As the 2013-2014 school year begins in Illinois, results from last year’s standardized tests reveal that public schools across the state have a long way to go in improving education outcomes. Recent scores showed that:
- Overall, only 25 percent of the state’s juniors were considered college-ready in all four subjects last year – the exact percentage as the previous year and 1 percentage point below the national average. This is still too low, especially for a state that spends an average of $11,664 per student.
- Compared to previous years, the percentage of students that met college-readiness standards in all subjects decreased substantially – the worst being reading, which saw a decrease of 8 percentage points.
Most districts across the state are also expecting to see their scores on the Illinois Standards Achievement Test, or ISAT – a test which is given to all Illinois third and eighth grade students – to drop dramatically this year. This is due to new standards required under the Common Core. Full ISAT scores will come out this fall.
In what may be a preview of things to come, recent ISAT results from Chicago show that the district is failing its elementary students:
- Only 52.5 percent of them met or exceeded state standards in 2012 – an almost 22 percentage point fall from the previous year.
- Re-examining past scores using the new standards quickly shows the extent to which Chicago Public Schools has failed to educate its students. Recalculated ISAT scores from 2001, under the new methodology, show that only 23.4 percent of students met or exceeded state standards.
Rather than focusing on ways to improve these lackluster results, teachers and administrators spent most of last year arguing among themselves about how to properly divide taxpayer dollars. That was true in Lake Forest – the school district with the highest-paid teachers in the state – as well as Chicago, where the teachers union shut down the school system for nearly two weeks.
Fortunately, a new school year brings a new start. During the next legislative session, legislators should champion reforms that will substantively improve students’ lives – like school choice programs, parent trigger laws and policies that create an environment where blended and virtual learning can prosper.
A year goes by quickly – sometimes too quickly. Letting that amount of time pass without making changes to Illinois’ faltering education system is a missed opportunity – one that could have made a great impact on Illinois’ students.
Josh Dwyer is Director of Education Reform at the Illinois Policy Institute