State report cards: Just five Southland school districts make ‘Adequate Yearly Progress’
BY SUSAN DEMAR LAFFERTY firstname.lastname@example.org
Nathan Myolte and Stephanie Las work on their group poster project for vocabulary with focus on sentence grammar in their 7th grade English Language Arts class at Hickory Creek Middle School in Frankfort, Illinois, Friday, October 26, 2012. Nathan is weairng glasses for crazy glasses day. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun Times Media
Frankfort School District will host three community coffees to outline the new Common Core standards. Sessions will be at 1:30 p.m. Nov. 13 and 1:30 and 5:30 p.m. Nov. 15 at the district administrative office, 10482 W. Nebraska in Frankfort.
Since this is a K-12 initiative, officials from both Frankfort and Lincoln-Way High School District will be at the sessions to explain the new standards, designed to prepare students for college and careers. For more information, visit
www.fsd157c.org or call
It’s report card time again for schools throughout Illinois.
On the surface the results aren’t pretty. Only five elementary school districts and no high school districts in the Lincoln-Way area made “adequate yearly progress” as defined by federal law.
But it’s the system that delivers “a slap in the face,” according to Orland School District 135. Its students tested similarly well in math and reading as students in Frankfort School District 157C, but Orland did not make “AYP” while Frankfort did.
It’s the same story that has been repeated for the past several years. The Illinois State Board of Education releases results of student performances on standardized tests, and as more schools each year fail to achieve the goals set by the federal No Child Left Behind law of 2001, educators continue to stress that the results reflect only how well students test on one particular day, not how much they learn over the course of a school year.
According to state data released last week, 713 of 865 school districts statewide — more than 82 percent — failed to make AYP.
Five area school districts that did are North Palos, Palos, Homer Township, Manhattan and Frankfort.
This year, making AYP meant 85 percent of students — including various subsets of students — met state standards on the tests.
Most superintendents contacted said they were pleased with the percentages of their students who tested well, but some were disappointed they fell short of AYP. No Child Left Behind also dissects student subgroups based on race, English proficiency, low-income and special needs, and those often are the students who aren’t keeping pace.
Those who did make AYP said they are lucky to have hit what is becoming a more elusive target. By next year, 92.5 percent of students must meet state standards, and in 2014 the number reaches 100 percent of students. School leaders have said all along that won’t happen, and they’re grateful a new system for measuring progress is in the works.
Making the grade
Frankfort Superintendent Thomas Hurlburt said he was “happy” to learn the district remained “undefeated in AYP.”
With 90 percent or more of students consistently meeting standards, “we still try to improve student performance,” he said. “We want students to be confident, lifelong learners, to have a positive school experience — academically, socially and emotionally. We look at how students grow in all areas.”
He said the key to such consistency is to always focus on “good, solid instruction” and have “everyone pulling in the same direction.”
High school lows
Southland educators were disappointed but not surprised that no high school district statewide made AYP this year. High school scores are based on the Prairie State Achievement Exam given to juniors.
“We’re disappointed every year that we don’t make it, but we’re not disappointed in the efforts of our teachers and students,” Lincoln-Way High School District Assistant Superintendent Sharon Michalak said.
With 68.8 percent of juniors hitting reading goals and 70.9 percent meeting math goals, Lincoln-Way’s marks were the highest among area high schools.
The next measure
The state, like much of the country, is moving closer to a new accountability system that emphasizes student growth rather than performance at one point in time, the state school board said in a news release.
Educators see the so-called “Common Core” standards as a fairer assessment. Illinois law calls for a progressive phase-in, the board said, with some districts beginning to use the new evaluation system as early as this year and all districts using it by 2016-17.
“The measuring stick will change dramatically,” Homer Superintendent Mike Morrow said.
Common Core will provide a “link” between grade school and high school testing, Morrow said, so everyone prepares students for college or careers. Transfer students should also have an easier time adjusting because these will be national standards.
“With Common Core, if you don’t meet the threshold, you don’t move on, you reteach it,” Byrne said.
It will measure how students grow and give teachers a toolbox of suggestions. But it’s also a more rigorous curriculum and compares students on a national scale.
School officials are working to transition to the new Common Core standards, even though they still will operate under No Child Left Behind for two more years.