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August 15, 2005


SPRINGFIELD - Targeting a key element of school reform, the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE) will act on creating a commission to examine school leader preparation programs and recommend improvements in the way principals and superintendents are trained.

The proposal for the Commission on School Leader Preparation in Illinois Colleges and Universities comes on the heels of recent reports criticizing graduate programs that prepare educators to advance from the classroom to administration of schools and school districts.

The Board will meet at 9 a.m., Tuesday, August 23, at Roosevelt University in Chicago, when it also will hear a report on fiscal 2007 budget preparations, vote on model associate degree programs for teachers in special education and early childhood education, and consider final recommendations of its Committee on Priorities, Productivity, and Accountability.

A report to the Board proposing the school leadership commission notes that a recent study - Educating School Leaders by Arthur Levine of Columbia University - concluded that "school leader preparation programs are in curricular disarray, disconnected from what is needed to run a school or school system." The Levine study criticized such programs for low admissions and graduation requirements, weak faculty, poor research, inadequate clinical instruction, and an inappropriate degree/credentialing structure for the school leader profession.

The commission, if approved by the Board, will be asked to:

  • Evaluate the Levine study and others as a context for reviewing Illinois programs.
  • Examine the present state of school leader preparation in Illinois, including program quality, recruitment practices, admissions and graduation standards, curricular relevance and bloat, quality of clinical experiences, and appropriateness of the degree/credentialing sequence.
  • Explore the impact of external influences such as regulatory and accountability requirements and funding sources on school leader preparation programs.
  • Analyze findings to prepare recommendations on revamping such programs.

The commission, to be chaired by Cordelia Meyer, a member of the IBHE and executive vice president of the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club, and Dianne Ashby, interim vice president of university advancement at Illinois State University, is to issue a preliminary report to the Board by December 2005.

Board members will get a preview of the fiscal landscape for the 2007 budget year. A "budget context" report notes that while general fund revenue is projected to rise by $517 million this fiscal year, the growth trend "likely will not yield a base large enough to meet all the needs and wants of the state in fiscal year 2007." The report also points out that many of the strategic goals that drove the Board's budget recommendations for FY06 remain to be fulfilled in fiscal 2007, including additional funding for need-based student financial aid, salary competitiveness for faculty and staff, repair and maintenance of college and university facilities, and efforts to bolster access and diversity.

The Board will be asked to approve two model Associate of Arts in Teaching degrees, one in special education, the other in early childhood education. The models serve as the basis for community colleges to determine specific courses that will enable students to transfer to senior institutions to complete their bachelor degrees and teacher certification. The model A.A.T.s - the Board already has approved model programs in math and science - are designed to alleviate teacher shortages in certain disciplines by making it easier for students who begin their education at community colleges to transfer credits into a baccalaureate institution. Students who complete the A.A.T. and pass the state's basic skills test will be able to enter teacher preparation programs on the same academic footing as an institution's native students.

Approval of final recommendations of the Board's Priorities, Productivity, and Accountability (PPA) Committee also is on the August agenda. The Committee has examined issues related to academic programming and state regulatory practices in search of ways to promote efficiencies and sharpen institutional and state focus on core mission activities. Among the Committee's recommendations are creation of a consumer information website; linking development of academic programs to the state's workforce needs; strengthening oversight of proprietary institutions, particularly online programs; and establishing a working group to implement proposals to streamline statutory and regulatory requirements.

Board members will act on allocation of $4.7 million in FY06 grants under the Higher Education Cooperation Act. The grants assist in strengthening college readiness among students with weak high school preparation, broadening access to higher education and success in college for students with generally low rates of participation in college, and promoting diversity of Illinois higher education faculty.


Don Sevener



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