Illinois: Different standards for different students

Diane Rado:

Under a dramatic new approach to rating public schools, Illinois students of different backgrounds no longer will be held to the same standards — with Latinos and blacks, low-income children and other groups having lower targets than whites for passing state exams, the Tribune has found.

In reading, for example, 85 percent of white third- through eighth-grade students statewide will be expected to pass state tests by 2019, compared with about 73 percent for Latinos and 70 percent for black students, an analysis of state and federal records shows.

The concept is part of a fundamental and, according to critics, troubling shift in how public schools and students will be judged after the federal government recently allowed Illinois to abandon unpopular requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.

A key NCLB measure long considered unreachable — that 100 percent of students must pass state exams — will be eliminated.

But the complex new approach of different standards for different groups is troubling to civil rights activists, who are not convinced that school districts will be held accountable for failing to educate minority students, and to some local educators, who say the lowered expectations will send a negative message to students.

“You’re potentially sending a message that it’s OK for some kids to not do as well,” said Timothy Truesdale, assistant superintendent in Cicero’s Morton High School District 201, where almost all students are Latino and low-income, and test scores have been dismal for years.

Via: Kaleem Caire.