Fast track for P-20 tracking

Print More

The state senate unanimously passed a bill Wednesday that could boost Illinois’ chances for landing so-called “Race to the Top” education grants under the federal stimulus package. Sponsored by state Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago), the bill lays the groundwork for a statewide “P-20” data system that will track students throughout their academic careers, from preschool to graduate school.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has stressed repeatedly that states and school districts need to spend stimulus dollars in forward-thinking ways, or lose out on nearly $5 billion in additional stimulus grants that will be awarded on a competitive basis this fall.

The creation of a longitudinal data system is one of four requirements laid out under President Barack Obama’s education stimulus plan. The president is also expecting states to beef up student assessments, teacher quality programs and intervention strategies for struggling schools.

The state senate unanimously passed a bill Wednesday that could boost Illinois’ chances for landing so-called “Race to the Top” education grants under the federal stimulus package. Sponsored by state Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago), the bill lays the groundwork for a statewide “P-20” data system that will track students throughout their academic careers, from preschool to graduate school.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has stressed repeatedly that states and school districts need to spend stimulus dollars in forward-thinking ways, or lose out on nearly $5 billion in additional stimulus grants that will be awarded on a competitive basis this fall.

The creation of a longitudinal data system is one of four requirements laid out under President Barack Obama’s education stimulus plan. The president is also expecting states to beef up student assessments, teacher quality programs and intervention strategies for struggling schools.

“States that aren’t doing the right thing will eliminate themselves from competition,” Duncan said at a press conference this week. “We will only work with states that commit to all those reforms.”

Gov. Pat Quinn allocated $2 million for a P-20 data system in his budget proposal last month.

Steans’ bill calls for a system that would assign identification numbers to both students and teachers. Jessica Dixon, deputy press secretary for Senate President John Cullerton, says that the tracking system would enable educators to pinpoint and evaluate the effectiveness of particular lesson plans, programs and teachers.

The Illinois State Board of Education, the Illinois Board of Higher Education and the Illinois Community College Board are backing the bill.

Charter schools, which have historically had greater flexibility and freedom in choosing data management tools, would also be expected to use the state’s system. Otherwise, Dixon says, children educated in charter programs could matriculate into traditional public or parochial schools with unknown holes in their skill set.

“There hasn’t been a tracking system for charter schools because it’s assumed that they are good students,” Dixon contends. “Putting the charter schools under the umbrella means that everyone will be held accountable.”

The bill now heads over to the House Rules Committee, and advocates hope to see legislators take action in the coming month.

–Elizabeth Blass