By: Ted Dabrowski and John Klingner

An indictment of Illinois’ education system

If what follows isn’t an indictment of Illinois’ education establishment, we don’t know what is. Of Decatur’s public school 3rd-graders in 2019, just 2 percent of black and 16 percent of white students could read at grade level. In Rockford, it was 7 percent of black students. In Peoria, 8 percent of blacks. And in Elgin, just 11 percent of Hispanic 3rd-graders could read at grade level. Similar results can be found across the state.

The data Wirepoints presents in this report represents an absolute dereliction of duty by those who run Illinois’ public schools. It’s not about money, it’s not about race, it’s not about curriculum and it’s not about critical race theory. It’s about a system that fails at its most basic function: to prepare Illinois children for their future.

Our assessment is harsh because student outcomes are beyond dismal and no one, it seems, takes any responsibility for them. Social promotion, hyper-inflated teacher evaluations and misleading “accountability” designations from the Illinois State Board of Education all help to deflect blame.

We’re also harsh because nobody in the system wants to upset the apple cart. The rewards are just too lucrative. The Illinois Constitution and multi-year labor contracts guarantee job security, big salaries and even bigger pensions for those in education. The sprawling district bureaucracy provides thousands of administrative jobs. Not to mention the back-scratching relationship between unions and lawmakers that protects the status quo.

This report focuses on Decatur School District 61 because it’s arguably the poster child for the education system’s failures. Just 9 percent of Decatur’s 3rd-grade students can read at grade level. And every year the district graduates hundreds of students who are grossly unprepared for either college or a career.

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