Advance Illinois, the statewide education advocacy group co-chaired by former Illinois Governor Jim Edgar and former U.S. Secretary of Commerce Bill Daley, of which Franczek Radelet partner James C. Franczek, Jr. is a board member, recently issued the first comprehensive assessment of Illinois’ educational performance as a state.

According to Advance Illinois, the goal of The State We’re In: 2010, A Report Card on Education in Illinois is to serve as a platform for a more informed discussion about how well Illinois is educating the next generation of students. Accordingly, the Report Card measures growth over time and compares Illinois to other states. The Report Card also measures the leading indicators that drive academic achievement from birth through higher education. These indicators include student test scores, achievement gaps, dropout rates, availability of preschool and conditions in schools.

The results of the Report Card are broken down into three categories: Preschool, K-12 and Post-Secondary. The grades received show a mixed performance, revealing both strengths and weaknesses.

Preschool

Illinois leads the nation in preschool enrollment. Illinois also ranks highly in the qualifications of its preschool teachers. However, because the State has not created a way to measure whether students are prepared for kindergarten, there is no data on how whether students are starting kindergarten ready to succeed. As a result, the State received an “Incomplete” grade.

K-12

Illinois test results at the 4th and 8th grade benchmarks rank in the bottom half of the nation. Illinois falls in the middle of the states with respect to graduation rates, graduating only 75 percent of its high school students. Only 1 in 4 high school students are adequately prepared for college. Additionally, there are several important learning conditions which lead to student success that are not currently being measured, such as academic growth from year to year, the learning climate in schools and the effectiveness of teachers and principals. As a result, the State received a “D” grade.

Post-Secondary

Illinois families pay an average of 35 percent of their annual income to send one student to a public four-year college or university. Only 37 percent of Illinois adults over the age of 25 have received an associate’s degree or higher. This places Illinois 18th in the nation. As a result, the State received a “C” grade

Although the primary purpose of the Report Card was to make information available to families, educators and decision makers, Advance Illinois acknowledged the importance of being able to adequately measure educational performance. Moving forward, Advance Illinois suggests the following: (1) creating agreed-upon ways to assess whether students are starting school ready to learn and finishing college career ready, (2) evaluating key drivers of student success including learning conditions and teacher and principal effectiveness, and (3) creating a state longitudinal data system in order to gather data needed to set goals, target resources and evaluate progress.