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Let's reform federal NCLB Law

Representatives of Illinois school boards voted November 22 in Chicago to seek sweeping reforms in the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) on grounds that it is based upon inconsistent standards and unrealistic requirements.

Meeting during Illinois' largest annual conference of school officials, more than 280 Illinois school board members voted to lobby Congress and the state legislature for fundamental changes in NCLB, including new provisions to:

  • Focus the law on professional development for teachers and administrators;
  • Fully fund any requirements placed upon local school districts;
  • Remove the provisions for sanctions on local school districts; and
  • Expand state assessments to include classroom-level tests that would allow NCLB to be used for the first time to directly aid student learning.

The proposals - contained in two separate resolutions - were approved by the Delegate Assembly of the Illinois Association of School Boards (IASB), held during IASB's three-day joint conference with the Illinois Association of School Administrators (IASA) and Illinois Association of School Business Officials (IASBO).

IASB delegates representing local school districts voted unanimously in favor of the reform of NCLB, including a proposal to request lawmakers to provide schools with "necessary resources of funding, professional knowledge and organizational focus."

"Moving problems around within the system will not solve them," the resolution stated, a clear reference to NCLB's student transfer provisions.

"Simply creating negative consequences for underperformance will not change the system," the IASB resolution added.

In their annual business meeting, local school board representatives voted on resolutions that set policies and lobbying directives for the Association for the coming year. The meeting was part of a three-day conference of public school officials that drew more than 11,000 people to Chicago and also featured workshops, clinics, speakers, exhibits, and more than 100 panel discussions.

In other Delegate Assembly voting, school board representatives adopted new resolutions directing IASB to:

  • Urge Illinois lawmakers to commission a retirement system study on the effects of "salary bumps" that sometimes are granted to school teachers and administrators. The study would specifically look at the impact of statutes that now allow up to 20 percent salary increases per year to count toward final pension determinations.
  • support legislation to switch the election date used for choosing school board members from early April of odd-numbered years back to the old date, in early November of odd-numbered years. The sponsors of the resolution said problems have cropped up with the new schedule adopted in 2000, including more inclement weather, budget timing problems, and lower voter turnout.

Besides adopting new positions for IASB, school board delegates also voted to amend existing IASB position statements on reducing dropout rates and changing school accounting practices. Specifically, the delegates voted to urge lawmakers to commit new resources to provide "continuous intervention at the secondary school level" to reduce the dropout rate, and to resist mandating accounting practices, such as accrual basis accounting. Sponsors of the latter plan said that requiring use of certain accounting practices would greatly multiply the difficulty for school managers in preparing school financial statements.

IASB Delegate Assembly voting also included election of the following IASB officers for the coming year:

Raymond Zimmerman was elected to a one-year term as president of the Illinois Association of School Boards. He is a member of the Board of Education of Flanagan C.U. District 4 in Livingston County. A former teacher, he was first elected to the Flanagan school board in 1988. He has served on the IASB Executive Committee since 1999, and has been Director of the Association's Corn Belt Division since 1995. Before he was elected president of IASB he served two terms as vice president.

Marie Slater was elected to a one-year term as vice president of IASB. She is a member of the Wheaton-Warrenville District 200 Board of Education.

Thomas Hannigan was selected by the IASB Board of Directors to serve as treasurer of the Association. He is board president of the Mundelein Community High School District 120 school board.



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