By: Brittany Flaherty Theis

On August 25, 2017, the Governor signed Public Act 100-421 (the “Act”) into law. The Act is commonly referred to as the Accelerated Placement Act, but it actually amends Article 14A of the School Code, which now governs “Gifted and Talented Children and Children Eligible for Accelerated Placement.” The Act expands services to all students who demonstrate high ability and who may benefit from accelerated placement. Its applicability is not limited to those students identified as gifted or talented pursuant to local school board policy. The Act went into effect on July 1, 2018 and school boards have started to adopt policies in accordance with the Act. The requirements for such policies are discussed below.

Pursuant to the Act, every school district must have a policy that allows for accelerated placement. The policy must include, or incorporate by reference, the following components:

(1) a provision that provides that participation in accelerated placement is not limited to those children who have been identified as gifted and talented, but rather is open to all children who demonstrate high ability and who may benefit from accelerated placement;

(2) a fair and equitable decision-making process that involves multiple persons and includes a student’s parents or guardians;

(3) procedures for notifying parents or guardians of a child of a decision affecting that child’s participation in an accelerated placement program; and

(4) an assessment process that includes multiple valid, reliable indicators.

The accelerated placement policy may also include, or incorporate by reference, but need not be limited to, the following components:

(1) procedures for annually informing the community at-large, including parents or guardians, about the accelerated placement program and the methods used for the identification of children eligible for accelerated placement;

(2) a process for referral that allows for multiple referrers, including a child’s parents or guardians; other referrers may include licensed education professionals, the child, with the written consent of a parent or guardian, a peer, through a licensed education professional who has knowledge of the referred child’s abilities, or, in case of possible early entrance, a preschool educator, pediatrician, or psychologist who knows the child; and

(3) a provision that provides that children participating in an accelerated placement program and their parents or guardians will be provided a written plan detailing the type of acceleration the child will receive and strategies to support the child.

Additionally, the Illinois State Board of Education (“ISBE”) is required by the Act to promulgate rules to determine which data will be collected regarding accelerated placement and which method will be used to make such information available to the public. ISBE has started the rulemaking process and has posted its proposed rules for public comment. The proposed rules can be found here. The public comment period is scheduled to end August 20, 2018.

The proposed rules amend the Illinois Administrative Code to define terms relevant to accelerated placement policies and programs. As proposed, the rules would not require school districts to submit their acceleration policy/plan to ISBE, unless specifically requested by ISBE. The policy, however, must indicate the approaches to be used to identify students for accelerated placement in both kindergarten and first grade. The proposed rules also require school districts to report information regarding the demographics of students participating in the accelerated placement program of the district and the type of accelerated placement, such as early entrance to kindergarten, early entrance to first grade, individual subject acceleration, or whole grade acceleration. In its proposed rules, ISBE indicates that it will make this information available to the public annually on its website.

Whitt Law will continue to monitor ISBE’s rulemaking regarding Article 14A of the School Code. If your school board has not yet adopted a policy pursuant to the Act, Whitt Law attorneys are available to assist your district. Please contact Whitt Law Attorney Britany Flaherty Theis if you have any questions regarding Article 14A, the Act, board policies, or an accelerated placement program.

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