Despite enjoying slight increases in test scores from last year and exceeding state standards in most categories, Forest Park School District 91 failed to make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) as defined by the federal No Child Left Behind Act in the past school year.
This year, 47.5 percent of students were required to meet state standards for the district to qualify as making AYP. If any of the subsets of students tracked in the state’s School Report Cards do not meet this mark, the district does not make AYP.
The subgroup which held back the district was largely students with disabilities. In reading, 21.6 percent of these students met or exceeded state standards, while in math the number was 27.9 percent. Under the act, students with disabilities are expected to meet the same standards as others.
Other than students with disabilities, all other subgroups at Dist. 91, including economically disadvantaged students as well as numerous ethnic groups, met the mark.
At District 91’s Board of Education meeting last Thursday, Superintendent Randy Tinder reiterated his stance that No Child Left Behind sets unrealistic expectations for the district by including Special Ed students in the regular testing pool.
The act, he said, comes into direct conflict with another federal law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA), which states that students must be two years behind grade level in order to qualify for Special Ed.
“By definition, these students are two years behind grade level in order to qualify for Special Ed, but then they’re expected to perform at grade level (on standardized tests). It’s just not going to happen,” he said.
Tinder said the act is “a few years away from becoming a train wreck,” and even speculated that the act’s true intention was to set up public school’s to fail in order to help make the case for private school vouchers.
The only other category in which a Dist. 91 school did not make AYP was math at Forest Park Middle School, where 33.3 percent of students and only 24.2 percent of black students met standards.
Tinder said the reason for this was, in part, the large number of students who moved from other districts late in their middle school years.
The school has missed the mark in this category for three consecutive years, which according to No Child Left Behind, means that it must offer students the option of transferring to another school, an obvious problem since the district has only one middle school.
Tinder said he has asked other middle schools outside the district if they would be willing to accept students who would like to transfer but has gotten a negative response, and has responded similarly to other district’s request that Dist. 91 accept their students.
Middle School Principal Karen Bukowski said that the school will continue to offer supplementary educational programs as required by the act for schools that have missed the mark for two or more years.
Current programs, she said, include an after school homework club for students not making a 2.0 grade point average and an early morning study club for all students.
A night will also be designated for parents to take the ISAT tests themselves so that they are able to better help their kids prepare for the exams.
Bukowski noted that the school has researched the performance of students who have been with Dist. 91 for three years or more, and has found their performance to be far superior to the numbers reflected by the overall results.
Still, the school will attempt to remedy its low math scores by using this year’s expanded school day to increase time devoted to math and emphasize math across its curriculum.
She agreed with Tinder’s criticisms of No Child Left behind, stating that its goal of having all students perform above average by 2014 is farfetched. “The reality is just like in society you’re always going to have a bell curve…it’s just not practical,” she said.
Bukowski said she has had trouble getting answers from the Illinois State Board of Education regarding exactly what measures they would like to see taken to assist failing students, which Tinder said has been an issue for the entire district.
“I’m not going to spend a lot of money doing something they’re going to tell me is not appropriate ” I’m looking for a prescription,” he said.