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May 29, 2007


SPRINGFIELD – Higher education must improve communications with high schools about college readiness if the P-12 system is to adequately prepare graduates for the academic rigors of college, according to David Spence, a national expert on education reform.

Spence, the President of the Southern Regional Education Board, will address the Illinois Board of Higher Education at its regular meeting on Tuesday, June 5, in Springfield. The Board will convene at 9:00 a.m. at the President Abraham Lincoln Hotel.

“We are thrilled to welcome David Spence to Springfield,” said IBHE Chairwoman Carrie Hightman. “Dr. Spence has extensive experience implementing successful higher education initiatives, and the Board looks forward to learning from his expertise as we work to bring best practices that benefit our students to Illinois.”

In a variety of educational leadership positions, Spence has been an effective voice for creating closer links between higher education and P-12 schools, particularly in the growing movement to align high school curriculum with what colleges expect students to know when they walk into the classroom. Spence maintains that, presently, higher education does not send a clear, consistent message about readiness standards for college-level work. In addition, he suggests that such readiness standards generally are not highlighted as part of the state-adopted school standards or given weight in accountability systems that guide high school teaching priorities.

Strengthening college readiness, Spence contends, will require states to set concrete readiness standards for all of public higher education and then ensure that the standards are components of state-adopted school standards, assessments, and accountability systems.

As President of SREB, the nation’s first interstate compact dedicated to helping government and education leaders collaborate to improve student performance, Spence oversees the nation’s largest school improvement network and the nation’s largest educational technology collaborative. Until 2005, Spence was the Executive Vice Chancellor and Chief Academic Officer of the California State University System, where he helped implement an initiative to better prepare high school students for college and increase graduation rates.

Board members will also vote on budget items for two programs, including the Health Services Education Grant Act (HSEGA) and the Diversifying Higher Education Faculty in Illinois Program.

The Board will consider allocation of $16.7 million in grants under the Health Services Education Grant Program (HSEGA) to 57 private institutions and hospitals for fiscal 2007. HSEGA grants are used to support independent Illinois institutions that educate and train health professionals. Designed to increase the number of health professionals in Illinois, these grants help institutions cover the high cost of health education programs. Eligible programs include medicine, dentistry, optometry, podiatry, pharmacy, allied health, nursing, and selected medical residency programs.

The Board will also vote on allocating $2.8 million in grants for the Diversifying Higher Education Faculty in Illinois Program. The program is designed to increase the number of minority faculty and staff at Illinois’ colleges and universities by providing financial assistance to minority students pursuing graduate and professional degrees in Illinois.


Don Sevener



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