Fun with numbers
Thursday, Oct 6, 2022 - Posted by Rich Miller
* Wall St. Journal editorial…
No one thought Illinois schools were a shining beacon in the education landscape, but we didn’t know how truly awful so many of them are. A new report by Wirepoints using the state’s data shows that an epidemic of indifferent instruction and social promotion has left children unable to perform at even the most basic educational level.
Statewide, in 2019, 36% of all third grade students could read at grade level. That’s an F, and that’s the good news. That number drops to 27% for Hispanic students and 22% for black students statewide. In certain public school systems, the numbers plummet to single digits. In Decatur, 2% of black third-graders are reading at grade level and only 1% are doing math at grade level.
We aren’t often speechless, but the extent to which that performance is betraying a generation of schoolchildren is hard to put into words. Third grade children are eight years old, full of potential with minds like sponges to absorb what they are taught. Third grade is the year that children need to achieve a level of reading fluency that will prepare them to tackle more complex tasks in upper elementary grades that require comprehension.
A child who can’t read in third grade can’t do word problems in fourth or science experiments in fifth. Promoting Decatur children to the fourth grade when 99% are below grade level in math condemns them to future failure. By 11th grade, 5% of Decatur’s students are reading at grade level and 4% are on par in math. Why shouldn’t every single adult presiding over the Decatur schools be fired?
* I reached out to the administration for a response. From the Illinois State Board of Education…
For decades, Illinois ranked worst in the nation for funding education, and Gov. Pritzker is reversing that travesty. This uninformed article is clearly a politically motivated attack that uses bad data analysis to try to bash Illinois public schools. Looking at proficiency alone, and looking at performance in a vacuum, is an uneducated and uninformed way to examine student achievement and school performance, and most education experts agree that measuring growth in performance is key to understanding school improvement.
• Illinois’ scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress – the gold standard of the nation’s report card – held steady across all grades and subjects from 2017 to 2019 while 31 states saw their scores drop in 8th grade reading and 17 states saw their scores drop in 4th grade reading.
• Up until 2018, Illinois had the most regressive funding system in the nation, in which the poorest school districts had the least funding to educate their students. Gov. Pritzker has invested more than $1.2 billion into increasing funding for Evidence-Based Funding since taking office.
• The funding gaps prior to Gov. Pritzker taking office were so severe that even with these increases in funding, eight out of 10 students in Illinois still attend underfunded schools.
• In FY 2019, which is the year the author focuses on, the three school districts the author highlights – Decatur, Rockford, and Chicago – were among the least funded school districts in the state. They were all Tier 1 districts – the most starved for resources that respectively had only 64%, 61%, and 64% of the funding they needed to provide a basic standard of education to their students.
• In each of these districts, more than two-thirds of students come from poverty, with learning and development gaps that start in utero. Each of these districts in 2019 achieved student growth in English language arts above the 40th percentile.
• Illinois has some of the most rigorous learning standards in the nation: ranking fourth most rigorous for 4th grade reading and fifth most rigorous for 8th grade reading. In Illinois, a student needs to earn a level of 4 or 5 to be considered proficient. In comparison, the rigor of Florida’s standards ranks 39th and 42nd, respectively, and a student only needs to earn a level 3 on the state assessment to be considered proficient.