Advance Illinois Launches Equity Dashboard

The new Evidence-Based Funding (EBF) model for school fundingin Illinois has had the first $350 million payment delivered earlier this month. This new funding begins the process of improving Illinois’s worst-in-the-nation funding equityby targeting the largest increases in state funding to the districts furthest from an adequate level of funding based on the EBF formula. Illinois still has a long way to go until every school district is adequately funded, but this payment represents an important first step on that journey.

To help families and communities understand what the new EBF model means in terms of money for their local school district, Advance Illinois has created an Equity Dashboard. The interactive dashboard allows you to see an overview of state funding levels, a comparison of school districts across the state, compare student demographics, and lookup your local school district to see its current level of funding and how the new funding will affect the district.

Photo © 2003 by Jacob Edwardunder Creative Commons license.


The Importance of Teacher Leadership for Student Success

It’s sometimes said that teachers reach the pinnacle of their career the first day they walk into their classroom. Unless they wanted to go into administration, a classroom teacher had no advancement track. But that is changing in many school districts as they begin to embrace teacher leadership.

What is Teacher Leadership?

Teacher leadership can take many forms and will vary from district to district or even school to school. The National Network of State Teachers of the Year (NNSTOY) helped to create the Teacher Leader Model Standards. These standards spell out seven domains where teachers can be leaders while remaining in the classroom:

  1. Fostering a Collaborative Culture to Support Educator Development and Student Learning
  2. Accessing and Using Research to Improve Practice and Student Learning
  3. Promoting Professional Learning for Continuous Improvement
  4. Facilitating Improvements in Instruction and Student Learning
  5. Promoting the Use of Assessments and Data for School and District Improvement
  6. Improving Outreach and Collaboration with Families and Community
  7. Advocating for Student Learning and the Profession

In Illinois, the Illinois Teacher Leadership Network (ITLN), of which Illinois PTA is a member, is working to help define teacher leadership in Illinois, to help the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) recognize teacher leadership, and to help school districts implement teacher leadership.

Many school districts may already be implementing some types of teacher leadership without formally calling it that. In some districts, this is a necessity because there may not be separate staff available to fill some roles. In others, it may be due to the district’s recognizing the importance of teacher mentors, the need to improve professional development or instruction, or the desire to use the additional data schools are collecting to improve student outcomes.

Why is Teacher Leadership Important?

Teacher leadership provides opportunities for teachers to grow in their profession without leaving the classroom that they love. In districts where teacher leadership is being embraced, teachers are happier with their school, which means there is less teacher turnover.

A recent report by the New Teacher Center on the effect of teacher leadership on student achievement provided research-based results identifying how these two are linked. The report, called School Leadership Counts, notes that:

  • Students perform better in schools with the highest levels of instructional and teacher leadership.
  • Involving teachers in the decision-making processes related to school improvement planning and student conduct result in higher student achievement.
  • High-poverty schools often lack teacher leadership elements that improve student achievement, which limits students’ potential at those schools.

What Role Do Parents and PTAs Have with Teacher Leadership?

It’s important to remember that Domain VI of the Teacher Leader Model Standards focuses on improving outreach and collaboration with families and communities. PTAs and their families can encourage their school and district administration to learn about and implement teacher leadership as a way of improving student achievement. They can also work with their administration to help improve family engagement through programs such as the National PTA School of Excellence. Finally, it is important to recognize that schools and districts that embrace teacher leadership and including teachers in the decision-making processes are also schools and districts that are likely to embrace parent leadership and inclusion in decision-making.

Learn More at the Illinois PTA Convention

Steven Elza, the 2015 Illinois State Teacher of the Year and an ITLN member, will be presenting a workshop on teacher leadership at the Illinois PTA Convention on Saturday, May 5th. Don’t miss out on this and other great workshops. Register for convention today!

Photo courtesy US Air Force/Kelly Deichert.

Illinois Student Advisory Council Launches Student Voices Microsite with ISBE

The Student Advisory Council (SAC), which provides feedback and insights to the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), launched a new Student Voices microsite at to create space for students statewide to ask and answer questions about preparing for their futures.

The microsite links to resources such as the Illinois Reality Check personal budgeting application, the Illinois Student Assistance Commission’s guide on paying for college, the Illinois PaCE: Postsecondary and Career Expectations framework, and ISBE’s resources for dealing with health topics such as bullying.

“The members of the State Board and I deeply appreciate the good work and leadership of the Student Advisory Council and the value their voices bring to the table,” said State Superintendent of Education Tony Smith, Ph.D. “The thoughtfulness they have put into this project shows just a small fraction of their contributions to ISBE and to their school communities. This new microsite provides a critical vehicle for including student voices in the conversation about improving workforce development and career pathways.”

The microsite originated from the SAC’s yearlong project on college and career preparation that they presented to the State Board at last week’s board meeting. The SAC identified post-high school readiness as a common source of stress for themselves and their peers.

“There’s not a single student unaffected by the overwhelming state of our current transition process,” said Neha Arun, a junior at Carterville High School and member of the Student Advisory Council. “School counselors are stretched so thin that students are not getting the one-on-one guidance they need. We hope the Student Voices website can help fill a gap in delivering resources and create space for students to express their shared worries and questions.”

The microsite provides opportunities for any student to share information and experiences with each other through questions, answers, photos, and quotes.

“A school’s culture and socioeconomic status often determine the types of information students receive,” said Kathleen Rock, a senior at Byron High School and member of the Student Advisory Council. “Increasing the availability of information about diverse options and ways to prepare can help decrease inequity across Illinois. We want to improve students’ abilities to choose and prepare for their next step after high school, whether technical education, service in the Armed Forces, or college.”

The members of the Student Advisory Council are a diverse group of active students who have demonstrated outstanding leadership and teamwork abilities. Applications for the 2018-19 Student Advisory Council are available at

View the full list of 2017-18 members, many of whom are available for comment, at

Early Learning Council’s New Guidelines for Community Engagement

The value of PTA can be measured in a wide variety of ways, but one of the most strategic is representation of the parent community at the state level through participation in meaningful relationships. One such relationship is with the Illinois Early Learning Council. Created by Public Act 93-380, the Council is a public-private partnership designed to strengthen, coordinate, and expand programs and services for children, birth to five, throughout Illinois. The Council builds on current programs to ensure a comprehensive, statewide early learning system (preschool, child care, Head Start, health care, and support programs for parents) to improve the lives of Illinois children and families.

The mission of the Council is to collaborate with child-serving systems and families to meet the needs of young children, prioritizing those with the highest need, through comprehensive early learning services for children and families prenatally to age five. The Illinois PTA continues to be part of the Early Learning Council, and a representative serves on the Principles and Practices subcommittee. Ongoing dialogue about the need for age-appropriate learning experiences has prompted the development of the Guidelines for Community Engagement (included in the ZIP file).

We believe these guidelines can assist parents of young children, as well as PTA leaders, in creating a dialogue with teachers and administrators centered on the Illinois Early Learning Standards, as well as with the community at large with regard to the value of high quality early learning programs. In addition, PTA Councils in districts with an early learning program may wish to meet with their district about forming an early learning PTA to serve as a resource for family communication and education.