October 5, 2016

E4E-Chicago shares priorities for Illinois' transition to the Every Student Succeeds Act

As Illinois prepares for its transition to the Every Student Succeeds Act, the Illinois State Board of Education is seeking public comment on how the law's regulations will impact teachers, parents, schools, districts and—most importantly—students. 

Based on previous teacher recommendations around improving teacher evaluations and professional development, E4E-Chicago submitted the following comments to the board. 

To: Dr. Tony Smith, State Superintendent of Education

From: Acasia Wilson Feinberg, Executive Director, E4E-Chicago and the members of E4E-Chicago

Subject: Comments on ISBE Draft ESSA Plan

Date: September 30, 2016


As a teacher-led organization, we strongly urge you to consider the voice of teachers in developing Illinois’ ESSA plan. Teachers are not only a required stakeholder for input gathering under the law, our professional expertise and classroom perspectives will be invaluable as our state designs the measures, programs and supports that have the potential to positively impact our classrooms and careers for many years to come.

Educators 4 Excellence-Chicago’s more than 3,200 members are part of a quickly growing national network of 20,000 educators. E4E members learn about education policy and research, network with like-minded peers and policymakers, and take action by advocating for teacher-created policies that both lift student achievement and the teaching profession.

Over the last two years, E4E-Chicago members authored two policy papers after reviewing best practices, conducting local research and gathering feedback. Their recommendations on how to improve teacher evaluations (2016) and professional development (2015) inform our comments on the draft ESSA plan for the State of Illinois.

First, we focus on Section 4.2, which outlines how the SEA will use Title II, Part A funds to increase the quality and effectiveness of teachers. Specifically, we recommend better alignment between teacher evaluation data and targeted professional development. Additionally, we support the use of effective teachers as mentors for delivering professional development to their colleagues. The bolded text shows our recommendations.


(Section 4.2) Support for Educators

Resources to Support State-level Strategies:

  • (p. 35) Content experts should provide support for these resources through professional development opportunities that are aligned with teacher evaluation results.

  • (pp. 35-36) Districts, especially those identified for comprehensive services, should be provided professional learning opportunities that include strategies regarding leadership, learning communities, data, outcomes, resources, learning design, implementation, and recruitment and retention of teachers in high_poverty and/or high_minority districts, which may be delivered through mentoring from effective teachers working in a hybrid teacher-leader role.

  • (p. 36) This professional learning should be aligned to teacher evaluation data and will improve the quality and effectiveness of teachers, principals, and administrators and improve student academic achievement.


We also recommend that the following suggestions be incorporated into the plan to more strongly link teacher evaluations with appropriate and targeted professional development. Aligning these two components of teacher development in the state plan will ensure that teachers are, in fact, supported to improve in the domains they need the most:


  • ISBE should mandate that districts align their definition of "professional development" with the domains and indicators in the teacher evaluation system.

  • ISBE should require districts to analyze the degree to which the professional development offered is aligned with teacher evaluation results and the domains in which teachers in these schools need support.


In addition to our comments from E4E-Chicago’s Teacher Policy Teams, we also submit comments based on responses from more than 100 teachers via surveys and focus groups.

(Section 3.1) Accountability system

School quality measures (p. 15):

  • Our teachers overwhelmingly suggested using social-emotional learning indicators or a school climate indicator as the additional indicator of student success for the state accountability system.

(Section 3.3) State Support and Improvement for Low-performing Schools

Evidence-based interventions (p. 30):

When asked what kinds of supports or interventions the state should provide schools identified for improvement, some common themes were that the state should provide:

  • More modeling to explicitly show educators what is expected and coaching on how to go about implementing those expectations.

  • Additional staffing, resources, programs, and school-based interventions.

  • Funding and support for teacher-led professional development.

(Section 4.1) Systems of Educator Development, Retention, and Advancement

Our Teacher Action Team for Teacher Diversity engaged 68 teachers through seven focus groups to create policy recommendations to increase teacher diversity and retain teachers of color in Illinois. We believe that the educator development portion of Title II is an opportunity to include measures that would help recruit, develop, and retain teachers of color.

  • (p. 34) With regard to “All approved educator preparation programs,” we recommend that ISBE adds a requirement for approved programs to demonstrate courses or trainings that use culturally relevant pedagogy.

(Section 4.3) Educator Equity

Definitions (p. 39)

  • With regard to  defining “ineffective or inexperienced” teachers, our members recommended that the state use multiple measures to determine a definition of “effective,” including student growth. Additionally, teachers suggested looking at teachers’ demonstrated cultural awareness during teacher observations if it is not already part of an existing teacher evaluation system.

Title II Funding Option for States

Lastly, ESSA provides opportunities for state Chiefs to use Title II funding in innovative ways to help improve teacher and leader quality and ultimately increase student success.  As such, our members recommend Illinois to use optional funds for competitive grants that promote teacher leadership.

  • (pp. 35-36) ISBE should opt to reserve the 3% of overall funds for statewide activities for competitive grants around innovative teacher leadership roles and teacher-led professional development in schools.


Thank you for partnership and we hope you will continue to encourage teachers to give input in the Illinois State ESSA plan.


You can tell the Illinois State Board of Education what matters to you on the issues above and more—go here to submit your comments by Friday, October 7, 2016.