IL teacher certification hub gets ‘F’ before school begins
August 20, 2013, By Benjamin Yount | Illinois Watchdog, SPRINGFIELD — What was supposed to be a streamlined way for Illinois schools to double-check certifications for 100,000 teachers across the state has become a $3.6 million dollar embarrassment.
The new Educator Licensure Information System was scuttled in July after teachers found a whole lot more than their certification information.
“Once (a teacher) logged on to their part of the system, if they followed a very specific set of steps they could then access personal information for other educators,” Illinois State Board of Education spokesman Matt Vannover said.
Vannover added that only four teachers followed the specific steps, and ISBE believes just one teacher looked at other people’s personal information.
The ELIS database was supposed to be a one-stop shop for schools and teachers checking on their certifications and state licensing. The database was approved last year, and was scheduled to be up and running before this school year began. Most schools in Illinois welcomed students back to class Monday.
Now, Vannover said, ISBE hopes spending another $340,000 will get the system ready by September.
“Originally the contract was for $3.24 million, and (the systems) was to be online last June. There have been some issues with that,” Vannover said. “(The contract) has been extended through 2014. The contract is now standing at $3.58 million.”
The extra money is going for tech support, Vannvoer said.
Schools learned of the snafu in July and had to scramble to ensure teachers were not left out of the classroom on the first day of school.
“We were worried about being up and running on the first day,” McLean County assistant regional superintendent Diane Wolf said.
“But in the end we were able to get through (under the old certification system.)”
Wolf said the state didn’t help matters by waiting until a month before school to let local schools know about the certification and licensing process.
“We have to certify about 12,000 people,” Wolf said. “We have to certify all new hires: teachers, substitutes, other professionals in the district.”
Both Vannover and Wolf hope the new ELIS system will be up and running soon, but both admit the new system will only do so much.
Illinois’ teacher certification system will only track certifications and licenses. The system will not keep track of teachers’ personnel files or discipline records.
“Just like in any business, you can only go on what people tell you,” Wolf said. “(Schools) need to depend on reference checks.”
In 2012, 39 teachers had their state certificates revoked and another four had certificates suspended.
Wolf said she is confident that every teacher in her three-county area is supposed to be in classroom. And Wolf added, “they’re ready to teach.”
Contact Benjamin Yount at Ben@IllinoisWatchdog.org and find him on Twitter @BenYount.