Illinois raises the education bar
New high school graduation requirements set
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[AUG. 25, 2005]
BURBANK -- On Wednesday, the first day of school
at Reavis High School in Burbank, Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed a new
law, putting into place the centerpiece of his Higher Standards,
Better Schools plan for Illinois schools. The legislation will
ensure that students take tougher courses before they can graduate
from high school. Higher Standards, Better Schools increases the
number of credits required for high school graduation; requires
students to take more math, science and writing-intensive courses;
and requires school districts to offer a broader range of electives
and advanced placement courses to students.
"Before we passed this bill, Illinois had some of the weakest high
school graduation requirements in the nation," Blagojevich said. "If
you don't take enough math classes or science classes or
writing-intensive classes, you're not going to be prepared to
compete in college or the workplace -- no matter what your diploma
says. This bill makes sure that students will take the classes they
need to get the education they deserve."
Sponsored by Sen. Miguel del Valle, D-Chicago, and Rep. Calvin
Senate Bill 575 increases course requirements for English, math
and science and requires all students to complete two
writing-intensive courses, one of which must be an English course.
The current social studies requirements remain unchanged.
"This plan will make the high school curriculum in Illinois more
rigorous, which is something we've needed for a long time," del
Valle said. "Too many of our high school graduates have been
unprepared for college and the work force. This plan addresses that
problem and assures that students in all schools across Illinois
will take the courses they need to be prepared for a successful
The Higher Standards, Better Schools plan helps college-bound
high school students prepare better for their higher education.
Enhanced graduation requirements have been proven to improve student
test scores. Students with more math, science and English course
work completed at the time they take Illinois' 11th-grade
standardized Prairie State Achievement Exam do better on the test.
In 2004 Illinois students who chose to complete the course work that
will now be required for all students scored an average of 1.8
points higher on the ACT than their peers.
"With this new law, students in every school in Illinois will be
learning the critical skills they need for success beyond high
school," Giles said. "We have to make sure that we're preparing all
our graduates for what comes after high school. It's important for
their future and it's important for the future of our state."
While Illinois schools have a responsibility to prepare students
for higher education, they also must recognize that some students
enter the work force immediately after high school graduation. The
governor's Higher Standards, Better Schools plan will support that
effort, as well. Business leaders look for employees who can write,
communicate effectively, analyze information, conduct research and
solve problems -- the skills gained through courses in math,
science, English and writing. The quality of Illinois' work force is
critical when it competes with other states for businesses deciding
where to locate.
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Blagojevich fought for increased education funding in the fiscal
2006 budget to support his Higher Standards, Better Schools plan.
These increases include an additional $1 million for dual credit,
dual enrollment classes; an increase of $1.5 million for advanced
placement courses; $3.5 million for career and technical education
programs; and an added $2 million for arts and foreign language
In summary, Senate Bill 575:
- Increases the English requirement to four credits from
- Increases the science requirement to two credits from one.
- Increases the math requirement to three credits from two and
requires Algebra I and coursework with geometry content.
- Adds a new requirement for two writing-intensive courses,
one being an English course.
The requirements will be phased in over the course of four years.
Members of the class of 2009, which begins high school this fall,
will be required to complete three years of math in order to
In addition to the requirements of Senate Bill 575, the
governor's Higher Standards, Better Schools plan helps schools offer
more foreign languages, arts and music; provides more training
opportunities for career-track students; helps schools offer more
advanced placement classes; and gives more high school students
access to community college dual credit, dual enrollment courses.
The Illinois State Board of Education has begun to develop the
criteria for the new writing-intensive course requirement and will
provide guidance and assistance to schools in curriculum
The legislation is effective immediately.
[News release from the governor's office]