Getting Illinois fourth-graders to be proficient at reading is a battle. Proficient means the kids can read to learn; the reading itself is no longer a struggle, and being proficient by fourth grade is a good indication of how students will do for the rest of their school career. Robin Steans of the education group Advance Illinois says Illinois “inched up” from 33 percent in 2012 to 34 percent this year, in spite of tough times for school budgets, and an increasing student population from low-income families and those learning English as a second language.
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“The fact that we were able to make gains, that’s really good news. It is worth celebrating. It is worth commenting on. And then the minute you’re done celebrating and commenting you’ve gotta look at that and say 34 percent – That’s not good enough,” she said. Beneath that main statistic is the fact that the results are worse for minority kids – 14 percent for African-Americans and 18 percent for Latinos – though poverty affected the reading ability of students of all races. This information is contained in the Advance Illinois report The State We’re In: A Report Card on Public Education in Illinois.