By Bob Zigmund
Saint Ignatius College Prep
Laura Docherty opened the meeting by welcoming the crowd and discussed her excitement with the ongoing governmental relationships IACAC is experiencing both in the state of Illinois and in Washington D.C.
Dr. Lynne Haeffele was the main speaker at the Town Hall meeting. Dr. Haeffele is the Senior Policy Director for Education in the Office of the Lieutenant Governor. Lt. Governor Sheila Simon is the point person on education reform for Governor Quinn. Lt. Governor Simon chairs the Joint Educational Leadership Committee which is composed of eight ex-officio members representing the heads of the State Board of Education, the Board of Higher Education, the Community Colleges Board, the Early Learning Council, the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, the Student Assistance Commission, the Illinois Math and Science Academy, and the Illinois Education Research Council.
A main focus for the Lt. Governor’s office is the concept of “P20 education.” The P20 Council was established in 2008 and their mission is to streamline a continuum of academic, social, and financial support for students from pre-school through (and beyond) college. Overall college and career readiness is a topic that continues to be examined in this spectrum. The main goal is to increase the proportion of Illinois residents with high quality degrees and credentials to 60% by the year 2025.
Currently, only about 41 percent of the state’s nearly 7 million working-age adults (25-64 years old) hold at least a two-year degree. Dr. Haeffele said that a “laser focus” is needed in order to achieve this goal. She also shared what need have been identified by the Joint Planning Committee with P20 leaders in Illinois. These include: better overall articulation needed (at all levels); better math preparation for students, and support for teachers in order to comply with upcoming state standards. Also, Dr. Haeffele said that a better investment in post-secondary planning (i.e. access to information regarding post-secondary options at an earlier age), such as the Illinois Pathways Initiative and other programs is necessary. This is a prime area where the membership and knowledge-base of IACAC can come into play. When looking at school counseling, college advisement and college admissions, all elements should be seamless in the eyes of the P20 Council. Dr. Haeffele said that the “noise in the system that needs to be looked at.”
Dr. Haeffele went on to discuss the GEAR UP Program and a case study between Springfield School Districts (higher poverty-level students) and other districts that have fewer poverty-level students. In both cases, the districts are sending the same percentages of students to college. Springfield is experiencing a comparative success due to the post-secondary coaches (GEAR UP) working individually and with student cohorts from middle school through graduation. This is an ideal position for retired school counselors.
Bill Morrison spoke after Dr. Haeffele in order to better explain the goals, activities, and concerns of the IACAC Government Relations Committee. Some main concerns identified include:
Students who satisfy the minimum ISBE graduation standards do not meet the course requirements for any public Illinois four year university.
Specific language needs to be introduced so that districts know that they can use Title I funds for college counseling in their high schools. It is currently allowed but without clear language, some districts are hesitant.
There have been conversations about renaming the SEOG state grant after Ted Kennedy so that funding will be more certain (i.e. the government won’t take away funds if it is named after someone)
Finally, it is of utmost importance for our state to examine what it is doing to retain Illinois high school students for their post-secondary education because 50% of all students who leave Illinois for colleges in other states will not ultimately return to Illinois. This represents a future loss of $700 million. Conversations should be framed around jobs and revenue. (i.e. What would happen to Monmouth, IL if Monmouth College was gone?)
General suggestions from attendees included ongoing IACAC Listserv conversations as well as short snippets of GRC news items to IACAC members.