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Illinois teachers excel. Students? Not so much.

Belleville News Democrat

Saturday, November 4, 2017  |  Editorial  |  By The Editorial Board

Education reform (38) , Education--Elementary and Secondary (36)
Illinois is blessed with some outstanding teachers: Just ask the administrators who rank them.

The average evaluation for an Illinois teacher was 97 percent. Wow. That’s an A+.

So how come only 37 percent of the 2 million young products of their elementary efforts are proficient in English in Illinois? How come only 32 percent are proficient in math, which is fewer than the previous year? On the SAT, 38 percent of Illinois high school juniors were proficient.

The new Illinois Report Card is out for the past school year, reflecting the third year using the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers and the first year using the SAT.

Illinois students in grades 3 through 8 have improved in each of the three years the PARCC was used, but only by 1.1 percentage points during that time.

Locally, our elementary students started out 2 percentage points below the state average in 2015. The good news is they closed the gap and are now three-tenths of a percentage point ahead of the Illinois average, with 34.4 percent of our elementary students showing proficiency.

On the SAT, the local proficiency rate of 30.9 was 7 percentage points behind the state average. Ouch.

Miss Othmar is our average Illinois teacher. She got a $1,066 raise to $64,516, has been teaching for 13 years and has a master’s degree. Well qualified and experienced.

So why aren’t her students doing better?

In part because averages are misleading. Brooklyn’s Lovejoy Elementary scored 1.6 and Bartelso Elementary scored 78. A regional average smooths out some very rough edges, but still tells a sad story.

Educators generally hate these numbers. Just like a report card doesn’t tell the whole story of a child, scores don’t tell the whole story of a school, a district, a region or a state.
But they tell us something. We teach, we test to see if the knowledge was absorbed. We go back over the material when it wasn’t absorbed.

The schools scoring well get that. Teachers talk to one another across grade levels. They study the test results, target the kids or subjects or grade level that need improvement. They are taking more practice tests.

Decry our schools being forced to “teach to the test” if you will, but we’ve picked standards that will assess whether students will be ready for college or careers, right? We assess to see if they can get to the goals, right?