How to solve Illinois' teacher shortage? Lawmakers push variety of ideas

By Taylor Vidmar, The Pantagraph

From the story: Solving the problem starts with framing it accurately, said state Sen. Cristina Pacione-Zayas, D-Chicago, who prefers the term “teacher vacancy.”

The term “teacher shortage” can simplify the root issues, Pacione-Zayas said. There are still many qualified educators in the state, but a lot of them have been pushed away by what she described as a lack of respect for their profession.

“Just because you can't buy a Ferrari for 99 cents doesn't mean there's a Ferrari shortage,” she said, referencing an article that helped shape her understanding of educator vacancies.

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Category: In the News

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From the article:

The Illinois state board of education is in the process of changing its current assessment system from the Illinois Assessment of Readiness (IAR), a test currently given at the end of the school year, to a three-times-a-year test. The state board’s plan for the new assessment would include an optional kindergarten to second grade exam.

In response to the state’s plan, the Illinois Families for Public Education created “Too Young to Test” – a bill. Sen. Cristina Pacione-Zayas (D-Chicago), a former state board of education member, plans to carry during this session.

The state already requires educators to complete a Kindergarten Individual Development Survey within the first few months of school; this legislation would not impact that survey or other local exams or diagnostic screeners to determine if a child has a disability. The bill, said Pacione-Zayas, would not impact those efforts.

“This is really about ensuring that our youngest children do not have to be subjected to a high stakes, accountability assessment,” said Pacione-Zayas.


Pacione-Zayas is also looking to boost funding for the Minority Teaching Initiative Scholarship, which provides assistance to people of color and bilingual student teachers. Usually the budget line for the scholarship is $2.1 million, Pacione-Zayas wants it to be $4.5 million. The increase in the scholarship amount will prevent students from leaving a teacher prep program for employment, she said.

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Category: In the News

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Community-minded equity lens guides her approach to policymaking

By MARIA GARDNER
For Capitol News Illinois

State Sen. Cristina Pacione-Zayas’ friends tease her for changing the meaning of words. “Solution” becomes a verb when she says “I’m about solutioning.” 

Pacione-Zayas, 43, D-Chicago, has been actively “solutioning” since she took office in December when then-state Sen. Iris Martinez stepped down to become Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County. Representing the 20th district on Chicago’s Northwest side, Pacione-Zayas has flexed her expertise in education and leaned on her community-minded equity lens to guide her approach to policymaking.

Raised as an only child, her community played a huge part in her life. She grew up in Logan Square and, from a young age, her parents took her to board meetings and community events, instilling in her the importance of social responsibility and collective action. Those experiences “really helped shape what I bring to the table in terms of a legislator,” she said.

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Category: In the News

Illinois pleas to skip SATs

State and federal education heads disagree on tests

Illinois Times, April 1, 2021 | Original article

By Madison Angell

pacione zayasThe Illinois Senate has added to the call for the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) to waive spring assessments, such as the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT), for students, as it did in 2020. State Sen. Cristina Pacione-Zayas, D-Chicago, spearheaded a resolution, approved March 17, calling for testing waivers. She said many students have been learning remotely or in a hybrid system for the past year, and expecting them to return to school for in-person testing is unrealistic.

"We all know this is not a typical year," Pacione-Zayas said in a statement. "Let's have some compassion for our students and teachers and allow them to use their limited time in the classroom to learn and recover from the trauma of the pandemic, rather than to take stressful tests."

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Category: In the News

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