Consider this comparison senior staff writer Melissa Silverberg dug out of the latest school report card data:
In Palatine Township Elementary District 15, the school that performed best on the standardized tests, Marion Jordan, had the fewest students from low-income households; the school that performed worst, Jane Addams. had the most students from low-income households.
That is no accident. Throughout the suburbs and around Illinois, the Daily Herald Poverty-Achievement Index shows, student achievement is directly tied to household income levels.
The connection always has been assumed. That's not the shock. But what is stunning is how dramatic the connection is.
Schools with a higher percentage of low-income students score lower on standardized tests than schools with a lower percentage.
Not just sometimes or most of the time. But almost always.
We recognize the controversy about the new standardized test -- Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC -- and whether it's flawed.
Perhaps it is.
We'll let brighter minds than ours figure out the vagaries of that.
But in all the debate about whether the test needs to be improved, let's not lose sight of a central point this year's school report cards should make clear to everyone: Academic performance needs to be improved.
Generations are at risk.
We may not want to hear that our schools are failing, but they are. Even in the suburbs. Even in districts that are not all that poor.
Or at least they're certainly not succeeding to the level that the 21st century demands.
Yes, there are success stories. Yes, we still graduate some of the most prepared students in the country.
But there is a rising tide that is prepared only to struggle.
We don't blame this on poor teachers. We think the suburbs are teeming with devoted, hardworking teachers who give their all for their students.
And we don't blame this on lack of resources. For the most part, suburban taxpayers are generous beyond measure. Suburbanites believe in quality schools and express that belief with their pocketbooks.
But something's not working. Or maybe it's just that the challenge is bigger than most of us recognize. But it has to be addressed.
And if it isn't, it's not just the kids who will suffer. It will be all of us.