Innovative Program Designed for Illinois District and School Leaders

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Leads to new levels of problem solving

NAPERVILLE, IL—District and school leaders participating in a new collaborative leadership network say their ability to interact with other district leaders and discuss strategies and experiences around school improvement efforts has enabled them to better tackle the challenges they face in their home districts.

The District Leadership Team (DLT) Learning Network is a professional development resource for district leaders who are seeking ways to develop tools and ideas that will drive their school improvement efforts. The network was created by the Illinois Center for School Improvement (Illinois CSI), a federally funded program under the direction of the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE). Leaders in 30 districts are currently participating in the network.

“The network is very encouraging and very inspiring,” said Maurice Young, an assistant principal at Bremen Community High School. “Many times in our job, you kind of work in isolation. But you begin to understand that there are other school districts experiencing the same struggles you are experiencing youself. …So, it’s the collaborative process of everyone coming together that I think is going to move all of us forward.”

ISBE created Illinois CSI, operated by American Institutes for Research (AIR), to raise student performance in the lowest performing school districts by strengthening district and school leadership.

Since late 2013, Illinois CSI has been working with 30 districts accounting for 166 schools in the bottom 5 percentile statewide in composite reading and math scores or graduation rates between 2011 and 2013. The districts receive Priority Services from Illinois CSI as part of ISBE’s flexibility waiver provided by the Elementary and Secondary Education Act under No Child Left Behind.

In the DLT Learning Network, leaders from districts come together several times a year to refine their district’s strategic plans and advance through Illinois CSI’s continuous improvement process, which consists of strategies that strengthen leadership structures, use of data, and instructional practices. Districts usually meet in smaller DLT Learning Network groups, but on June 11, all districts participating in the network have been invited to gather together in Bloomington for the first time.

“I like the fact that I get to talk to other schools and see what they’re doing and the collaboration with other districts. It also helped open my eyes to see the route the [Illinois CSI coaches] are coming from and where I need to go as a teacher,” said Rechelle Wilkinson, a second-grade teacher from Venice Community Unit School District 3, which is participating in the DLT Learning Network.

During the time between DLT Learning Network sessions, districts receive further support through on-site coaching. Illinois CSI also performed rigorous needs assessments for its districts. Key findings from the needs assessments have been used by participating districts to establish student improvement goals.

“We’ve gone deeper than we would have on our own,” said School Superintendent Jayne Purcell of Dolton-Riverdale School District 148, a district participating in the network. “It’s about improving what we’re doing systemically as a district.”

Illinois CSI, in collaboration with ISBE and AIR, also conducts and collects research on district and school improvement issues and makes this information available at

To arrange an interview with Illinois CSI executive director Dr. Betheny Lyke and staff working with districts, or to learn more about the DLT Learning Network, contact Pete Sherman, senior communications strategist, at 630-649-6665 or

Illinois CSI also is available as a resource to journalists reporting on district and school reform.

The following districts are receiving Priority Services from Illinois CSI:

Beardstown Community Unit School District 15

Bloom Township High School District 206

Bremen High School District 228

Brooklyn Unit School District 188

Cahokia Community School District 187

Chicago Public Schools 299

Cicero School District 99

Danville Community School District 118

Decatur School District 61

Dolton-Riverdale School District 148

East Aurora School District 131

East St. Louis School District 189

J.S. Morton High School District 201

Kankakee School District 111

Madison Community Unit School District 12

Maywood-Melrose Park-Broadview School District 89

Meridian Community Unit School District 101

North Chicago School District 187

Peoria School District 150

Proviso Township High School District 209

Rock Island-Milan School District 41

Rockford School District 205

Sandoval Community Unit School District 501

Scott-Morgan Community Unit School District 2

Springfield School District 186

Thornton Fractional Township School District 215

Thornton Township High Schools District 205

Venice Community Unit School District 3

West Harvey-Dixmoor​ School District 147

Waukegan Community Unit School District 60​​​

About Illinois CSI

Illinois CSI, a partnership between ISBE and AIR, was created to raise student achievement in Illinois’s lowest performing school districts by increasing district-level capacity for exceptional teaching and learning. Illinois CSI accomplishes this mission by providing Priority Services to districts as part of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act flexibility provided under No Child Left Behind. For more information about Illinois CSI, visit

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