Bipartisan Illinois commission studies sorely needed educational reforms

Illinois education reform is needed regardless of how contentious it gets between the House Education Reform committee and the Illinois Education Association (IEA). State education laws need revision. These laws have created many of the problems in Illinois education and have resulted in increasing expenditures without a corresponding increase in results.

Excerpts from Gatehouse article:

Reform groups are pushing for changes to teacher tenure, performance evaluations and restrictions on strikes, which they contend will improve student and school performance.

Teachers’ unions believe the effort is being rushed through the General Assembly with inadequate debate and could lead to an erosion of collective bargaining rights for teachers.

The teacher unions, including the Illinois Federation of Teachers (IFT) is trying to figure out what is behind this reform effort. The unions are worried about the efforts of managerial control of the schools. Corporate executives in state and local companies have long observed that skilled workers are scarce, despite the economic recession, and they are suspect of the Illinois educational system.

Madigan is forming a committee of four Democrats and four Republicans to investigate educational reforms with no set agenda and no timeline. A number of reform groups have been getting involved in Illinois education – Stand For Children, Advance Illinois and Illinois Business Roundtable with an agenda that calls for changes in teacher tenure, dismissal rules, performance evaluations and strike rules, including the possibility that school boards would have to authorize teacher strikes.

Reforms that have recently been enacted include changes to the Basic Skills test required to be admitted to a college of education for a teaching career. Prior to this last September, students taking the basic skills tests were allowed to take the exams as many times as required to pass the test. The rules have now been changed to only five attempts.

The standards also changed for passing the Basic Skills Test. Prior to September, students were required to answer 35% of the Math questions correctly, 55% of the reading questions and 55% of the Language Arts questions. Effective in September the scores required to pass these tests are now 75% on Math, 79% on each the reading and Language Arts questions. After five failed attempts, the student can not retake the tests.

At the ICCTA meeting I recently attended, the members were told that if the current standards were applied to the students who last passed the Basic Skills Test, at least 80% would have failed. This is one of the reasons educational reforms are needed.


In a statement to members on the IEA website, IEA president Ken Swanson said the union “will not tolerate any diminution of collective bargaining rights that are presented under the guise of education reform.” Swanson urged members to contact their legislators and tell them reform legislation should be put off until the spring session when it can get a more thorough hearing.


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