racial disparity in education intolerable -- McGee
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 6, 2000
(217) 782-4648 or (312) 814-3490
Springfield – The
achievement gap between white and minority students – and the poverty
that almost always leads to it – can no longer be tolerated if
Illinois wants its education system to truly be Second to None,
State Superintendent of Education Glenn W. McGee said
delivering his annual “Back to School” speech to about 600 Illinois
school administrators at the State Board of Education’s annual
superintendents conference, said that poverty is at least 10 times more
powerful a predictor of student achievement than any other.
poverty most clearly shows itself in significantly lower student
participation and achievement, McGee said. “We
cannot tolerate this,” he said. “We will not let this continue in
the great state of Illinois.
is our biggest academic challenge. This is D-Day. This is Normandy, and
we have to succeed because all of our students need and deserve to
master the learning standards,” he said, referring to the Illinois
Learning Standards. The Standards comprise rigorous skills and knowledge
that all children need for future success.
is tomorrow,” he said. “We have no time to wait.”
credited strong, innovative local leadership for numerous important
success stories in school districts statewide. “Leadership – not
materials – is making a difference in education,” he said.
St. Louis District 189, for example, a district plagued by extreme
poverty and low achievement for years, last year saw a 45 percent
increase in students meeting the state Learning Standards.
than 57 percent of schools showed improvement on the Illinois Standards
Achievement Test this year and more than 70 percent of eighth graders
are meeting state writing standards, , McGee said.
public school students posted the nation’s highest average score on
the Advanced Placement tests this year, higher even than several states
often touted as education reform leaders. And Illinois’ ACT score rose
again this year, to a record-high 21.5, while the national average
also praised the highly-successful Summer Bridges summer school program
-- 61 percent of those in the program gained at least one grade level in
their reading abilities – and emphasized the need for preschool
programming, pointing out that 52,500 children benefited from State
Board-supported prekindergarten programs.
McGee said, too many students are still falling short.
Nearly 40 percent of third graders did not meet state reading standards
(along with 41 percent of fifth graders and 28 percent of eighth
graders.) Similarly, 31 percent of third graders, 43 percent of fifth
graders and 53 percent of eighth graders did not meet state math
19 percent of local schools have even moderately implemented the State
Learning Standards, the cornerstone of the state’s educational system,
McGee said. Repeating the commitment he made a year ago, McGee
said. “Some districts think the Standards will go away. I am telling
you again that we will not blink.”
most disturbing of all, McGee said, is the undeniable,
consistent, and troubling correlation between poverty and student
performance. Statistics show that the higher a district’s poverty, the
lower its student achievement.
poverty tends to affect minority students more is evident in statistics
showing that 86 percent of white students meet or exceed third grade
reading Standards, versus only 33 percent of African American and 47
percent of Hispanic students.
60 percent of white students meet state math Standards. But only 16
percent of African American and 23 percent of Hispanic students do.
more, though minorities are taking the ACT test, more than 60 percent of
Illinois African American and Hispanic students do so without taking
part in a more-rigorous “core”-type curriculum geared toward college
admission. That figure far exceeds the 39 percent national rate of
minority non-participation in core curriculum
time has come for strong, committed action to give all of our students
the tools they need for academic and lifelong success, McGee
said. “It is time for victory for each of our school districts and for
all of our two million children who need and deserve it,” he said.
“So let’s get to it.”