Jim Dey: Area schools' report cards continue to be concerning

Nov. 5—If misery loves company, K-12 schools in Champaign-Urbana have lots of it when it comes to marginal academic performance.

The Illinois Board of Education's annual school report card released last week revealed that reading and math proficiency scores were, at best, marginal in the K-12 schools in Mahomet-Seymour, Tolono, Tuscola and Rantoul.

Statewide scores also were alarmingly low. Poverty, no doubt, contributed to the educational woes of Illinois' 1.9 million K-12 students, 49 percent of whom come from low-income families. Statewide, there was a 28 percent rate of chronic absenteeism.

Statewide reading scores showed just 35.4 percent of K-12 students met or exceeded grade proficiency in 2023.

That's compared to 30.1 percent in 2022 and 37.8 percent in pre-COVID-19 2019.

Statewide math scores were equally poor. Just 27.1 percent of K-12 students met or exceeded grade proficiency.

That's compared to just 25.5 percent in 2022 and 31.8 percent in 2019.

Education officials tried to put lipstick on this educational pig, boasting of improvements compared to 2022 numbers negatively affected by Gov. J.B. Pritzker's school closings.

They also boasted about an improved graduation rate — 88 percent — a meaningless number amid pervasive social promotion.

Following are area school numbers:

* Mahomet-Seymour spends roughly $10,000 each for the 3,401 students in its four schools. Roughly 23 percent are considered to be low-income, and chronic absenteeism is at 21 percent.

K-12 reading scores in 2023 showed 43.5 percent met or exceeded grade proficiency. That's compared to 35.8 percent in 2022 and 49.2 in 2019.

Math scores were similar — 43.1 percent met or exceeded proficiency in 2023. That's compared to 40.9 percent who met that standard in 2022 and 45.2 percent in 2019.

Tolono's four schools have 1,517 students, taxpayers spending $15,000 on each. Students have a 29 percent chronic absenteeism rate and a 27 percent low-income background.

Reading and math scores in 2023 were poor.

Just 36.9 percent met or exceeded grade proficiency, compared to 27 percent in 2022 and 38.8 percent in 2019.

Math scores were worse. Just 27.3 percent of K-12 students were proficient in math in 2023. That's compared to 29.5 percent in 2022 and 36.5 percent in 2019.

* Tuscola spends $12,000 each on the 903 students who attends its three schools. One of the three — East Prairie Middle School — received a "targeted" rating for its disastrous academic showing.

The report card stated that 41 percent of Tuscola students come from low-income families and that it has a chronic absenteeism rate of 20 percent.

In 2023, K-12 student proficiency in reading was 42.7 percent, compared to 35.7 percent in 2022 and 47.6 percent in 2019.

Scores in math were worse, just 29.1 percent of students meeting or exceeding grade proficiency in 2023.

Math proficiency in 2022 was 17.8 percent and in 2019 was 20.6 percent.

* Rantoul operates under two boards, one for the high school and the other for four elementary schools and a junior high.

The junior high and Northview Elementary School received substandard ratings for poor performance.

The district's five schools have 1,667 students, and it spends $17,000 on each. Of its student body, 92 percent are low-income, and 34 percent are chronically absent.

Just 10.3 percent of grade and middle school students meet or exceed proficiency in reading, compared to20.3 percent in 2022 and 9.1 percent in 2019.

Only 4.9 percent meet or exceed grade proficiency in math, compared to 5.6 percent in 2022 and 7.8 percent in 2019.

Rantoul High School has 833 students, a 74 percent low-income rate and a 47 percent chronic absentee rate. It spends $17,000 per student.

The report card's limited numbers showed limited high school reading and math proficiency — just 11.4 percent in reading and 6.3 percent in math.