Over the past several 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)—designations received by 755 schools as of 2019. Now called IL-EMPOWER 2.0, the updated system includes new reporting and partnership structures and a modified role for the state’s IL-EMPOWER coordinators. If IL-EMPOWER 2.0 is implemented with fidelity and a commitment to continuous improvement, it will make a large impact on improving student achievement and reducing the number of chronically underperforming student subgroups in schools across the state.
The Region 9 Comprehensive Center (R9CC) is collaborating with ISBE to support the implementation and continuous improvement of IL-EMPOWER 2.0. In 2020–21, R9CC is working with ISBE leadership on plans to implement IL-EMPOWER 2.0 and defining the roles and responsibilities of the IL-EMPOWER coordinators. Then, R9CC will support the coordinators through a community of practice 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 community of practice will focus during this project. The problems of practice will be aligned with the Illinois Strategic Plan 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.