BURBANK – On the first day of school at Reavis High School in Burbank, Governor Rod Blagojevich today 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. 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," said Gov. Blagojevich.
Sponsored by Sen. Miguel del Valle (D-Chicago) and Rep. Calvin Giles (D-Chicago), Senate Bill 575 increases course requirements for English, Math and Science and requiring all students to complete two writing-intensive courses, one of which must be in English. 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," said Sen. del Valle. "Too many of our high school graduates have been unprepared for college and the workforce. 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 future."
The Higher Standards, Better Schools plan helps college-bound high school students prepare better for their work in higher education. Enhanced graduation requirements have been proven to improve student test scores. Students with more Math, Science and English coursework completed at the time they take Illinois' eleventh grade standardized Prairie State Achievement Exam (PSAE) do better on the test. In 2004 Illinois students who chose to complete the coursework 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," said Rep. Giles. "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 workforce immediately after high school graduation. Gov. Blagojevich’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’ workforce is critical when it competes with other states for businesses deciding where to locate.
Gov. Blagojevich fought for increased education funding to support his Higher Standards, Better Schools plan in the FY 2006 budget. 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 & Technical Education programs and an added $2 million for Arts and Foreign Language classes.
In summary, SB 575:
· increases the English requirement to four credits from three;
· 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; and
· 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 graduate.
In addition to the requirements of SB575, Gov. Blagojevich’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 and 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 development.
SB 575 is effective immediately.