Advocacy group: Income-related student-success gap in state persists
Chicago-based independent education advocate Advance Illinois, which compiles data for its annual “The State We’re In” report, recently released its newest findings on the state’s education statistics, illuminating an achievement gap in need of rebalancing.
Comparing students from affluent families to those of low-income backgrounds, Advance Illinois found that while 55 percent of fourth-graders in the former group are proficient in reading, only 20 percent of the latter group are. Similarly, for eighth-graders, while 47 percent of wealthier students scored adequately in math skills, only 18 percent of low-income pupils did so.
Likewise, the trend persists at higher levels of education, with 58 percent of all college students graduating within six years on average, but only 37 percent of low-income enrollees. Conversely, the figure swells to 75 percent for those of greater means.
“The terrible spread of concentrated poverty throughout Illinois exacerbates challenges for our education system,” Advance Illinois Executive Director Ginger Ostro said. “Our elementary performance shows some of the largest income-based disparities in the nation. Illinois must invest in its lowest-income and most vulnerable students to help them succeed and to prepare the future workforce.”
The numbers reveal present-day classroom performance, pointing to possible continued decline. Almost half of Illinois public school students live in low-income circumstances. In the last decade alone, the number of mostly poor jurisdictions increased from 13 to 43 percent statewide, the advocacy group said.
With Illinois’ existing goal of “60 by '25” — or 60 percent of adults in the workforce possessing college-level credentials by the year 2025 — the state will have to step up its game radically, several insiders have indicated, suggesting zeroing in on kindergarten readiness, fourth-grade reading, eighth-grade math, college readiness, postsecondary enrollment and postsecondary graduation.