REEDER: Chicago teachers score below high school students on standard test

By   /   September 12, 2012  /   8 Comments

Reeder: 4 of 10 Chicago teachers send their kids to private school.

By Scott Reeder | Special to

SPRINGFIELD — You’ll hear a lot of numbers bandied around in the coming days regarding the Chicago Teachers Union strike – average salary, anticipated size of the district’s deficit, level of state financial support.

But the number I find most disturbing is: 19.

That’s the average Chicago Public School teacher’s score on the ACT test if they took it when attending high school, according to a 2008 Southern Illinois University study.

Despite all of the bright teachers, there are enough who scored so badly on the ACT that they dragged the average down to 19 out of a possible score of 36.

To put that number in perspective, today every high school junior in Illinois – whether they are going to college or not – is required to take the test.  This year their average test score was just shy of 21.

Even though Chicago is drawing its teachers from a below-average talent pool, it is paying them handsomely.

According to the Chicago Teachers Union’s own figures, an average teacher earns a salary of $71,000. The school district pegs the number a bit higher at $76,000 without benefits.

But regardless of which number you believe, it is worth noting that, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average Chicagoan with a bachelor’s degree earns $48,866.

Don’t the taxpayers deserve better?

Before they went on strike, Chicago teachers were offered a 16 percent raise over the next four years.

So why is the CTU on strike? It comes down to standards.

Unfortunately, both administrators and unions have held the bar pretty low when it comes to policing the ranks for underperformers. Administrators have given meaningless, sugar-coated evaluations.

But now the school district is talking tough on evaluations. It wants to link teacher evaluations to student performance. And some underperforming teachers would be let go. Not surprisingly, the union is saying no way.

CTU has a history of defending the worst of the worst under the guise of “due process.”

After reading 20 years of tenure dismissal cases in which the union vigorously defended each teacher, I can say, whether they ultimately kept their job or not, none of these individuals were people I’d want teaching my children.

Apparently, many rank-and-file Chicago teachers feel the same way about some of their colleagues.

A 2004 Fordham Institute study found that 39 percent of Chicago public school teachers send their own children to private schools.  That’s compared to a national average of 12 percent of all children who are educated privately.

Think about that: Four out of 10 Chicago teachers are willing to pay money to keep their kids from attending the schools where they teach.

That speaks volumes.

Scott Reeder is the journalist in residence at the Illinois Policy Institute, and a senior contributing editor to He can be reached at: [email protected].



  • John

    This article is ridiculous. Most CPS teachers are also of color and have proved that a test score does not reflect their readiness for college. Those tests are written for white men. I scored a 22 and I am doing great at Stanford.

  • This speaks volumes is right. Public school teachers need to be held accountable. High pay, poor results does not make sense.

  • So what are yoy trying to say? That they’re not ready for college but they can teach kids that are college bound? You are most likely a minority & that’s why you’re at Stanford with a score of 22, claiming that you’re doing great…you’re also a Democrat…can I be wrong?

  • They all need to be fired and new teachers hired at median pay of $48,000

  • Jack Murphy

    But what indication is there that they are effective teachers? If we don’t know why should they be given a raise?

  • Linda G

    As a retired Illinois teacher, I know the Chicago teachers have a very tough job. Many inner-city kids come to school unprepared in so many ways. However, that does not excuse teachers who do not do their jobs. Teachers need to be evaluated fairly on how well they are performing–and a lot of that is based on how well their students perform. If kids come out of school unprepared, their lives will beless productive because of their lack of education. When it comes to educating our youth, we are all responsible. As the old saying goes, “It takes a village to raise a child,” even if the village is as big as the city of Chicago.

  • SturJen

    I’m a Hispanic female and I got a 30. What’s your excuse? Throwing the race card isn’t going to work this time. Face it, you’re just not as smart as others.

  • Come on

    First of all your ACT argument is ill-informed. The ACT has changed a lot over the years in both scoring and substance. If you look at averages in the 80s and 90s they are about 18-19, now the average is over 21 with many more kids taking it and the percentage of perfect 36 scores has doubled since 1990. Smarter kids or easier test?

    Also it’s funny how many call for firing them all as if there are qualified high performing teachers just waiting to fill all those empty classrooms. If everyone has it sooooo bad in the private sector why aren’t they becoming teachers for all the extravagant benefits.

    Because it’s a shitty thankless job. I know because I quit teaching this year. And I got a 30 on my ACT. I quit because I can get treated ridiculously better in the private sector because I have math/science degrees. So good luck screwing the teachers unions because the only teachers left will be the ones that can get a job doing anything else. Teachers know this hence the private school statistics.

    But hey everybody I dont want to spoil the party so keep bashing those teachers on all the comment boards you can, so our nations best and brightest will never consider teaching as a profession.