PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — As kids return to school, an Illinois data nonprofit says more attention needs to be paid to Peoria Public Schools’ high school students’ low reading and math comprehension.

Wirepoints president Ted Dabrowski blasted the low scores and called for action.

“I think what really matters is that if the state is going to set standards, then we should meet those standards…I think what’s missing are some very serious goals to get that education level up. The first thing that needs to happen is we need to acknowledge the problem because we can’t fix the problem if we don’t acknowledge it,” he said.

According to the 2021-2022 Illinois State Board of Education Report Card, 13 percent of PPS high school students could read at grade level, compared with the state average of 30 percent. Ten percent of PPS high school students are proficient in math compared to 26 percent statewide.

Data: Illinois State Board of Education; Graphic: Peoria Public Schools

“The results are dismal. Most kids, almost all of them, can’t read at grade level or do math at grade level. So we have to have a higher standard. We shouldn’t have low expectations of those children, we should have high expectations and act accordingly,” said Dabrowski.

Broken down further, five percent of Black students, 13 percent of Hispanic students and 37 percent of White students could read at grade level. Two percent of Black students, 10 percent of Hispanic students and 29 percent of White students are proficient in math.

Data: Illinois State Board of Education; Graphic: Peoria Public Schools

Dabrowski said the reading and math comprehension levels don’t match up with graduation rates.

“One of the big problems we have is only 13 percent of kids can read at grade level in the entire district, and yet 80 percent graduate. So there’s a big disconnect between their ability to read and do math, and the graduation levels,” he said.

PPS Superintendent Dr. Sharon Kherat called the Wirepoints report “a narrow view of success and use of data.”

“The data is one measure of the whole child that we educate and support socially, emotionally and physically…Peoria Public Schools has many, many challenges that have a heavy impact on outcomes and day-to-day progress,” Kherat said in a statement to WMBD.

Kherat alluded to the recently released report from the City of Peoria and Peoria County Joint Commission on Racial Justice and Equity, which found racial disparities in child and youth development, economic development and jobs, environment and climate, heath and human services, housing, information and technology, justice system and transportation.

“Students from different racial backgrounds do not have the same educational experience within similar education settings,” the report found.

“These challenges are real to our city and follows our children into the classroom…Historical racism/classism has contributed to the marginalization of most of our student population,” Kherat wrote.