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6 Facts That Gov. Pritzker Doesn’t Want You To Know About Illinois’ 2022 Report Card

6 Facts That Gov. Pritzker Doesn’t Want You To Know About Illinois’ 2022 Report Card

Authored by Ted Dabrowski and John Klingner via Wirepoints.org,

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6 Facts That Gov. Pritzker Doesn't Want You To Know About Illinois' 2022 Report Card

Authored by Ted Dabrowski and John Klingner via Wirepoints.org,

Gov. Pritzker presented a very positive outlook last week when he and the Illinois State Board of Education released the state’s 2022 Illinois Report Card. The results show “great promise” Pritzker said, and he was “proud to see that our children have a bright future.”

But at Wirepoints we’ve analyzed the data and there’s little to cheer – not if overall reading and math proficiencies are anything to go by. The reality is Illinois needs an honest look at just how poorly the state has done with what matters most in education: ensuring Illinois’ students can read and do math at a level that ensures their success in the real world.

The fact is statewide student reading proficiency dropped again in 2022. The number of students reading at grade level declined to 29.9 for every 100 students in 2022, compared to 30.6 students for every 100 the previous year. 

Importantly, the 2022 declines statewide are on top of the far larger proficiency losses Illinois students suffered in 2021 vs pre-Covid 2019. Wirepoints recently reported on those large losses, where drops in proficiency in reading and math neared 20 percent.

The losses were widespread compared to 2021, with more than 40 percent of the state’s 850 school districts experiencing a drop in reading proficiency. Chicago Public Schools was one of those districts, with only 20 of every 100 students able to read at grade level in 2022. 

The poor findings by Wirepoints stand in stark contrast to the Pritzker administration’s attempts to spin the 2022 education data positively. Rather than soberly address the state’s low proficiency levels, especially for minorities and many large-city school districts, the governor deflected, calling the state’s “highest graduation rate in a decade,” the rapid “pace of student growth,” the hiring of 2,500 teachers and the state’s new “Equity Journey Continuum” great achievements. 

Those claims ignore the reality on the ground. Even before Covid, Illinois’ math and reading results were dismal. They are far lower today.

Here are the facts Gov. Pritzker and the Illinois State Board of Education didn’t tell you about the 2022 Report Card:

1. Reading proficiency actually dropped in 2022.

Despite Gov. Pritzker and ISBE’s talk of “growth” and “improvement,” the reality is reading proficiency shrank in 2022 at both the elementary and high school levels. 

The number of elementary school students reading at grade level fell to just 30.1 out of every 100 students in 2022. That’s compared to 30.2 students in 2021 and 37.8 students in 2019. 

The decline for high school students was similar. The number of reading-proficient students fell to just 29.8 for every 100 students. That’s compared to 33 students in 2021 and 36.3 students in 2019.

What’s most concerning is the drop in reading proficiency among third-grade students. The ability to read in third grade is critical because if children can’t read by then, they’ll have real trouble learning science, social studies and civics in later years.

Third-grade proficiency fell another 2 percent in 2022. Today, only 27.4 out of every hundred third graders can read at grade level, down from an already-dismal 36.4 in 2019.

The reading proficiency levels for minority third-grade students are even more painful. Just 11.1 out of every 100 black students statewide can read at grade level. For Hispanics, it’s only 15.9 out of every 100 Hispanic third-graders.

2. Over 350 districts saw overall reading proficiency drop in 2022, including Chicago

In all, 354 districts saw their share of students who could read at grade level drop in 2022. 

Chicago Public Schools was among them. Reading proficiency in CPS fell another 6.5 percent in 2022. Today, only 20 out of every hundred Chicago students can read at grade level, down from just 27 in 2019.

Broken down for the district’s minorities, just 11.2 out of every 100 black students in Chicago can read at grade level. For Hispanics, it’s just 16.9 out of every 100 Hispanic students.

Regarding math, Another 246 districts saw their student proficiencies drop again in 2022.

3. A “record high” graduation rate disguises the fact that most high schoolers can’t read at grade level.

Pritzker and ISBE’s proclaimed “record high” graduation rate means nothing when you look at high schoolers’ ability to read. In 2022, 87.3 percent of high schoolers graduated statewide, but only 29.8 percent of those who took the SAT were reading at grade level. 

The numbers are even more distressing for Illinois’ minorities. Nearly 79 percent of black students graduated even though only 9.4 of every 100 were reading proficient on the SAT. And Hispanics had a 85 percent graduation rate, even though only 15.9 out of every 100 could read at grade level. Results for math are even worse.

There’s little reason to celebrate graduation rates when all it means is tens of thousands of Illinois children being pushed out of the education system while neither college nor career ready.

4. Over 86 percent of Illinois schools are labeled “Exemplary or “Commendable” despite the collapse in student proficiency.

Illinois’ “accountability” standards remain broken in 2022 and that includes the metric for school performance. Schools are given one of four designations by ISBE: exemplary, commendable, targeted and comprehensive.

As seen in the graphic below, 76 percent of Illinois schools were given the 2nd-highest rating of “commendable” despite the dramatically lower results in 2022.

That’s because a school’s “summative designation” is based not just on proficiency but “on multiple measures of school performance, including student growth for elementary and middle schools and graduation rate for high schools.” In other words, schools are graded on a curve.

That leads to absurd results where schools with single-digit reading proficiency scores are rated “commendable” by ISBE.

Take the Edna Rollins Elementary in Aurora East, for example. The school was rated “commendable” in 2022 despite the fact that only 2 percent of students at the entire school could read at grade level. Or consider Thornridge High of Thornton Township 205. The school also received a “commendable” rating despite just 5.8 percent of students there being reading proficient.

The examples shown above are far from alone. There are more than 700 Illinois schools rated “commendable” where less than 20 percent of all students are reading proficient. That’s incredibly misleading for any parent looking for information about the quality of their child’s school.

5. Illinois still lacks accountability for teachers: 97 percent were rated “excellent or proficient” in 2022.

Official teacher evaluations are also entirely out-of-sync with student outcomes. Despite just 29.9 percent of Illinois students being able to read at grade level in 2022, 97.2 percent of teachers were rated “excellent or proficient” that year. 

That’s the same rating for teachers as in 2019 when student reading scores were almost 20 percent higher.

In fact, of the 607 districts that performed teacher evaluations in 2022, 362 of them – more than half – declared every single one of their teachers “excellent or proficient.”

6. ISBE’s proficiency and growth numbers don’t square up.

Two things we haven’t been able to square up. The first is related to Gov. Pritzker’s comments on student growth, that “every single demographic group in Illinois experienced accelerated growth in both English Language Arts and math, outpacing pre-pandemic levels.” The administration’s emphasis on “growth,” in light of the state’s worsening outcomes, should be covered in a separate piece.

Second, we found problems with ISBE’s overall proficiency numbers compared to their racial/ethnic breakdowns. You can see the discrepancy in the data below, taken directly from the 2021 and 2022 Report Card data sets.  

Despite an overall 0.7 percentage point decline in reading proficiency in 2022, all major racial demographics – whites, blacks, Hispanics and Asians (which comprise 96 percent of Illinois’ student population) – show proficiency increases. On its face, that’s mathematically impossible. Illinois’ statewide math proficiency data has the same issue.

Wirepoints contacted ISBE and asked them for clarification on the data, but as of this writing we have not received a response.

Conclusion

The results above expose the blatant hypocrisy of Illinois’ education system.

Illinois children can’t read and yet they’re graduating at record levels.

Illinois children can’t read and yet a vast majority of schools are labeled “exemplary” or “commendable.”

Illinois children can’t read and yet almost every single teacher in the state is evaluated as excellent or proficient.

And when it’s time to talk about results, there’s no honesty from our education system’s leaders. Illinois politicians and the teachers unions shouldn’t have monopoly control over our childrens’ education.

The current system is unfixable and poll after poll show parents want more choices outside of the status quo. It’s time we give it to them.

Tyler Durden Tue, 11/01/2022 - 16:45

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International

The next pandemic? It’s already here for Earth’s wildlife

Bird flu is decimating species already threatened by climate change and habitat loss.

I am a conservation biologist who studies emerging infectious diseases. When people ask me what I think the next pandemic will be I often say that we are in the midst of one – it’s just afflicting a great many species more than ours.

I am referring to the highly pathogenic strain of avian influenza H5N1 (HPAI H5N1), otherwise known as bird flu, which has killed millions of birds and unknown numbers of mammals, particularly during the past three years.

This is the strain that emerged in domestic geese in China in 1997 and quickly jumped to humans in south-east Asia with a mortality rate of around 40-50%. My research group encountered the virus when it killed a mammal, an endangered Owston’s palm civet, in a captive breeding programme in Cuc Phuong National Park Vietnam in 2005.

How these animals caught bird flu was never confirmed. Their diet is mainly earthworms, so they had not been infected by eating diseased poultry like many captive tigers in the region.

This discovery prompted us to collate all confirmed reports of fatal infection with bird flu to assess just how broad a threat to wildlife this virus might pose.

This is how a newly discovered virus in Chinese poultry came to threaten so much of the world’s biodiversity.

H5N1 originated on a Chinese poultry farm in 1997. ChameleonsEye/Shutterstock

The first signs

Until December 2005, most confirmed infections had been found in a few zoos and rescue centres in Thailand and Cambodia. Our analysis in 2006 showed that nearly half (48%) of all the different groups of birds (known to taxonomists as “orders”) contained a species in which a fatal infection of bird flu had been reported. These 13 orders comprised 84% of all bird species.

We reasoned 20 years ago that the strains of H5N1 circulating were probably highly pathogenic to all bird orders. We also showed that the list of confirmed infected species included those that were globally threatened and that important habitats, such as Vietnam’s Mekong delta, lay close to reported poultry outbreaks.

Mammals known to be susceptible to bird flu during the early 2000s included primates, rodents, pigs and rabbits. Large carnivores such as Bengal tigers and clouded leopards were reported to have been killed, as well as domestic cats.

Our 2006 paper showed the ease with which this virus crossed species barriers and suggested it might one day produce a pandemic-scale threat to global biodiversity.

Unfortunately, our warnings were correct.

A roving sickness

Two decades on, bird flu is killing species from the high Arctic to mainland Antarctica.

In the past couple of years, bird flu has spread rapidly across Europe and infiltrated North and South America, killing millions of poultry and a variety of bird and mammal species. A recent paper found that 26 countries have reported at least 48 mammal species that have died from the virus since 2020, when the latest increase in reported infections started.

Not even the ocean is safe. Since 2020, 13 species of aquatic mammal have succumbed, including American sea lions, porpoises and dolphins, often dying in their thousands in South America. A wide range of scavenging and predatory mammals that live on land are now also confirmed to be susceptible, including mountain lions, lynx, brown, black and polar bears.

The UK alone has lost over 75% of its great skuas and seen a 25% decline in northern gannets. Recent declines in sandwich terns (35%) and common terns (42%) were also largely driven by the virus.

Scientists haven’t managed to completely sequence the virus in all affected species. Research and continuous surveillance could tell us how adaptable it ultimately becomes, and whether it can jump to even more species. We know it can already infect humans – one or more genetic mutations may make it more infectious.

At the crossroads

Between January 1 2003 and December 21 2023, 882 cases of human infection with the H5N1 virus were reported from 23 countries, of which 461 (52%) were fatal.

Of these fatal cases, more than half were in Vietnam, China, Cambodia and Laos. Poultry-to-human infections were first recorded in Cambodia in December 2003. Intermittent cases were reported until 2014, followed by a gap until 2023, yielding 41 deaths from 64 cases. The subtype of H5N1 virus responsible has been detected in poultry in Cambodia since 2014. In the early 2000s, the H5N1 virus circulating had a high human mortality rate, so it is worrying that we are now starting to see people dying after contact with poultry again.

It’s not just H5 subtypes of bird flu that concern humans. The H10N1 virus was originally isolated from wild birds in South Korea, but has also been reported in samples from China and Mongolia.

Recent research found that these particular virus subtypes may be able to jump to humans after they were found to be pathogenic in laboratory mice and ferrets. The first person who was confirmed to be infected with H10N5 died in China on January 27 2024, but this patient was also suffering from seasonal flu (H3N2). They had been exposed to live poultry which also tested positive for H10N5.

Species already threatened with extinction are among those which have died due to bird flu in the past three years. The first deaths from the virus in mainland Antarctica have just been confirmed in skuas, highlighting a looming threat to penguin colonies whose eggs and chicks skuas prey on. Humboldt penguins have already been killed by the virus in Chile.

A colony of king penguins.
Remote penguin colonies are already threatened by climate change. AndreAnita/Shutterstock

How can we stem this tsunami of H5N1 and other avian influenzas? Completely overhaul poultry production on a global scale. Make farms self-sufficient in rearing eggs and chicks instead of exporting them internationally. The trend towards megafarms containing over a million birds must be stopped in its tracks.

To prevent the worst outcomes for this virus, we must revisit its primary source: the incubator of intensive poultry farms.

Diana Bell does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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International

This is the biggest money mistake you’re making during travel

A retail expert talks of some common money mistakes travelers make on their trips.

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Travel is expensive. Despite the explosion of travel demand in the two years since the world opened up from the pandemic, survey after survey shows that financial reasons are the biggest factor keeping some from taking their desired trips.

Airfare, accommodation as well as food and entertainment during the trip have all outpaced inflation over the last four years.

Related: This is why we're still spending an insane amount of money on travel

But while there are multiple tricks and “travel hacks” for finding cheaper plane tickets and accommodation, the biggest financial mistake that leads to blown travel budgets is much smaller and more insidious.

A traveler watches a plane takeoff at an airport gate.

Jeshoots on Unsplash

This is what you should (and shouldn’t) spend your money on while abroad

“When it comes to traveling, it's hard to resist buying items so you can have a piece of that memory at home,” Kristen Gall, a retail expert who heads the financial planning section at points-back platform Rakuten, told Travel + Leisure in an interview. “However, it's important to remember that you don't need every souvenir that catches your eye.”

More Travel:

According to Gall, souvenirs not only have a tendency to add up in price but also weight which can in turn require one to pay for extra weight or even another suitcase at the airport — over the last two months, airlines like Delta  (DAL) , American Airlines  (AAL)  and JetBlue Airways  (JBLU)  have all followed each other in increasing baggage prices to in some cases as much as $60 for a first bag and $100 for a second one.

While such extras may not seem like a lot compared to the thousands one might have spent on the hotel and ticket, they all have what is sometimes known as a “coffee” or “takeout effect” in which small expenses can lead one to overspend by a large amount.

‘Save up for one special thing rather than a bunch of trinkets…’

“When traveling abroad, I recommend only purchasing items that you can't get back at home, or that are small enough to not impact your luggage weight,” Gall said. “If you’re set on bringing home a souvenir, save up for one special thing, rather than wasting your money on a bunch of trinkets you may not think twice about once you return home.”

Along with the immediate costs, there is also the risk of purchasing things that go to waste when returning home from an international vacation. Alcohol is subject to airlines’ liquid rules while certain types of foods, particularly meat and other animal products, can be confiscated by customs. 

While one incident of losing an expensive bottle of liquor or cheese brought back from a country like France will often make travelers forever careful, those who travel internationally less frequently will often be unaware of specific rules and be forced to part with something they spent money on at the airport.

“It's important to keep in mind that you're going to have to travel back with everything you purchased,” Gall continued. “[…] Be careful when buying food or wine, as it may not make it through customs. Foods like chocolate are typically fine, but items like meat and produce are likely prohibited to come back into the country.

Related: Veteran fund manager picks favorite stocks for 2024

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As the pandemic turns four, here’s what we need to do for a healthier future

On the fourth anniversary of the pandemic, a public health researcher offers four principles for a healthier future.

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John Gomez/Shutterstock

Anniversaries are usually festive occasions, marked by celebration and joy. But there’ll be no popping of corks for this one.

March 11 2024 marks four years since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic.

Although no longer officially a public health emergency of international concern, the pandemic is still with us, and the virus is still causing serious harm.

Here are three priorities – three Cs – for a healthier future.

Clear guidance

Over the past four years, one of the biggest challenges people faced when trying to follow COVID rules was understanding them.

From a behavioural science perspective, one of the major themes of the last four years has been whether guidance was clear enough or whether people were receiving too many different and confusing messages – something colleagues and I called “alert fatigue”.

With colleagues, I conducted an evidence review of communication during COVID and found that the lack of clarity, as well as a lack of trust in those setting rules, were key barriers to adherence to measures like social distancing.

In future, whether it’s another COVID wave, or another virus or public health emergency, clear communication by trustworthy messengers is going to be key.

Combat complacency

As Maria van Kerkove, COVID technical lead for WHO, puts it there is no acceptable level of death from COVID. COVID complacency is setting in as we have moved out of the emergency phase of the pandemic. But is still much work to be done.

First, we still need to understand this virus better. Four years is not a long time to understand the longer-term effects of COVID. For example, evidence on how the virus affects the brain and cognitive functioning is in its infancy.

The extent, severity and possible treatment of long COVID is another priority that must not be forgotten – not least because it is still causing a lot of long-term sickness and absence.

Culture change

During the pandemic’s first few years, there was a question over how many of our new habits, from elbow bumping (remember that?) to remote working, were here to stay.

Turns out old habits die hard – and in most cases that’s not a bad thing – after all handshaking and hugging can be good for our health.

But there is some pandemic behaviour we could have kept, under certain conditions. I’m pretty sure most people don’t wear masks when they have respiratory symptoms, even though some health authorities, such as the NHS, recommend it.

Masks could still be thought of like umbrellas: we keep one handy for when we need it, for example, when visiting vulnerable people, especially during times when there’s a spike in COVID.

If masks hadn’t been so politicised as a symbol of conformity and oppression so early in the pandemic, then we might arguably have seen people in more countries adopting the behaviour in parts of east Asia, where people continue to wear masks or face coverings when they are sick to avoid spreading it to others.

Although the pandemic led to the growth of remote or hybrid working, presenteeism – going to work when sick – is still a major issue.

Encouraging parents to send children to school when they are unwell is unlikely to help public health, or attendance for that matter. For instance, although one child might recover quickly from a given virus, other children who might catch it from them might be ill for days.

Similarly, a culture of presenteeism that pressures workers to come in when ill is likely to backfire later on, helping infectious disease spread in workplaces.

At the most fundamental level, we need to do more to create a culture of equality. Some groups, especially the most economically deprived, fared much worse than others during the pandemic. Health inequalities have widened as a result. With ongoing pandemic impacts, for example, long COVID rates, also disproportionately affecting those from disadvantaged groups, health inequalities are likely to persist without significant action to address them.

Vaccine inequity is still a problem globally. At a national level, in some wealthier countries like the UK, those from more deprived backgrounds are going to be less able to afford private vaccines.

We may be out of the emergency phase of COVID, but the pandemic is not yet over. As we reflect on the past four years, working to provide clearer public health communication, avoiding COVID complacency and reducing health inequalities are all things that can help prepare for any future waves or, indeed, pandemics.

Simon Nicholas Williams has received funding from Senedd Cymru, Public Health Wales and the Wales Covid Evidence Centre for research on COVID-19, and has consulted for the World Health Organization. However, this article reflects the views of the author only, in his academic capacity at Swansea University, and no funding or organizational bodies were involved in the writing or content of this article.

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