What Advance Illinois didn’t say about public schools

Por en 11/15/12 1:10pm
What Bill Daley didn't discuss Tuesday. Photo by Heather Charles/Chicago Tribune

Bill Daley, Robin Steans and Timothy Knowles visited the Chicago Tribune’s Editorial Board Tuesday to talk about Illinois’ failing public schools.

The trio was representing Advance Illinois, a non-profit aimed at promoting “a public education system in Illinois that prepares all students to be ready for work, college and democratic citizenship.”

Tribune reporter Noreen S. Ahmed-Ullah wrote a brief piece for Wednesday’s paper on the meeting, “Advance Illinois releases dismal report on education in Illinois,” which you should read here for an overview of the meeting.

Daley and company’s gist was this: Illinois needs stronger teacher evaluation, more challenging curricula and better standardized testing. Steans repeatedly emphasized that we needed standards that aren’t “watered down,” and spoke passionately about the need for a “core curriculum” across the state. (Read their report here.)

But inside that conference room on the fourth floor of Tribune Tower, Advance Illinois was virtually silent on issues of race and poverty, even though their report points out some startling facts about the students served by public school.

“For the first time, more than half of Illinois public schools serve concentrations of disadvantaged students, and the state must redouble efforts to engage the families that often need the most support to be involved,” reads one passage of the group’s report.

To be fair, Steans mentioned at one point that the schools need more counselors on staff who can help disadvantaged students, but there was no discussion about those children living in the ghetto or the sticks and their challenges.

Even though African Americans and Latinos are scoring horribly on tests – only 18 percent of Latinos and 12 percent of African American in the eighth grade are reading proficiently – the good folks from Advance Illinois didn’t discuss those problems.

At the start of the meeting, Steans said we need to hit the school’s public education system with a “2-by-4,” and suggested that we shouldn’t back off until the system begins to change. Which could be okay, if every school district in the state were the same. But they’re not.