Project Lead: Jill Shively
Over the past 4 years, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) has been conducting an external evaluation of its statewide school improvement system, called IL-EMPOWER. Based on this ongoing evaluation, ISBE has made several updates to better serve schools that are identified for Comprehensive Support and Improvement (CSI) and Targeted Support and Improvement (TSI). As reported in the ISBE Strategic Plan 2020-2021 Annual Status Report, 42 percent of the 202 schools identified for CSI in 2018 exited this status 1 year later, whereas 58 percent remained. The updated IL-EMPOWER system includes new reporting and partnership structures for the state’s IL-EMPOWER coordinators. When implemented with fidelity and a commitment to continuous improvement, IL-EMPOWER has the potential to improve student achievement and reduce the number of chronically underperforming student subgroups in schools across the state.
The Region 9 Comprehensive Center (R9CC) and ISBE are collaborating to support the implementation and continuous improvement of IL-EMPOWER. In 2020–21, R9CC worked with ISBE leadership to update and clarify the roles and responsibilities of the IL-EMPOWER coordinators as well as provide professional development on Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requirements related to identification and selection of evidence-based practices. The 2021–22 project year will focus on assisting ISBE in drafting an internal IL-EMPOWER 5-year plan that aligns with ISBE’s 2020–23 strategic plan and the state’s ESSA plan. R9CC will support the coordinators through a community of practice (CoP) structure that includes monthly sessions with coordinators and regular planning and progress monitoring with ISBE leadership. Through an initial needs-sensing process, R9CC and ISBE will identify and prioritize several key problems on which the CoP will focus during this project year. The problems of practice will be aligned with the IL-EMPOWER school improvement process and focus on building coordinators’ knowledge and skills related to using data, identifying and selecting evidence-based practices, and operating as a collaborative team to support school improvement.