When considering the state of education in the state of Illinois, we must first consider that out of a total public school enrollment of just over two million students, half are considered low income. But 128 thousand teachers in almost four thousand schools in 863 districts are working hard for a better educational future for the state.
How Illinois education ranks
These hard-working teachers have helped generate Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) and Prairie State Achievement Examination (PSAE) scores of 59% and 53% respectively:
As these measurements are Illinois-only, comparing the state to performance elsewhere is not easy. Eighty three percent of students do graduate within four years, but only 46% of them are considered ready for college coursework. [IllinoisReportCard.com]
In many ratings between U.S. states, Illinois comes in about average (or worse). Consider results of the latest Report Card on American Education a "comprehensive overview of educational achievement levels", focusing on low-income students, that details state-by-state grades in policy areas--to help state legislators learn from each other’s education reforms. Results for Illinois?
In a report entitled Quality Rankings of Education in the Fifty States: Montana Comparisons, put together by the Center for Applied Economic Research at Montana State University-Billings, Illinois ranked twelfth in a couple areas:
But on teacher quality it was back down to 22nd.
Don't be looking for any hope from teacher salaries, though. Of 32 states that saw real declines in average teacher salaries over recent years, Illinois was third-worst (-8.7%). [NEA]
Education initiatives in Illinois
The state of Illinois guides administrators, curriculum directors, and teachers to use Illinois Learning Standards as the primary resource for preparing students for the ISAT in science. The Illinois Assessment Frameworks and Common Core Standards, meanwhile, "outline" general content specifications in reading and mathematics (grades 3-8).
"Accountability for All" legislation--put forth by the Illinois Federation of Teachers, Illinois Education Association, and Chicago Teachers Union--looks like an important step forward in guaranteeing schools, districts, as well as the state share responsibility for student success. Their proposals cover a number of important areas, including:
Getting even more serious, "rules defining incompetency" establish how multiple overall unsatisfactory teacher performance evaluations should effect certification. A "student bill of rights" ensures students have qualified teachers in classrooms from day one--and that all schools offer art, music, history and foreign language classes to all students.
District level administrators would be evaluated according to Performance Evaluation Reform Act standards, and required to pass a pre-certification assessment. "Conditions and culture" in schools would be subject to assessment and feedback to principals on instructional environment at a school--developed by the Performance Evaluation Advisory Council and administered annually. These results would be shared with school employees and parents.
Illinois gets serious about improving education
Whatever might be said about the state of education in Illinois, Illinoisans seem serious about setting things right. As an educator in Illinois obtaining a masters degree in curriculum and instruction should give you the training and skills necessary to meet and excel with the new standards.