Chamber’s District 186 School Report shows mismatch between perception and reality

Springfield Chamber: School District 186 Business Perceptions ReportKudos to the SJ-R, which ran a editorial today on the new report from the Chamber – and also to District 186 Superintendent Jennifer Gill, who requested the survey, and the Chamber (, which surveyed businesses about their perceptions about local Springfield schools.  But the Chamber went a step further, creating a task force that explored the validity of those perceptions.

The less-than-positive results aren’t a surprise to ICON. Many who live both inside and outside Springfield hold similar perceptions and don’t hesitate to share their opinions without knowing the facts. We challenge everyone to become educated about the facts and to support our local schools.

Those of us who sent our children to Springfield Public Schools can attest to the quality education our children received. As recently reported in the SJ-R, District 186 students are able to compete for placement at quality universities.

Attending school in a diverse urban school district is a different experience from attending a suburban or rural school, where the student body is more likely to be Caucasian, relatively financially stable and homogeneous.  District 186 is to be commended for doing a good job, particularly given the larger percentage of low-income students who attend compared to the percentage attending surrounding suburban schools. Our children received not only a quality education, but they also learned how to work with a diverse group of people similar to what they are likely to experience when they enter the workforce.

Here’s a brief summary of the four areas of study:

Staff Evaluation


Respondents expressed overall concerns about the ability of the school system to move ineffective teachers out of the system.


District 186 utilizes an in-depth, rigorous evaluation process that is consistent with the principles used by many businesses and corporations today. The majority of ineffective or underperforming teachers are removed either through their own resignation, or by not being offered new contracts. [Emphasis ours.]

Student Achievement


In general, survey respondents felt that the District offers appropriate course offerings, but did not understand the range of student achievement that exists within the district. Respondents were unsure if students were prepared to graduate with college and workforce readiness.


District 186 provides a quality education, including a substantial number of advanced placement and dual credit courses. The top 25% of District 186 students achieve ACT scores that are comparable to their counterparts in other Sangamon County and urban school districts. There is a range of student achievement levels, from very high to very low. While some students do not display college-readiness in terms of ACT score, factors outside of the education system play an important role. [Emphasis ours.]



A vast majority of respondents felt that District 186 facilities are in fair to poor condition. While at least 25% believe this hurts student learning, many were unsure how facilities impact educational outcomes.


Research shows that highly efficient facilities create spaces to implement 21st century learning practices that may improve student learning and employee satisfaction. The task force suggests that the District consider a comprehensive facilities study and long-range facilities plan to ensure facilities are providing optimal academic environments.



A majority of respondents do not believe District 186 is adequately funded, and 54% do not believe the District spends funds wisely.


District 186’s financial information compares consistently with other Central Illinois urban districts regarding revenue and expenses. Like other districts throughout the state, District 186 does not receive the level of General State Aid (GSA) recommended by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE). Prior to the 2013-14 school year, the district was in deficit spending, thereby reducing its fund balance. However, the District 186 fund balance increased during the 2013-14 and 2014-15 school years, and is projected to increase again at the completion of the 2015-16 school year. District 186 is now making strides to increase its fund balance to a minimum level of 15% of annual revenues as recommended by ISBE.
Under the leadership of Superintendent Jennifer Gill, District 186 has developed a new model of spending, eliminating deficit spending and demonstrating a clear pattern of spending funds wisely. [Emphasis ours.]

Read the full report

Want to read the report?  The full report on the GSCC website…