The following resources focus on the educational climate and betterment of those serving the K–12 educational community.

How Many Hours A Day Should Kids Be In School? How About Zero?  With a change to the school code, district administrators now have flexibility in how instructional time is defined and counted. The Illinois State Board of Education will hold a series of Q&A events on the issue across the state in December. (NPR)

Districts focus on outreach, school climate and students’ life challenges to cut chronic absenteeism  Districts are adopting a variety of strategies to improve attendance, as new data collected under the Every Student Succeeds Act increases focus on chronic absenteeism.

Resources from Attendance Works  The Illinois Attendance Commission would like to remind districts that Attendance Works has issued a call to action to superintendents to improve student attendance in early grades. Relevant guidance and technical assistance documents are also provided within the framework of prioritizing student attendance, mobilizing the broader community in support of attendance, and using data for decision-making and accountability.  To sign up for the call to action or to access the associated resources, please visit the Attendance Works website.

Apply for Funding to Expand Internet Connectivity in Schools  ISBE released a Notice of Funding Opportunity/Request for Proposals for state funds to expand internet connectivity in schools. The General Assembly appropriated $16.3 million to fully close the broadband gap in Illinois schools by the 2020-21 school year. Fiber-optic technology delivers the most affordable and fastest network speeds to schools and allows districts to scale up cost-effectively and meet growing bandwidth needs. The $16.3 million in state funding will cover the costs of special construction projects for school districts with federal approval to install fiber-optic cable lines.  Applications are available now and due no later than 4 p.m. on Jan. 25. The Learning Technology Center of Illinois is available to provide free assistance to districts to help with their applications.

IEP Writing Resource  ISBE and the University of Illinois created the IEP Quality Project (or IEPQ) to assist education professionals with improving IEPs for students. They encourage all educators across the state to use the many resources, samples, and planning sheets available on this site in the planning and writing stages of IEP creation. Request access to the many amazing tools on the IEPQ site by clicking “start the request process here” on the left side of the page. You will need to provide the school district you are employed by, as the site is only available to educators within Illinois school districts, special education cooperatives, and teaching staff at non-public schools in Illinois. Registration information is not shared with districts.

Many States Lack Focus on Equity in School Improvement, Report Suggests The report considered each state’s application for districts to receive school improvement funding, its scoring rubric for the application, the state’s guidance for districts or schools to develop and implement their improvement plans, and other materials. (Education Week)

Black Teachers Improve Outcomes for Black Students  “The role model effect seems to show that having one teacher of the same race is enough to give a student the ambition to achieve, for example, to take a college entrance exam,” said Nicholas Papageorge, assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University and one of the co-authors of the research paper. “But if going to college is the goal, having two teachers of the same race helps even more.” (U.S. News & World Report)