Illinois State Board of Education launches Center for School Improvement


State awards $10 million contract to international school reform leader


SPRINGFIELD, IL – The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) announced it has established the Center for School Improvement to help raise student performance in the nearly 4,000 public kindergarten-12th grade schools across the state, particularly the lowest performing schools. The Board recently awarded the American Institutes for Research (AIR), a proven international education reform leader, with a one-year contract worth just under $10 million in federal dollars to lead the state in comprehensive school improvement work.

“We are excited to work more closely with the American Institutes of Research as we continue our ongoing reform initiatives and school improvement work,” said State Superintendent of Education Christopher A. Koch. “This international leader in teaching and learning brings decades of experience supporting schools and will help implement a systemic approach to addressing stagnant achievement gaps.”

The Center will help coordinate various regional improvement efforts under the ISBE’s existing network to ensure that schools receive expert, timely and relevant assistance with an emphasis on closing the achievement gap. The achievement gap refers to the performance disparity on various measures between groups of students, particularly English Language Learners, students with disabilities, low income students and racial ethnic minority students.

Some key features of this new Center include: 

·         The Center will bring high-quality, research-based services and resources that improve education outcomes for students.

·         The Center will employ content area specialists, coaches and turnaround experts with specific expertise in working with English Language Learners (ELLs), students with disabilities, low-income students and racial and ethnic minority students.

·         On-going professional development for Center staff.

·         An evaluation process for Center work to promote continuous improvement and better serve districts and schools.

·         Collaboration with Regional Offices of Education and Intermediate Service Centers to improve student outcomes and opportunities.

The American Institutes for Research (AIR) is one of the largest not-for-profit behavioral and social science research organizations in the world.   With 1,700 global employees, AIR is a national leader in teaching and learning improvement, research, assessment, evaluation, and technical assistance to ensure that all students – particularly those facing historical disadvantages – have access to a high-quality, effective education. 

AIR has established offices both internationally and across the nation, including offices in Chicago and Naperville. The State Board approved the AIR contract during the September Board meeting with plans to evaluate and renew the contract through Fiscal Year 2017. The Center will be housed at a yet-to-be determined location and may have more than one site.

“We are honored to work in partnership with the Illinois State Board of Education to build on their existing strengths and make the Center for School Improvement a model for consistently delivering high quality, research-based support that benefits students, teachers and school leaders,” said Gina Burkhardt, Executive Vice President of AIR and Director of the Education, Human Development and Workforce Program. “We will draw upon our student improvement work in Illinois and other states, as well as our international expertise, to support the efforts of ISBE, school districts and schools in this very important school reform effort.”

Funding for The Center is supported by federal school improvement funds allocated to ISBE under the federal Title I grant as established under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965.  For more information and updates on Center work, please visit:

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