March 2015
Membership #:           
Expiration Date:  
Local Councils:                         
In This Issue
Website Links
Dates to Remember

2015 IRC Conference
October 1-3, 2015
Peoria, Illinois

Registration and
Housing Opens

April 15, 2015

Future Dates of the Annual IRC Conference
Sept. 29-Oct 1, 2016
October 5-7, 2017
Peoria, Illinois

Welcome to iCommunicate, IRC's monthly e-newsletter!  Here you will learn, share, and enjoy information on timely topics and cutting edge projects. We'd love to hear your thoughts.  Please contact us with your comments, suggestions, and ideas at   
Writing in Illinois Matters!  Writing an Opinion Paper in Grades K-5
By Roberta Sejnost, ILA State Coordinator


While our testing experience may be over, the new Illinois Learning Standards live on.  In the next several iCommunicate issues, we will focus on the three types of writing presented in the standards and suggest some mentor texts as well as ways to help students write effectively.  Our first article will focus on writing standard #1:  Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.  A careful look at the standards reveals that opinion writing is the focus for writing in Grades K-5.  

In opinion writing, students should be encouraged to write about the way they think or feel about something.  Their writing can be based on someone's feelings or what they have heard or been told, being careful to supply reasons to support their thinking.  However, it is important to note that the writing does not necessarily have to be supported by facts or evidence. 

One of the best ways to help students hone their ability to write effective opinion is to expose them to mentor texts.  Effective mentor texts engage and inspire students, but, above all, they move them forward in their writing because they give them a picture of the type of writing they are about to engage in.  In the following list retrieved from are some mentor texts to help students along their path to writing effective opinion

Once students have been exposed to mentor texts, the next logical step is to provide some graphic organizers to help students organize their thinking.  These can be found at

Keep connected to iCommunicate next month to see resources for teaching argumentation in Grades 6-12.  And, above all, check out , a website developed by ISBE's ELA content area specialists Jill Brown and Kathy Rhodes, to provide tools and resources in our mission to realize that Writing Matters in Illinois


Culham, R. (2014) The Writing Thief: Using Mentor Texts to Teach the Craft of Writing

Gallagher, K. (2011). Teaching Real-World Writing Through Modeling and Mentor Texts

Illinois State Board of Education. Illinois Writing Matters 2014
CCSS in Speaking and Listening Webinars 
By the Illinois Reading Council 

The Illinois Reading Council and Wisconsin State Reading Association are pleased to offer the FREE Webinar series that focuses on the Common Core State Standards in Speaking and Listening for IRC and WSRA members only!  To register for a webinar or view past webinars, visit


WEDNESDAY, APRIL 15, 2015    

7:00 p.m.  

Facilitating Student Discussion With Socratic Circles with Matt Copeland  

  • Suggested Reading: Socratic Circles by Matt Copeland.
  • Bio: Matt Copeland is an Associate for Instructional Innovation and Support with MetaMetrics, Inc., an educational research firm in Durham, North Carolina.  Based in his home in Kansas, Matt is a former English teacher and department head at his alma mater, Washburn Rural High School.  He was recognized as the 2006 Distinguished Kansan of the Year in Education, a 2005 Milken National Educator, and a 2003 Kansas Master Teacher.  Prior to his current work, he also served five years as a Language Arts and Literacy Consultant for the Kansas State Department of Education, helping to craft the Kansas College and Career Ready Standards. He is a frequent presenter at local, regional, and national conferences and has published several books, essays, and poems on teaching and learning. 
  • Website: 


WEDNESDAY, MAY 13, 2015    

7:00 p.m.  

Linking Technology, Text and Literacy with Annette Smith   

  • BONUS Webinar!  This session will enhance literacy instruction, particularly writing, speaking and listening skills using primary source materials from
  • All attendees will have full access to all the resources and tools of Teaching Books while we guide you through the resources.  Please bring 1-2 books you are using with students.  Access will continue for two weeks following the webinar.
  • Strengthen writing, speaking and listening skills and support literacy initiatives using the resources and tools at
The ISBE Connection:  PARCC Assessments
By Nancy Paprocki, ISBE Liasion

First and foremost in educators' minds lately are those pesky PARCC assessments. As most of you know, there was a large movement by school districts and parents to opt out of PARCC testing in Illinois. Many suggested reasons for this movement included a sense of too much time being spent on testing, a sense of a lack of real purpose for PARCC testing this year, and a lack of confidence in the design and pedagogy behind the testing. Chicago Public Schools (CPS) led the strongest resistance in January, announcing that only 66 of its 600 schools would participate in the testing due to a lack of technology (although we all know that paper and pencil versions are available, some don't find that equitable). On January 30, ISBE officials responded to districts by warning that federal money for impoverished schools would be withheld from districts that refused to administer the test. ISBE was then accused of bullying districts

But, let's look at the big picture. Assessments are part of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) law at the federal level. PARCC is also now legislated in the Illinois School Code. If the Illinois State Board of Education does not enforce the administration of the state's chosen assessment, for Illinois it's PARCC, the state as a whole could lose all federal dollars for education. At this time of fiscal crisis in the state, this is not an option. The state has to enforce the federal rule, which includes all districts administering the test to students. Illinois school districts receive over $612,642,000 in allocations for Title I and $6,532,000 for Title IIA, only 2 of the many federal programs that provide funding to the state. Of those dollars, CPS receives over $265,640,000 in allocations for Title I programs and $2,288,000 for Title IIA. By allowing the largest district to not participate, with over 43% of Title I dollars and 35% of title IIA dollars, it would put the entire state's funding of federal programs in jeopardy. For these reasons, the state had to enforce the state and federal legislation

Many districts have led large campaigns of both parents and educators for parents to opt out or tell their students not to participate in the testing. In the article, "Suburban high school students opt out of PARCC tests," dated March 18, 2015, the Chicago Tribune reported that North Suburban Township High School District 214 had a large percentage of students decline to take the exams. Less than 36 out of 400 juniors at Rolling Meadows High School sat for the test March 12. Matt Vanover, a spokesman for ISBE stated in the article that, "If less than 95% of students take the test in any school or district, or statewide, it could affect the state's progress measurements, which determine how a district performs compared with others in the state. The amount of state funding for those districts could also be affected, as well as recognition by the state board and a school's ability to compete in sports." The Chicago Tribune also reported that Argo Community High School District Superintendent Kevin O'Mara wrote a letter to the state board asking to postpone PARCC testing. O'Mara was also prepared to recommend to his school board that they follow CPS's lead and refuse to test. Argo Community High School District receives $642,000 for Title I alone. O'Mara later realized that, "the risk of losing our federal funding is too great to avoid doing the PARCC."
Illinois Reads Launch
By the Illinois Reading Council


I Love Reading Essay Contest!
By Illinois Reads Launch Committee
The ILLINOIS READS Program is a Statewide reading advocacy program sponsor ed by the Illinois Reading Council.  "Our goal is simple - we want to encourage everyone to develop and sustain a love for reading," says IRC Project Chair Tammy Swinford-Potts, who is also the founder of the Illinois Reads Program.  "To get people excited about our upcoming annual event in April, we're happy to announce the 'I Love Reading' Essay Contest." 
The contest invites all students from throughout the State of Illinois to write an essay, up to 500 words, that explains why they love to read.  There will be two contest divisions: K-5, 6-12. Participants should fill out the online sign-up form as well as email their essays to All essays must be submitted by Friday, April 10 by 5 p.m.  All participants will be notified regarding contest results by Monday, April 13. 
The two overall winners of the essay contest will receive the following: 
  • An overnight hotel stay at the Chicago-Oakbrook Hilton Resort,
  • VIP Meeting with Illinois Authors at the event,
  • Transportation to and from the hotel to the event,
  • Free books signed by the authors in attendance,
  • And the overall winners will be recognized and honored at the annual ILLINOIS READS launch! 
To sign up for the contest, please click on the following link:   


"We are so excited to bring this program to Westmont," says Amy Quattrone, 2015 ILLINOIS READS Launch Event Chair.  "This is the first time that this event will be held outside of Springfield, so we are honored to be part of this opportunity."  The 2015 ILLINOIS READS launch will be held at Westmont High School, 909 N. Oakwood Drive, in Westmont, Illinois on Saturday, April 18.  The event is from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and will feature more than 20 Illinois authors who will be on hand to talk with young and older readers as well as sign their books.   


"We're looking for sponsors, volunteers and event participants," adds Quattrone.  "If you're interested in supporting this event and encouraging people of all ages to be great readers, then please join us."  For more information, contact Amy at or visit their website at
Following is a list of authors that will be in attendance to talk with young readers and writers: 
  • Jennifer Allison
  • Elizabeth Blackwell
  • Miriam Busch
  • Ilene Cooper
  • Larry Day
  • Christa Desir
  • Kat Falls
  • Scott Gustafson
  • Todd Hasak-Lowy
  • Stephanie Hemphill
  • Jaleigh Johnson
  • James Klise
  • Demitria Lunetta
  • Rebecca Makkai
  • Marianne Malone
  • Susan Elizabeth Phillips
  • Gayle Rosengren
  • Barb Rosenstock
  • Liesl Shurtliff
  • Leanne Statland Ellis
  • Sally M. Walker