We Can Do Better

Advancing Public Education in Illinois


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A Question for Illinois Residents:

When it is time for our children to lead, will they be ready?

Right now, the answer is no. We can do better.

Advance Illinois has developed policy priorities and recommendations as a starting point for the state’s legislators and education leaders to put a world-class education within reach of every young person. Let us underscore: If we want to dramatically improve education in Illinois, we must be bold. We must radically re-imagine the systems and policies that collectively shape the learning experience for Illinois’ children. We cannot tinker around the edges or avoid uncomfortable conversations. We must commit to genuine change, and we must do so now. Specifically, we recommend the following:

1.

Recruit, Develop & Empower

All other reforms--from greater funding to internationally rigorous standards--mean little in the hands of ineffective teachers and principals. Empowering teachers and principals to make critical decisions will help attract the sort of motivated and skilled professionals we need. At the same time, we need to strengthen the preparation we provide, give teachers better materials and support, and develop more strategic evaluation and compensation strategies.
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2.

Set Expectations & Provide Supports

Top-performing states and countries have an important feature in common: they have world-class academic standards for their students. They also have a system of examinations that align to standards and provide useful information about student mastery. Yet raising the bar without providing help to reach the bar is a doomed exercise. We must make it easier for teachers to deliver high-quality instruction.
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3.

Empower Local Leaders to Innovate

Illinois must embrace innovation in education and exchange more freedom for more responsible accountability. Though it is common sense that an elementary school in Cairo may have different issues than one in Moline, and that a high school on the west side of Chicago may require different strategies than one in Effingham, we continue to fund and regulate schools in a "one-size-fits-all" manner. Illinois must give schools and districts more control over their budgets, schedules and staffing. When schools succeed--against a relevant and rigorous set of measures--they should be rewarded with continued or expanded support for their work, and effective strategies should be shared with others. Where schools fail over an extended period of time and across multiple measures, the state must be prepared to intervene. Our willingness to tolerate ineffective education must end.
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