Byline: Teresa Mask Daily Herald Staff Writer
In 1997, then-state Superintendent Joseph Spagnolo unveiled a five-year plan he said would boost reading scores in Illinois public schools.
Two years later, the "Right to Read" initiative is a bust - materials sit unopened in classrooms, some teachers are not using the strategies they were taught at special seminars and student reading scores have shown little promise of massive improvements.
But Glenn "Max" McGee, the state's newest superintendent, is determined to turn that around.
"When the expectation is clear, and the resolve is firm, our students will perform well," McGee told legislators in September during a briefing about standardized tests.
McGee said it will take some time, but the goal of getting the bulk of students meeting standards remains.
In the 1999 School Report Cards, released today, scores on the state's newest test show about 30 percent of high school sophomores are not meeting state expectations in reading. The number increases to 40 percent for both third- and fifth-graders. About 27 percent of eighth-graders also are having trouble in reading, according to the results of the Illinois Standards Achievement Test.
By 2005, state board members are hopeful 80 percent of students, at each grade level, will be meeting Illinois standards for reading.
Statewide results for math and writing ISAT tests taken in February and the final science and social science tests for the Illinois Goals Assessment Program (IGAP) exam also were released today by the Illinois State Board of Education.
The state board is backing McGee's goal, recently approving a five-point plan to improve reading.
"We want to give people a clear sense of what it's going to take to help students be better readers," said Eunice Greer, associate superintendent for statewide initiatives.
But not everybody is confident the latest push to boost scores will work either.
"To me, every time somebody comes out and says 'by the year something,' I don't take it seriously," said parent Donna Johnson of Mount Prospect. "There are other problems that impact the reading scores, and we can't fix them all."
Johnson, a former River Trails Elementary District 26 school board member, said student mobility rates and other societal issues affect the …