Former Governor Jim Edgar and former U.S. Secretary of Commerce Bill Daley, co-chairs of Advance Illinois, jointly delivered today a report card on education in Illinois.  

“This is the first cross-cutting assessment we’ve ever had of how our education system is serving students from birth through college,” said Mr. Edgar. “The report looks beyond test scores at progress, achievement gaps, and conditions in our schools. There are some hopeful efforts now underway, but we’ve got a sobering amount of ground to cover. As a state, we’re just not measuring some vital things, like whether our children are starting kindergarten ready to learn, how many students need remedial help in college, and how well our teachers are performing in the classroom.” 

The report, “The State We’re In: 2010,” reveals some strengths, particularly in early childhood. However, it also shows the state lags badly in K-12 and post-secondary attainment. The organization cites crucial information gaps, noting that many key aspects of educational performance are not currently being measured.          

 “We are doing well in preschool because the state focused and made it a priority. We need to do the same across the board,” said Mr. Daley. “As part of the state’s recent Race to the Top application, we have put some new strategies in place and now have a strong roadmap for reform.  What’s important about a broad picture like this is that it gives us a benchmark. It shows us where we are improving, where we are falling behind, and where there are gaps. We can’t build the system we want tomorrow if we don’t know how we’re doing today.” 

Here are Illinois’ grades: 

Early Education: Incomplete.  Illinois offers more preschool slots than any other state, and ranks highly in the qualifications of early education teachers.  If these were the only indicators, Illinois would have earned a B+. But unlike several other states, Illinois does not measure whether children are starting kindergarten developmentally and academically on track. Without that key outcome measure, the state receives an ‘Incomplete’. 

K-12: D. Illinois ranks in the bottom half of the nation in reading and math at the 4th and 8th grade levels. In general, the system seems to be serving only a third of Illinois’ students well. While the newly-authorized longitudinal data system should help informed decision making in the long-term, the State needs to fill a number of information gaps. 

College Credentials: C. Only 37% of Illinois adults over the age of 25 have an associate’s degree or higher. That makes Illinois’ workforce less competitive in the national and global economy. Illinois ranks 42nd in the nation for college affordability, and it now costs an average family 35% of their income to send a student to a public 4-year institution, up from 30% two years ago, even after accounting for financial aid. In addition, data suggests that too many students arrive at college ill-prepared, but Illinois lacks reliable information about the number taking remedial coursework, or the cost it imposes on families and institutions. 

The report points to four questions that cannot be answered with current data: 1) Are children ready when they start school? 2) How effective are teachers and principals, who are the primary  drivers of student achievement? 3) Do schools have a professional culture and climate that promotes learning? and 4) What academic growth are children making each year? 

“Some will say these grades are dispiriting, but we have in place a state-level plan for reform, supportive leadership and a great recent track record.  Now that we have the numbers, we have no excuses,” said Advance Illinois Executive Director Robin Steans. “From here, we just need to keep moving.  We can never say we didn’t know where the hard work was needed or that it couldn’t be done.” 

To view the full report or for more information, visit advanceillnois.org.

 

College and Career Readiness

Advance Illinois’ report says, “College and career readiness must be the goal for all students. Increasingly the data suggests that the two standards are converging. Illinois should encourage all students to meet a simple, high standard and follow other states in linking high school graduation to both content and the mastery of college and career ready skills, including critical analysis and the ability to gather relevant information.”

Advance Illinois’ report says, “College and career readiness must be the goal for all students. Increasingly the data suggests that the two standards are converging. Illinois should encourage all students to meet a simple, high standard and follow other states in linking high school graduation to both content and the mastery of college and career ready skills, including critical analysis and the ability to gather relevant information.”