs of P-12 schools and that meaningful clinical experiences and internships be an integral part of school leader preparation programs. The Commission suggests that current certification exams be replaced with more rigorous licensure assessments for principals and superintendents. And it proposes a more thorough and coordinated process for review and approval of educational leader programs.

Also on the Board’s agenda for its 9 a.m. meeting at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology will be creation of an “Academic Program Review” working group of Board members to review the approval process for new institutions and academic programs, and action on rules for a new nursing educator grant program.

In response to concerns raised by the Board about its regulatory role in a fast-changing higher education environment, members will consider establishing a special working group to review policies and procedures for approving new academic programs or authorizing new institutions to operate in Illinois. The rapid expansion of for-profit institutions, the growing popularity of online programs, and ongoing concern over diploma mills have dramatically altered the collegiate landscape and fueled Board anxiety over its responsibility to assure the public that new programs or institutions meet an acceptable threshold of quality.

A report to the Board notes that the existing criteria and process for evaluating new programs and institutions, which are embodied in statute, are based on traditional face-to-face classroom instruction.

If approved, the task force will include Board members as well as representatives of the Illinois Community College Board, the Federation of Independent Illinois Colleges and Universities, and IBHE advisory groups representing students, faculty, and proprietary institutions.

The Board will act on proposed rules to implement a new program aimed at attacking the state’s nursing shortage by awarding fellowships to nurse educators in an effort to retain well-qualified nursing faculty. The General Assembly appropriated $150,000 in fiscal 2007 for the Nurse Educator Fellowship Program, enacted as part of an initiative advanced by Governor Rod Blagojevich.

The fellowship program will offer $10,000 fellowships to faculty members who have at least a master’s degree in nursing and are employed full time at an Illinois institution with an accredited nursing program. Recipients must be nominated by the chief nursing administrator of their institution, and awards will be based on the nominee’s major accomplishments, intended use of fellowship funds, and employment plans.

The IBHE also will administer a second grant program under the Administration’s nursing initiative – $1.5 million in grants to institutions based on a variety of performance measures such as degree production, student retention, and pass rates on licensure exams. The Illinois Student Assistance Commission also will administer a new nursing scholarship program.


Don Sevener



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