ISBE releases plan to improve literacy outcomes for all Illinois students and announces statewide listening tour to gather feedback.

The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) released the first draft of the Illinois Literacy Plan, which provides a comprehensive roadmap to improve literacy outcomes for all Illinois students. The plan assembles the best thinking from experts, educators, and advocates across the state to align on a unified vision for literacy instruction in Illinois. ISBE invites the public to share feedback on the plan through an online comment form as well as a statewide listening tour.

“Literacy is a fundamental right. It is completely necessary for active participation in 21st century life,” said State Superintendent of Education Dr. Tony Sanders. “The Illinois Literacy Plan marks a new era in our effort to ensure all students receive the literacy instruction they deserve. There is no cure-all, no one-and-done professional development course, that will transform literacy instruction in Illinois. We need action at every level to reshape how we prepare and support educators to teach literacy. I am immensely grateful to all our partners who contributed considerable time and expertise to the development of the Illinois Literacy Plan, and I look forward to continuing to strengthen this draft through the feedback we gather across our statewide listening tour.”

“Literacy is critical to social, economic, and health justice. Yet as a nation, we are facing an urgent literacy crisis,” said Senate Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford (D-Maywood). “With the right instruction and support almost every child – regardless of ZIP code, race, ethnicity, neurodiversity, home language, or income – can learn to read. Today’s students who struggle to read are tomorrow’s adults – adults who desperately need literacy to sign a lease agreement, fill out a job application, manage their own health care, support their children’s education, and participate in our democracy. Together, we can create a brighter, more equitable future for both children and adults.”

The listening tour to gather feedback on the plan starts next week in Springfield, followed by stops in Chicago, Rockford, and Mount Vernon, and a virtual event:

  • 1-4 p.m. June 28 - Illinois State Board of Education, 4th floor A/B, 100 N. First Street, Springfield
  • Noon-3 p.m. July 10 - Illinois State Board of Education, 4th floor, Peoria Room, 555 W. Monroe Street, Chicago
  • 10:30 a.m.–1:30 p.m. July 11 - East Branch Rockford Public Library, Community Room, 6685 E. State Street, Rockford
  • Noon-3 p.m. July 27 - C.E. Brehm Memorial Public Library District, Community Room, 101 S. 7th Street, Mount Vernon
  • Noon-3 p.m. July 31 - Virtual via Zoom (Meeting ID: 824 3607 1583, Passcode: 421877)

Research defines literacy as not just the ability to read, but rather, the ability to understand, critically evaluate, and communicate about complex texts in diverse settings. The first-ever Illinois Literacy Plan translates extensive evidence of how children develop literacy into practical actions policymakers, educators, and families need to take to ensure all children achieve grade-level literacy skills.

The plan explains the fundamental components of literacy, addresses the need for comprehensive and coordinated professional development for both current and aspiring teachers, and recommends detailed next steps to ensure all students receive equitable and effective literacy instruction. The plan gives special consideration to English learners, whose unique needs and skills pose both challenges and opportunities for English literacy development.

ISBE began developing the plan this past fall by convening dozens of experts from across the country and the state to explore the landscape of evidence-based instructional practices in literacy for meeting the needs of Illinois’ diverse student population. More than 60 individuals from school districts, higher education, advocacy groups, and state professional associations participated in the literacy summit.

ISBE will incorporate the feedback gathered during the statewide listening tour into a second draft of the Illinois Literacy Plan and then conduct a second listening tour in the fall. ISBE aims to finalize the literacy plan in early 2024.