The State of Education in Illinois

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:

  • ISAT measures achievement in reading and mathematics in grades 3-8 and science in grades 4 and 7.
  • PSAE measures grade 11 reading, mathematics, science, and writing. It includes the ACT Plus Writing.

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. []

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?

  1. Education rankings by state: 28 of 51.
  2. Education policy grade: "C".

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:

  • Education input
  • Education social impact

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:

  1. An online best practice clearinghouse to identify best practices of campuses and school districts regarding instruction, public school finance, resource allocation and business practices.
  2. A professional development provision requires all districts work with parents, staff, and an exclusive bargaining agent to include a comprehensive section on professional development in revised district and school improvement plans. 
  3. Required training for school board members comprising leadership training and professional development on education and labor law, financial oversight and accountability, and fiduciary responsibilities. 
  4. A multi-stakeholder task force to work with the State Board of Education to review the current requirements for information included in student report cards and make recommendations 
    for comprehensive changes. 
  5. Improvement of principals, requiring a "second certificate" and a focus on professional development.

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.

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