From: Cayata Dixon

State watch list eyed for schools 

Oversight panel may be created

By Stephanie Banchero
Tribune staff reporter

October 19, 2001

SPRINGFIELD -- The Illinois State Board of Education is considering creating the 
state's first-ever academic watch list of troubled elementary schools, and all eight 
of the schools eligible for the roster are in Chicago.

If the state compiles such a list it would mean creating an oversight panel that would 
help the Chicago system implement a plan for improving student performance at those 

The panel, appointed by the state superintendent, would have the power to override 
decisions made by the Chicago Board of Education. And, if the schools don't improve, 
the state could remove the local board, withhold tax dollars or reassign a school's 
pupils and administrators, effectively shutting it down.

Although the state board has had the power to create the academic watch list for a 
decade, it has never done so.

During a state board meeting Thursday, Chairman Ron Gidwitz said he supports compiling 
the list this year.

"I think it's a fundamental moral issue," Gidwitz said. "Some of these schools have 
been in trouble since 1997. If we have children at risk, why keep putting them even 
more at risk? Isn't it incumbent upon us to do something to help them now?"

But state Supt. Glenn "Max" McGee said he is not sure about whether the board can 
legally create a watch list this year.

Schools first go onto an academic warning list if more than 50 percent of students 
fail to meet state testing standards two years in a row. They can move to the more 
severe watch list if students fail to make enough progress in the third year, and if 
the state determines local officials are not doing enough to remedy the situation.

Seventy schools were put on the warning list in 1998. But the state suspended the 
watch and warning lists in 1999 and 2000 because they created a new, more rigorous 
method for testing students, the Illinois Standards Achievement Test.

Because of the change in testing methods, there could be legal questions about whether 
the state can create a watch list this year, McGee said. McGhee said he will research 
the issue for the board's November meeting.

Still, the board has monitored the 70 schools and says eight elementary schools are 
failing to make adequate progress. They are Anderson Community Academy, Faraday, 
Hamline, Morton, Cather, Medill, Doolittle and Bethune.

Chicago Public School officials did not return repeated calls for comment.

The board already has decided to create an academic warning list in November.

If they decide also to compile a watch list, board employees would visit each school 
and determine whether it is making improvement. If not, the school would go on the 

McGee said he does not want to create the watch list this year, preferring to start 
with the 2001 warning list.

Copyright (c) 2001, Chicago Tribune

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