By John Sepulvado, CNN
East St. Louis, Illinois (CNN) – The East St. Louis School District has some of the worst reading and math test scores in the state. That’s according to state and district statistics. Only ten percent of students are proficient in reading at their grade level. And for at least one resident, 17-year-old Louis Jones, it's a problem the presidential candidates need to address.
Meanwhile, education officials in Illinois are trying to take over the school district. The state cites systemic problems with corruption. Local board members disagree, and as is often the case with fights over power and money, both parties are now in court.
Many of the school buildings, according to a local board member, are in disrepair. And some students, like Danasia McDonald, complain about their teachers insulting and belittling them.
[3:27] “We [were] working on something, and [the teacher] was moving too slow,” McDonald recalls. “And we try to speed up ‘cause we’re moving past her, and we like, ‘We past that part.’ [The teacher says] ‘Well, we dumb the lesson down for y’all so y’all can get it. You act like y’all can’t comprehend…’ They don’t do their job for real....”
CNN Radio visited the East St. Louis School District after coming across an iReport by Louis Jones. The 17 year-old is an East St. Louis native, and he says he was “lucky” because he went to a private school. But he lived right next to an East St. Louis middle school.
[1:09] “It was extremely horrible,” Jones says. “The teachers didn’t really care, they were basically there to have a job, and they didn’t really care for the kids. Like, they didn’t learn anything. They came out with basically nothing, nobody ever took books, nobody ever took a back pack, nobody like…it was almost like it wasn’t even school, it was just like a daycare center.”
Jones says he’d like to see President Barack Obama and GOP challenger, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, make a top policy priority the improvement of public education, especially in inner cities. Jones also says he would like to see inner city students given more of a voice in their education.
[11:45] “I feel like students should have the right to evaluate their class and their teacher,” Jones says. “I feel like teacher evaluations by the student, and looking at their academic record, I’m pretty sure you can tell a good teacher from a bad teacher.”
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