Some people throw up their hands and say that it is just about impossible for low-income children to succeed in school.
But Grant-White School, under the leadership of Principal Wendy Trotter, is showing that kids from low-income families can meet state standards. In recognition of its success, Grant-White was recently named an Illinois Spotlight School and placed on the Illinois Honor Roll.
The Spotlight School designation is awarded by the Illinois State Board of Education in conjunction with Northern Illinois University to high-poverty schools exhibiting high academic performance and helping to close the achievement gap. To qualify for the award, a school must have an enrollment of at last 50 percent low-income students and must have at least 60 percent of its students meeting or exceeding state standards for three consecutive years. This year, 316 schools were named Illinois spotlight schools according to the State Board of Education.
"It's a real testament to the leadership of Mrs. Trotter and her staff working with each individual child" said District 91 Superintendent Randolph Tinder.
Fifty-nine percent of Grant-White students were classified by the state as low-income, according to the 2005 Illinois School Report Card. Low-income families come from families receiving public aid, are eligible for reduced-price lunches, are supported in foster homes with public funds, or live in institutions for neglected or delinquent children. No other school in District 91 had enough low-income students to be eligible for the Spotlight School award.
In 2005, 66.6 percent of Grant White students were African-American, 12.4 percent were Hispanic, 7.9 percent white and 1.7 percent Asian or Pacific Islander. Nine percent of Grant-White students had limited proficiency in English. Grant-White is located at 147 Circle Ave. and serves the northern part of Forest Park.
In 2005, the most recent year for which figures are available, 68.9 percent of all Grant White third graders met or exceeded state standards in reading while 64.5 percent of them met or exceeded state standards in math.
But even at Grant-White, socioeconomics is somewhat correlated with academic achievement. Among economically disadvantaged third graders, none exceeded the state standards in reading, while 21.4 percent of non-economically disadvantaged students exceeded those state standards.
More than 56 percent of economically disadvantaged third graders fell short of state standards in math, while only 13.3 percent of non-economically disadvantaged third graders fell short of the math standards.
While 55.5 percent of all Grant-White fifth graders made the grade in reading and 69.5 percent did so in math, just 52.4 percent of economically disadvantaged fifth graders met or exceeded state standards in reading.
In a bit of a role reversal, Grant-White economically disadvantaged fifth graders actually did a little better in math as a group compared with their classmates. More than 76 percent of the low-income kids met state standards in math though none exceeded the state standards. Among the non-low-income fifth graders, 53.3 percent met state standards while 6.7 percent exceeded state standards, but 40 percent fell short of state standards.
Trotter credited the balanced literacy program used in all District 91 elementary schools for her school's success.
"We do what we know works and we stick with it," said Trotter.