At least on a black-and-white sheet of test results, the song remains much the same in Proviso Township High School District 209, if not worse.

Continuing a downward trend in student performance as measured by the Prairie State Achievement Exam, juniors in the public school district scored far below their state-wide peers on the 2009 test. Results of the annual high-stakes exam were released by the state on Friday.

Across the district’s three high schools, only 22.1 percent of students are meeting grade-level standards in their classrooms. That figure represents more than a full percentage point drop from last year’s scores.

In Illinois, 53 percent of high school juniors are meeting or exceeding grade-level expectations.

The Prairie State Achievement Exam is Illinois’ instrument for measuring student learning under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. High school juniors take the test in the spring and those results determine whether schools, and districts on the whole, are making “adequate yearly progress.” The federal legislation ratchets up its standards every year. For 2009, at least 70 percent of test takers had to demonstrate they are capable of doing grade-level work in order for their school to pass muster.

Proviso Township high school students are well short of that mark, and have been since No Child Left Behind was enacted.

A spokesperson for the district said that Superintendent Nettie Collins-Hart was not available to comment on the scores, but a prepared statement was released on Monday.

“We know that our schools are working to keep pace with increasing performance targets,” Collins-Hart said in the written press release. “We also know that we have a great deal of work to do. The positive results that we seek cannot happen overnight. The good news is that the work toward improvement has already begun.”

The superintendent pointed to changes within the schools’ climates, free tutoring services and additional internal assessments to help teachers gauge students’ learning as recent classroom improvements in District 209. She also noted that the scores highlight “concerns” that high school educators have regarding classroom standards in Proviso Township’s elementary schools.

Proviso East, in Maywood, saw only 12.6 percent of its juniors demonstrate an 11th-grade understanding of math, reading and science. That figure is down slightly from 2008 when 13 percent of those tested were deemed to be meeting or exceeding expectations. Of the district’s three high schools, Proviso East lags furthest behind.

Proviso West, in Hillside, saw a more significant year-over-year drop in its number of students doing grade-level work. Only 14.3 percent of its juniors met Illinois’ benchmarks, according to the results. Last year, almost 19 percent of students tested met those standards.

Proviso Math and Science Academy, the district’s newest campus and its only magnet school, tested well above its sibling campuses – and beat statewide averages by 15 percent. The school was deemed to have made adequate yearly progress under No Child Left Behind.

However, students this year did not perform as well. Overall, 68.2 percent of juniors demonstrated at least a grade-level understanding of the material. That figure is down from 73.1 percent in 2008.

Last year marked the first time juniors at the academy took the exam.

Though the math and science academy did not hit the 70 percent benchmark established by federal legislation, a margin for error is allowed for subgroups of students who take the test. It is because of this allowable margin, called a “confidence interval,” that the academy made AYP.

At the academy, 60 percent of black students taking the exam met the grade-level standards in math. Among Hispanics, 66 percent of students met the same standards.

Overall, 72.5 percent of students tested well enough in reading, and 66.4 percent in math.