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Illinois Falls Further Behind ‘No Child’ Education Targets


New test scores show Illinois is falling further behind in meeting the requirements set by the No Child Left Behind law.

According to a report released Thursday by the Illinois State Board of Education, 80 percent of Illinois school districts failed to live up to the standards set by No Child Left Behind. Barely half of high school juniors met the requirements.

However, State Board of Education Chairman Gery Chico said the numbers don't tell the whole story. He pointed out the testing benchmarks under No Child Left Behind are a moving target - increasing every year.

In a Thursday news conference, Chico derided the law as being "unyielding" in the way it sets ever-rising test score targets he said are unrealistic, then punishes schools that fail to meet them.

"This is not the stock market," Chico said. "This is something that has to ... work in a way that gives people encouragement when they are making improvement [and] steps in to intervene when they're not."

For the first time, the U.S. Department of Education will grant waivers to free states from the rigid requirements of No Child Left Behind. Chico said Illinois will request one.

Chico said low test scores aren't to blame, although there were declines in reading, math and science scores on the annual tests given to high school juniors. He said the federal standards are "unattainable" and "causing mislabeling of schools as not meeting progress when in fact there's so much improvement taking place in so many schools, it's becoming a real disservice."

Chico said if Illinois gets a waiver, the state will still measure student performance. But he said the focus should be on growth, and progress.