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​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​FROM THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: Leaving a Legacy

Betheny Lyke, Ed.D. Director, Illinois Center for School Improvement


The Illinois Center for School Improvement (Illinois CSI) at American Institutes for Research has spent the last four years actively working with districts identified by the Illinois State Board of Education across the state to improve teacher practice and student performance at each and every school. When we first partnered with many of these districts, they were hesitant about conducting a needs assessment, setting worthy targets, or creating a continuous improvement plan. But their willingness and enthusiasm to learn these skills, receive the resources we have provided, and accept coaching from our staff have led to improvements in students' outcomes. We see this firsthand when we walk the halls of these schools, and the data show us that this is true.

The Illinois CSI approach evokes the evolution and transformation of school districts. In partnership, we have pushed ourselves, stretched our capabilities, and grown—all to the ultimate benefit of students. For any school district—high performing or in need of improvement; rural, suburban, or urban; small or large—one thing is clear: It takes collective effort, beginning with the guidance and fortitude of district and school leaders to achieve systemic change. The districts we serve have accepted that challenge, and their efforts are paying off.

Looking to the future, we want to leave them with a legacy of sustainability that includes the skills, knowledge, and tools to guide their ongoing school improvement efforts. There is nothing more gratifying to us than to see the districts we proudly serve put into practice what they have learned during our collaboration.

We hope they also recognize the legacy that they are leaving in their districts. Administrators, teachers, and staff have received the training opportunities, support, and resources necessary to continue to improve their practice and promote increased student achievement. Those students will, in turn, have the confidence and knowledge to live life to their fullest potential—a true lasting legacy.

As these leaders continue to lead the transformation of schools in their district, I hope they will take the time to step back and see the ways in which this legacy is coming to life.

Betheny Lyke, Ed.D.


Fairmont 89 School District Strengthens its Intentional Data System

Dr. Lela Bridges, Superintendent, Fairmont 89 PreK–8 School District
Zarita Beal, School Leader, Fairmont 89 PreK–8 School District

Illinois CSI has been working with Fairmont 89 PreK–8 School District to provide leadership teams with the tools and resources necessary to engage in data-driven decision making and support teachers' implementation of evidence-based practices. The District Leadership Team (DLT) is composed of the superintendent, Dr. Lela Bridges (pictured at left); school leader Zarita Beal (pictured at right); and teacher leaders in the lower and upper grades. The DLT meets monthly to analyze grade-level student performance data using a Data Analysis Protocol developed by Illinois CSI. The DLT has identified trends from the data and has used that information to streamline the classroom walk-through tools to focus on lesson differentiation and students' engagement in reading/language arts and mathematics. The DLT has been trained on the use of the EQUIP Protocol, which is a document review tool for determining whether a teacher's unit or lesson is aligned to college and career standards in a particular content area. Student work samples are examined along with a lesson/task from the curriculum unit to determine how students performed. The document reviewer(s) (administrator or teacher teams) provide suggestions to the teacher for improving the unit/assignment.

Once the DLT was trained on the EQUIP Protocol, the entire staff received training on the March 2017 Institute Day led by Illinois CSI staff. Fairmont 89 staff rely heavily on formative assessment data to drive instruction; however, the staff were trained on how to analyze the PARCC Evidence Statement reports to determine which standards students have mastered and the standards on which students at each grade level could use additional instructional support.

Zarita Beal, Fairmont 89 school leader, will follow up with staff to identify similar findings from formative assessment and PARCC summative assessment data and next steps in curricular development/mapping. Principal Beal shared the following observations regarding the districts' continuous improvement process.

"Illinois CSI supported our staff with the creation of a district improvement plan. I wanted this plan to be actualized in every classroom; therefore, I have been working with teachers weekly during ILT [Instructional Leadership Team] meetings to keep the focus on data-driven decision making and evidence-based practices to support learners. Our district worthy targets or strategies focus on data-driven decision making to inform academic and behavioral supports. As our District Leadership Team reflected on our Intentional Data System, we realized that assessment literacy needed greater attention. I couldn't really say with confidence that our staff had a common understanding of the various assessments being administered and the purposes of each one. As a school leader, I needed to be intentional about making sure teachers had access to assessment results, knew how to interpret assessment results, and could utilize those results to improve student learning."

"Fairmont leadership teams (DLT, SLT [School Leadership Team], ILT) needed the tools to engage in data analysis (e.g., student performance data, discipline data, and protocols to analyze curriculum units/lessons). Illinois CSI was able to provide tools and training to support our leadership teams with using data more effectively and consistently. We have seen improvements in student achievement and school culture rather quickly. Our percentage of students meeting their growth target is up by 25%, and we have seen a 20% decrease in student referrals since engaging in regular data analysis of discipline data and increasing positive behavior incentives in the months when the most behavior incidents occur. Our staff are invested in the continuous improvement process and have the full support of district and school leaders."

District leaders, school leaders, and teacher leaders have observed that the district's partnership with Illinois CSI has enhanced the districts' monitoring and improvement efforts.


Illinois CSI Instructional Support Specialists Lend Expertise to 2017 SCSDD Conference

Last month, Illinois CSI featured multiple presenters on various topics at the Superintendents Commission for the Study of Demographics and Diversity (SCSDD) Conference in Tinley Park. The SCSDD is composed of superintendents from school districts in suburban Cook County and other nearby counties. Their annual conference draws a large number of administrators and teachers from the area to listen to keynote and breakout speakers discuss various topics. The theme for this year's conference was "Transforming the Paradigm of Educating Children."

Four Illinois CSI instructional support specialists were selected to deliver presentations at this year's conference:

  • Trauma-Informed Practices Serving Diverse Student Needs: Shanna Shipman presented current research on the evidence and impact of trauma on learners. Working from a common definition of trauma, she provided strategies to equitably support students, including cultivating a student's strengths and talents. The presentation included a discussion of teacher self-care.
  • Engaging in Argument from EvidenceSupporting Student Achievement Across Multiple Content Areas: Dina Lemmer's presentation included research that supports the relationship across science, mathematics, and English language arts. She identified resources and best practices for embedding effective arguments from evidence in any content area and provided additional research on how science and effective STEM programs could unlock learning and engage the reluctant learner.
  • Senate Bill 100Transformative Approaches to Student Discipline: Tracy Snell led participants through a brief examination of the tenets of Illinois Senate Bill 100 to build an understanding of how to integrate the legislation into district policies. In addition to encouraging participants to reflect on current district practices that could meet the new legislation or new practices that may need to be introduced, Tracy asked them to consider how the multi-tiered system of support for students could be a framework around which to build restorative justice practices.
  • Assuring Assessment ValidityApplying Simple Psychometric Approaches to Classroom Assessment: Dan Frederking emphasized to the participants that the goal in creating or using tests that are valid is to reduce the measurement error so that the observed score is as close to true as humanly possible. He walked participants through six steps that can be applied to most assessments containing individual test items: (1) assessment creation, (2) review, (3) data collection, (4) data analysis, (5) adjustment, and (6) continuously repeat steps 2–5. Participants were interested in how this process could help inform their Tier III assessments or data analysis for specific subgroups.

For more information, contact Ardella Perry-Osler, Director, District Resources, at

Tools and Resources

Handouts, videos, and pictures of the February Illinois CSI Research Forum featuring Dr. Anthony Muhammad can be found on the Illinois CSI website. These resources include the "Ask the Expert" videos featuring Dr. Muhammad and a video recording of the full session.


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Upcoming Events

April 29, 2017

Principals Institute—Cicero SD 99 Special Edition


May 2, 2017

Professional Development Symposium Presented by Bloom Township District 206 in Partnership With the Illinois Center for School Improvement at American Institutes for Research


May 24, 2017

District Leadership Team Learning Network (North)


May 25, 2017

District Leadership Team Learning Network (South)

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