Standardized test scores posted by the Illinois State Board of Education earlier this week show minor improvements during the 2004-2005 school year for both Forest Park School District 91 and Proviso Township District 209.
Both districts, however, made inadequate yearly progress according to the state’s standards.
District 91’s overall performance rating on state tests rose from 60.9 to 61.5 out of 100, compared to a statewide boost from 62.5 to 64.9. Its performance on the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) spiked half a percentage point to 61.8 out of 100, while statewide performance went up almost three times as much, from 67.5 to 68.9.
The district fell behind the state this year in its scores on the Illinois Measure of Annual Growth in English (IMAGE) exams. District 91 scores rose only slightly, going from 46.9 to 48.1.
District 91 Superintendent Randy Tinder said that he was not surprised by the results. “The areas where we didn’t make adequate progress were 8th grade math for the third year in a row, and reading at Field Stevenson, where we have the bulk of our Special Ed students. Until they’re not counted, we’re not going to make adequate yearly progress,” said Tinder, a staunch critic of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
The district’s scores fared best in the earlier grades. The percentage of third grade students meeting or exceeding state standards in math, for example, is up over 10 points to 82.9 percent. The percentage of eighth graders meeting state standards in math, by contrast, dropped about the same amount from 42.4 to 33.5 percent.
The difference between the younger and older students is also evident when the scores are broken down by race, with a much higher discrepancy among older students. In 8th grade, just under 44 percent of students meet or exceed state standards in reading, compared to about 54 percent statewide. For Hispanic students, the number was 45.5 percent in the district compared to just under 60 percent in the state.
Though eighth grade math scores for black students are about even with the state, Hispanic students fared substantially worse, with only 9.1 percent meeting standards compared to about 40 percent statewide.
The picture for minority students first entering the district looks much brighter, with over 60 percent of black students in third grade meeting or exceeding standards (compared to just over 40 percent in the state) meeting standards in reading and nearly 80 percent meeting standards in math.
About 80 percent of white third graders met standards in math, while 90 percent met reading standards. In 8th grade, about 80 percent of white students met reading standards, but only about 60 percent met state expectations in math.
Tinder emphasized that testing only reflects a few days in the life of District 91 students. “If people really want to see the full scope of what we do, come to our schools,” he said.
Test scores at Proviso High School District 209 also showed some moderate increases, though they remain substantially below state averages. The district’s overall performance rating jumped to 25.4 this year from 21.2 in 2004. In 2003, the number was near 27 percent.
Some good news for the district came in the form of a large jump in its IMAGE test scores, from 3.4 to 29.3. These scores are still significantly below the state, which averaged scores of 49.3.
“Test scores are important and our leadership team acknowledges that,” said Chief Education Officer Robert Libka. “I believe we’ve inherited a sizeable challenge but don’t believe it’s insurmountable.”
Libka refrained from commenting on the specifics of the results, stating that “we have another several levels of analysis we need to go through internally.”
On the Prairie State Achievement tests, 33 percent of Proviso students met or exceeded state standards in reading, with 22.6 percent meeting standards in math and 19.6 percent in science, all up slightly from last year.
The racial discrepancy at Proviso continued to stand out, as over 60 percent of white students met standards in all three categories. Just over 67 percent of Proviso students are black, while 26.5 percent are Hispanic and 4 percent are white, according to the latest available data.
Former Superintendent Greg Jackson, whose firing was justified largely by past failing test scores, could not be reached for comment on the scores.
Test scores were made available shortly before the Review went to press, but more detail will be available both on the web and in future issues.