DANVILLE — Between 2019 and 2023, Black students in Illinois improved their reading skills at a rate faster than any other demographic.
That’s according to the 2023 Illinois Report Card, published Monday by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE).
State Superintendent Tony Sanders says better funding for schools made that growth possible.
“We disproportionately educate Black students in underfunded schools with high teacher and principal turnover, so they have less access to the supports they need,” Sanders said.
The state has focused on closing these financial gaps since 2017 when it adopted its Evidence-Based Formula for distributing money to schools.
On average, Black students still score lower in English language arts compared to their peers.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, student literacy, particularly among Black students, has been a major concern in central Illinois. Low reading scores in cities like Decatur and Champaign have been spotlighted by parents, activists, and national opinion pieces, suggesting that these school districts aren’t meeting fundamental responsibilities.
ISBE notes that raw scores typically reflect income levels, while growth rates reflect a school’s success. Additionally, ISBE points out that Illinois sets some of the nation’s highest standards for English language arts proficiency.
Meade Park Elementary credits tutoring and family connections for their success
Meade Park Elementary School in Danville stands out among east-central Illinois schools. Black students there increased their English language arts proficiency more than almost anywhere else in the region.
According to Principal Tanner DeLaurier, the school’s success comes down to the way teachers treat their students.
“A lot of our students come from trauma. We’re a high-poverty school, and we just don’t let our students make excuses for that. We have some of the brightest kids in the area and we just have to push them to find their potential,” DeLaurier said.
DeLaurier added that they provide school supplies for every student, offer additional pay for teachers who tutor, and maintain deep ties with families across generations, among other initiatives.
Emily Hays is a reporter for Illinois Public Media. Follow her on Twitter @amihatt.