Teaching in Illinois
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 awarded more than $3 billion dollars of education money to the state of Illinois. As of April 2012, almost 96 percent of those funds have been dispersed, saving/creating education jobs and promoting educational reform. But reform hasn’t stopped with the end of the stimulus money—and as legislators continue to work toward improving their state’s school system, they particularly look to attracting more effective teachers to their public school classrooms.The feedback gained from state testing is so important that Illinois upped the ante, closing a loophole that allowed many high school juniors to escape testing on college preparedness. This has resulted in 80 percent more students taking the state exams—and a significant drop in average scores. But this drop was due to the fact that in previous years only the best students took the test, instead of all students. The new results give a much more accurate picture of how the student population is doing, which in turn gives parents and teachers more information on how they’re doing, and how to respond. In order to continue improving feedback, new exams are due in 2014. These new exams will require written explanations of answers, demonstration of research skills, and require students to apply a given concept to a new context. The test questions are all based upon revised state standards for college and career preparedness, broken down into a grade-by-grade plan to properly equip students. Much of the 2009 stimulus money was targeted specifically to improving low-performing schools, through teacher training and development, providing resource support, and introducing technology to more classrooms. Additionally, a new data system was established to track students’ progress from kindergarten through 12th grade, to provide longitudinal data as well as snapshot data to educators improving the system. Another important reform in Illinois education is in regard to the hiring and firing of teachers. Previously, tenure and seniority were the most important factors for retaining teachers—meaning that schools often had to lay off newer teachers who were doing a much better job than others. Under the new reform, teacher achievement becomes more important than the number of years spent in a district. Tenure has not been eliminated (and high-performing new teachers can earn it within only three years), but performance is now more important than seniority in staffing decisions. Illinois actually joins several other states in reforming teacher hiring and firing—but Illinois has the advantage of bipartisan support for its reforms, whereas most other such reforms are disputed on party lines. Even Illinois teachers’ unions have supported the new reforms, after providing input on some of its aspects. Finally, Illinois is also looking to increase the length of its school day. For years, Illinois has had one of the shortest school days in the nation, and one substantially shorter than that of charter schools in the state. The added instructional time will be phased in as budgets (and teacher contract negotiations) allow.Teacher benefit packages include health, dental, and vision insurance, and a substantial retirement provision. The retirement age in Illinois is 55. At an average of $43,000/year (with a three percent annual cost-of-living adjustment), Illinois teacher pensions are better than those in the private sector for jobs of comparable salary—and among the highest in the nation even for federal employees. Unfortunately, this situation has put the state pension fund in the hole; there is a current political battle waging over how to fix the problem. But even if pension amounts are reduced, they will probably remain competitive nationally. In the meantime, factoring in the value of pension and health benefits, the average teacher total compensation package in Illinois is worth $105,000 annually. Several organizations in Illinois (see to the right) are devoted to teacher development, and to providing educational resources to Illinois teachers. These organizations often publish and discuss research on teaching programs and techniques, and often offer classroom activities or curriculum supplements to improve teachers’ classrooms.
- What’s the education climate in Illinois?
- How’s the job outlook for Illinois teachers?
- What benefits do Illinois teachers have?
- What are the credentialing requirements in Illinois?
- Find schools offering Masters in Education programs in Illinois
What’s the education climate in Illinois?Illinois has been taking serious, targeted steps towards improving its public education. Annual state tests measure student progress against grade-level standards. High-performing and improving schools are examined for models, while failing schools are targeted for correction. Of course, students’ test scores can be affected by more than just their schools—parental involvement (or lack of) and economic background impact them, too. But when scores are high in a school despite a high level of poverty among the students, then educators in other schools in impoverished areas can look to the succeeding schools for help.
Starting/Average Salaries – Illinois Teachers
- Elementary School Teacher: $36,590 / $55,830
- Middle School Teacher: $36,590 / $56,940
- Secondary School Teacher: $40,750 / $64,310
- Average for all Illinois jobs: $20,210 / $35,080