The North Greene Bright Futures program is will be funded for the coming year. The program, which develops parenting skills in at-risk communities had struggled to get its grant funding renewed. Although the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) had $50 million for programming, it opened up grant applications to new programs. With the new competition, Bright Futures fell just short of the cutoff. They would not be funded after 2019.
But North Greene knew that their program had been the model for other early childhood education programs in the area. So when another $20 million was appropriated for programs, they appealed the initial decision. They also reached out to politicians including State Representative Davidsmeyer and Governor Rauner. The Rauners are strong supporters of early childhood education. First Lady Diana Rauner has been heavily involved with the “Ounce of Prevention Fund” for early learning.
The appeal and political support paid off, and the program has been fully funded for the coming year. Additionally, the grant is good for five years, so they will not need to apply again for some time. But with all state grants, money has to be appropriated in the budget for the programs to get the money.
What does Bright Futures do?
Bright Futures has spent more than 20 years developing parents as educators. 75 families are taught how to build a literacy rich environment for their newborns. The ages from birth to three are a foundational time for children, even though they might seem pre-literate. Young children benefit from being communicated with, be it reading or just talking. Early intervention and exposure to literacy is key for a child’s success in school and beyond.
The program also serves as a vital service hub in the North Greene community. Unlike in more urban areas, getting to service provides requires significant travel for rural residents. Not only are there fewer service providers, they are harder to locate for at-risk individuals. By having the Bright Future program, it is easier to direct residents to those services.
North Greene’s Superintendent Mark Scott came into the studio to talk about the importance of the program and the issues they had getting funding. You can watch our full discussion in the player.
Illinois unveiling a new model of accountability to divvy up federal money for schools
Illinois’ education officials are set to unveil new metrics that will decide how much local school districts could receive in federal school improvement funds.
Using the new support and accountability model that’s planned to be released at the end of the month, schools that are struggling could receive $150,000 in Title I federal funds for school improvement, plus additional funds based on enrollment and state and local funding levels in the current school year. Some of those funds would have already been distributed earlier this year, officials said.
Rae Clementz, ISBE’s Director of Assessment and Accountability, said the new accountability and support metrics will provide insight for school officials and the public.
“It helps us depict a better, richer picture of the many ways in which schools are doing wonderful things,” she said.
Much of the new accountability and support model will be based on student data gleaned from PARCC, the acronym for Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. Officials said that, while the test was not going to be conducted, the content would still be delivered and used to measure growth via an Illinois assessment of readiness.
PARCC received criticism from parents and administrators alike for long periods of testing.
One statistic that’s going to be factored in is chronic absenteeism, which measures students missing class for any reason, not just truancy.
“Chronic absenteeism highlights students that may otherwise go unnoticed in average attendance,” Clementz said.
Absenteeism figures will be higher than chronic truancy, which only measures unexcused absences. In the 2015 school year, the most recent year for which data was available, 335,094 Illinois students missed at least 10 percent of their school days. This is what advocacy group Attendance Works classifies as “chronically absent.”
Patrick Payne, director of Data Strategies and Analytics with ISBE said there will also be new information on teacher quality released, measuring certain credentials and “the number of inexperienced teachers.”
The new measurements will not affect the state’s school funding formula that went into effect this year.
Article by Cole Lauterbach with Illinois News Network. For more INN News visit ILnews.org
UIS to hold Bicentennial “History Harvest”
What connects you or your family to Illinois? If you have photographs, letters, documents, or objects that connect you to Illinois, you can bring them to the History Harvest to be digitized. Students from UIS will scan, photograph, and otherwise digitize your items to become part of their bicentennial collection. After the harvest is complete, there will be an online collection of the items brought in. You get to keep your items. Once the digitization is done, you can go home with your items.
The event is free and open to the public. If you have an item you consider historic in relation to Illinois, bring it in. The History Harvest will take place at Innovate Springfield, at the corner of 5th and Adam on the Old State Capitol Plaza. Doors open at 10 AM and will go until 2 PM.
To see the results of the 2016 History Harvest, check out the online collection. For more information, visit www.uis.edu/history/
District 186 unveils Phase One of “Our Schools, Our Future” master plan
The “Our Schools, Our Future” plan took another step forward with the release of the Master Plan document. “Our Schools, Our Future” is the comprehensive facilities plan for District 186. Complied over years of research and nine community engagement events, this plan lays out a long-range vision for the district’s buildings and campuses.
After reviewing the feedback from last’s years community engagement events, the district has released the Phase 1 for implementing their vision. The plan lists proposed improvements at 33 district facilities over the next ten to twelve years. Some of the changes are small. Enos Elementary was allocated just $41,000 for security upgrades. But most of the improvements are quite substantial. Schools like Fairview Elementary and Washington Middle School are being expanded to replace the modular classrooms that they currently rely on. Springfield High and Lanphier High Schools are both slated for “comprehensive reconstruction.” The high school projects will cost over $40 million each. In total, there are more than $190 million in planned improvements around the district.
How will it be paid for?
The district is looking at a number of ways of paying for these projects. Some of it can be covered by “Health Life Safety” (HLS) funding. HLS funds can only be used for specific projects; typically those necessary for the safety of students and faculty. But the district is really pinning their hopes on the proposed sales tax increase. Districts in Sangamon County have called for a one percent sales tax increase to be used for facilities improvements. Money raised from the tax will be distributed to districts in the county on a per capita basis. That question will be on the November ballot.
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