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National group gives Illinois poor rating on policies that support reading instruction

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(The Center Square) – A national teaching organization is giving Illinois poor marks on policies to improve reading instruction.

The National Council on Teacher Quality published a report that highlights five policy actions that states can take to support teachers in the science of reading.

They include setting specific, detailed reading standards for teacher prep programs; reviewing teacher prep programs to ensure they teach the science of reading; adopting a strong elementary reading licensure test; requiring districts to select a high quality reading curriculum; and providing professional learning for teachers and ongoing support to sustain the implementation of the science of reading.

Illinois received a “weak” rating because it lacks strong policies in two of the five key policy actions to strengthen reading instruction: Requiring districts to select a high-quality reading curriculum, and providing professional learning for teachers and ongoing support to sustain the implementation of the science of reading.

NCTQ President Heather Peske said the latest National Assessment of Educational Progress that showed that 38% of Illinois fourth graders could not read at a basic level is sobering.

“Even worse is that students who have historically been marginalized in Illinois schools, like Hispanic students,” said Peske. “Fifty-one percent of Hispanic students in Illinois cannot read at the basic level.

The number is even higher for Black students at 62%, and students from low-income communities at 55%.

States identified as strong include Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Ohio, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Virginia. The report said these states nearly always address all five actions and a majority of indicators to support teachers in the science of reading.

In October, the Illinois State Board of Education released the annual school report card that showed average proficiency rates were still below pre-pandemic levels, but there was some improvement over the previous year in reading and math.

Illinois Superintendent of Education Tony Sanders said the state has a “significant distance to travel” toward recovery after pandemic-era school closures caused record-low proficiency rates statewide.

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