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The Illinois education department's watch list of school districts on the brink of financial trouble jumped 30 percent this year, with 145 of the state's 932 districts deemed to be on shaky ground.

Robert Leininger, the outgoing state superintendent of education, said spending exceeds revenue in 70 percent of the state's school districts. He used the report as an opportunity to repeat one of the main themes of his tenure, calling on state leaders to offer schools a long-term, stable funding source.

In recent years, the state contribution to Illinois school funding has consistently fallen. Districts are placed on the watch list if their year-end balances dip below 5 percent of that year's revenues.

The survey placed 14 districts in the state's most severe category of financial trouble.


Kentucky Improves: State-writing-assessment scores to be released this month show that Kentucky students have improved, despite an audit that has lowered scores for 100 schools.

The scores for 4th, 8th, and 12th graders show not only improved student skills, but also better grading by teachers, according to Commissioner of Education Thomas C. Boysen. The scores for each school will be included in overall performance rankings, which are used to determine whether the schools have improved. The rankings, which include other tests as well as factors such as dropout rates, are backed up by a system of rewards and sanctions that holds teachers and administrators accountable for student work.

Despite the higher writing marks, some school grades were lowered after out-of-state teachers checked the writing portfolios, which are collections of students' work. Mr. Boysen said that rather than going easy on the grades, the audits more likely show the need for better training from the education department.

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