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Lt. Governor Simon visits Thomas Elementary School 


Encourages third graders to be the college Class of 2025


CARBONDALE – The state’s top education reform advocate, Lt. Governor Sheila Simon joined third graders on their first full day of school today to put a face on the future college Class of 2025.


Simon told Thomas Elementary School students that “college changes everything” when it comes to their futures, and she’s working with educators and policymakers on a reform package that will help them complete college in the next 14 years.


“The jobs of the future will require a college degree, which is something I know all of you are capable of obtaining,” Simon said, after leading students in songs on the violin. “That is why I’m working so hard to make sure we provide you with the resources necessary to finish your studies.”


Simon also told students that her older daughter Reilly serves as an example of what is possible for Thomas Elementary School students. A graduate of Thomas Elementary School, Reilly is now a junior at the University of Illinois studying Global Studies and Portuguese, and is spending this semester studying in Brazil.


Simon has embarked on a statewide Complete College tour this year, visiting dozens of community colleges and addressing lawmakers, school leaders and teachers, promoting the state’s completion goal. Illinois wants 60 percent of working-age adults to hold a college degree or certificate by 2025. In order to reach this goal, Illinois’ postsecondary institutions must increase the number of graduates statewide by 4,400 students each year, for a total of 600,000 additional graduates by 2025.


Simon serves on the state’s performance funding committee, which is creating a system to tie state higher education dollars to completion milestones and graduation. She also wants to see schools reform how they deliver remedial education and accept transfer students.


“We have a performance funding system now that rewards enrollment, and we need to shift that to reward course completions, graduation and other markers of progress and success so that students in third grade today are more likely to earn a diploma come 2025,” Simon said.


Simon was joined by Southern Illinois University-Carbondale (SIUC) Chancellor Rita Cheng, Carbondale Elementary School District 95 Superintendent Michael Shimshak, and Thomas Elementary School Principal Linda Flowers.


As part of the practices Thomas Elementary School has adopted from the No Excuses University Network to plant the seed of college awareness and attendance, Simon joined students in singing the SIUC fight song. Other components of the program include incorporating college symbolism into each classroom and helping align curriculum standards so that preparation for college readiness begins early.


“The No Excuses University Network offers an excellent framework for instilling the expectation of college achievement, while helping align academic success to create a seamless transition from elementary school to higher grades,” Principal Flowers said. “We look forward to working with Lt. Governor Simon to ensure all levels of education are working towards college readiness.”


One of four schools in District 95, Thomas Elementary School enrolls the public school district’s second and third graders, most of which are low-income and nearly half of which are African-American. About 68 percent of students met or exceeded standards on the 2010 ISAT, according to its state report card.