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We are pleased to announce that a College of Education proposal to provide professional development support to Illinois schools has been approved by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) as part of its IL-EMPOWER initiative. Roosevelt's proposal was one of only 30 approved out of a pool of 198 applicants, and was one of only three approved proposals developed by institutions of higher education.

The proposal, entitled "A NEW Balanced Literacy Program," outlines how a team of Roosevelt coaches and staff will work with Chicagoland schools that need more support for their school improvement process. Specifically, the NEW Balanced Literacy Program will show teachers how to incorporate balanced literacy materials, strategies, and  assessments into the learning of students and families, and it will help principals to build strong structures of support for these curricular changes through collaboration and distributed leadership. The program will be led by Dr. Margaret Policastro, professor of language and literacy at Roosevelt, and builds upon grant work that was funded by the Illinois Board of Higher Education between 2010 and 2017.

"We are thrilled to receive this approval," said Dr. Margaret Policastro upon receiving the announcement letter from ISBE. "For years we have worked intensively with Chicago area schools to improve student learning through balanced literacy instruction, teacher leadership, and engagement with parents and families. This approval validates our efforts and provides us with a unique opportunity to demonstrate the power and potential of Roosevelt's balanced literacy model and our commitment to community engagement and making quality education accessible to each and every student in our diverse community."

IL-EMPOWER is ISBE’s new statewide system of support for schools with low performance outcomes. It aims to empower such schools with greater choice and voice in the school improvement process and a wider range of options for receiving high quality professional development. It replaces the single-provider model currently in place; under Il-EMPOWER, schools, districts, partners, and ISBE will work together to promote shifts in pedagogy and build staff capacity.

The process for selecting approved professional development providers was very rigorous. In June 2017, the Illinois State Board of Education accepted applications from multiple qualified entities that sought to come together to form a comprehensive statewide system of support for schools (IL-EMPOWER). Once funding for the program was obtained in the early fall, the process of selection accelerated to produce the final list of 30 approved providers that was announced on November 20, 2017.

The Illinois State Board of Education is excited to start working with the 30 approved providers right away.  ISBE is piloting the strengths-based, collaborative, and inquiry-driven IL-EMPOWER structure with several dozen school districts over the course of the 2017-18 school year.  Providers and school districts will participate in a matching process and then work together to expand each district’s capacity to serve each student fully and equitably. IL-EMPOWER will begin serving school districts statewide in the 2018-19 school year.

For more information about Roosevelt's NEW Balanced Literacy Program, please contact Dr. Margaret Policastro at mpolicas@roosevelt.edu or 312-281-3199.

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