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Not a single student can do math at grade level in 53 Illinois schools. For reading, it’s 30 schools

February 18, 2023

By: Ted Dabrowski and John Klingner |

Spry Community Links High School, in the Heart of Little Village in Chicago, says its vision is to “provide a challenging and supportive environment…to enable our students to succeed in the 21st century.” Number one on the school’s focus list? “Increasing reading and math scores to or above grade level.”

But a look at state data that tracks reading and math scores for each Illinois school reveals two frightening facts about Spry. Not a single one of its 88 kids at the school can read at grade level. It’s the same for math. Zero

kids are proficient.

Spry is one of 30 schools in Illinois where not a single student can read at grade level. Twenty-two of those schools are part of the Chicago Public Schools and the other eight are outside Chicago.

The failure list in math is even longer. There are 53 schools statewide where not one kid is proficient in math.

The absolute failure to teach even a single child to read and do math in so many schools is yet another indictment of the state’s educational system. At Wirepoints, we covered in detail the failures of Illinois education across the state in Poor student achievement and near-zero accountability: An indictment of Illinois’ public education system.

The data comes straight from the Illinois State Board of Education.

This column focuses on schools where zero percent of kids are able to read or do math. But we could have just as easily looked at the 622 schools where only 1 out of 10 kids or less can read at grade level. That’s a whopping 18 percent of the state’s 3,547 schools that tested students in 2022.

And only 1 out of 10 kids or less can do math at grade level in 930 schools…that’s more than a quarter of all schools in the state.

Defenders of the current system are sure to invoke covid as the big reason for the low scores. But a look at the 2019 numbers show that the reading and math numbers were only slightly better than they are now.

Take Spry, for example. Just 2 of the school’s 127 students in 2019 could read at grade level before the pandemic. In math, zero students were proficient.

The failure isn’t about money, either. Data from the Illinois State Board of Education shows spending at Spry was already at $20,000 per student before the pandemic. Today it spends $35,600.

What’s really incredible is that many of these schools are rated “commendable” by the Illinois State Board of Education. That’s the 2nd-highest of four “accountability” ratings a school can receive.

Not a single one of the 113 students at Sandoval Sr High School can read or do math at grade level. And yet the school is “commendable.”

Same with Ralph Ellison Chicago International Charter School. Over $24,000 spent on each of its 172 students. Labeled “commendable.” And none of the students are proficient in either reading or math.

In a sane world, schools that don’t and can’t teach a single student the most basic of skills would be shut down.

But here, they carry on…the system thrives while students wither.

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