By Joshua Dwyer -
Reforms that will empower parents, reward and retain high-quality teachers and improve student outcomes are proceeding at a snails’ pace in Illinois.
That’s not me talking – it’s StudentsFirst, a national education reform organization headed by former Washington D.C. public schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee – in a report late last week.
The organization’s national report card doesn’t rank states according to academic achievement. Instead, it looks at whether states have embraced policies that elevate the teaching profession, empower parents and incentivize governments to spend wisely and govern well.
Illinois earned low scores in all of the categories, including Fs in how much it values effective teachers and whether it allows for teacher pension portability.
But by far, the worst scores were in the parent empowerment section, where the state earned straight Fs.
This shouldn’t come as surprise. The state doesn’t provide quality rankings of its schools, doesn’t inform parents when their children are being taught by low-quality teachers and has failed to allow parents to choose the best schools for their children via parent trigger or opportunity scholarship laws.
This is unfortunate given Illinois’ persistently poor performance on the National Assessment of Education Progress, or NAEP test. In fact, more than 60 percent of fourth graders and eighth graders in the state scored below standards, meaning that they are operating one or two grade levels behind in math and reading.
Legislators have had decades to implement reforms that StudentsFirst suggests in its national report card. The fact that they haven’t – even given the rich academic research that shows many of the policies the group suggests do work – shows that state lawmakers are much more interested in maintaining the status quo rather than doing what’s right for Illinois’ children.
It’s time for that stop, and for the state to give parents the resources and ability to choose the best education for their children.
Joshua Dwyer is Director of Education Policy at the Illinois Policy Institute