April 18, 2014
Dr. Christopher Koch
State Superintendent of Education
Illinois State Board of Education
100 North First Street
Springfield, IL 62777
Dear Superintendent Koch:
I am pleased to approve Illinois’ request for ESEA flexibility. I congratulate you on submitting a request that demonstrates Illinois’ commitment to improving academic achievement and increasing the quality of instruction for all of its elementary and secondary school students.
In the fall of 2011, the U.S. Department of Education (Department) offered States the opportunity to request flexibility from certain requirements of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, in exchange for rigorous and comprehensive plans designed to improve educational outcomes for all students, close achievement gaps, increase equity, and improve the quality of instruction. This flexibility is intended to support the groundbreaking reforms already taking place in many States and districts that we believe hold promise for improving outcomes for students. We are encouraged by the innovative thinking and strong commitment to improving achievement for all students that is evident in Illinois’ request.
Our decision to approve Illinois’ request for ESEA flexibility is based on our determination that the request meets the four principles articulated in the Department’s September 23, 2011, document titled ESEA Flexibility (updated June 7, 2012). In particular, Illinois has: (1) demonstrated that it has college- and career-ready expectations for all students; (2) developed, and has a high-quality plan to implement, a system of differentiated recognition, accountability, and support for all Title I districts and schools in Illinois; (3) committed to develop, adopt, pilot, and implement teacher and principal evaluation and support systems that support student achievement; and (4) provided an assurance that it will evaluate and, based on that evaluation, revise its administrative requirements to reduce duplication and unnecessary burden on districts and schools. Our decision is also based on Illinois’ assurance that it will meet these four principles by implementing the high-quality plans and other elements described in its request and in accordance with the required timelines. In approving Illinois’ request, I have taken into consideration the feedback that was received from the panel of peer experts and Department staff who reviewed Illinois’ request, as well as Illinois’ revisions to its request in response to that feedback. I thank you and your staff for your cooperation in working to reach a final agreement on your request.
The waivers that comprise ESEA flexibility are being granted to Illinois pursuant to my authority in section 9401 of the ESEA. A complete list of the statutory provisions I am waiving is set forth in the table enclosed with this letter. In accordance with section 9401(d)(1) of the ESEA, I am granting waivers of these provisions through the end of the 2015–2016 school year. In the coming days, you will receive a letter from Deborah Delisle, Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education, containing additional information regarding requirements for Illinois’ implementation of ESEA flexibility, monitoring, and reporting.
Please note that, although I am confident that Illinois’ request meets the principles of ESEA flexibility and will increase the quality of instruction and improve student achievement, the Department will closely monitor Illinois’ implementation of its request. In particular, we will review Illinois’ use of a combined subgroup to ensure that it does not mask the performance of individual ESEA subgroups. Further, in the interest of continuous improvement, we expect Illinois to review its progress and performance on a regular basis and make adjustments as needed to strengthen its accountability system.
Illinois continues to have an affirmative responsibility to ensure that it and its districts are in compliance with Federal civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability, and age. These laws include Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, and requirements under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
A copy of Illinois’ approved request for ESEA flexibility will be posted on the Department’s Web site at: http://www.ed.gov/esea/flexibility/requests. Again, I congratulate you on the approval of Illinois’ request for ESEA flexibility and thank you for the work you and your staff have done. I look forward to continuing to support Illinois as you implement your ESEA flexibility request and work to increase the quality of instruction and improve academic achievement for all students.
cc: Governor Pat Quinn
Susan C. Morrison, Deputy Superintendent/Chief Education Officer, Illinois State Board of Education
Gery J. Chico, Chairman, Illinois State Board of Education