Forest Park’s Proviso Math and Science Academy (PMSA) just ranked 40th on a list, put out by The Chicago Tribune, of the best high schools in Chicagoland.  The Tribune ranked high schools by the percentage of their students who met or exceeded state standards, judged by the performance on the Prairie State Achievement Exam.

Statewide, PMSA was ranked 49th in the state by data from the Illinois State Board of Education.

“It is an absolute honor for PMSA to be ranked as one of the top 50 schools in … Illinois,” said PMSA Principal Kim Waller-Echols, at a ceremony Monday night to honor the 33 PMSA students who exceeded state standards in one or more subjects.

She added: “Proviso Math and Science Academy is a very diverse school with a very talented pool of students, faculty, and staff. We don’t want to be just good, we want to be great.”

At PMSA, which opened in 2005, 72.2 percent of students met or exceeded state standards. Note, though, that PMSA is a selective enrollment high school, and common sentiment is that it should outperform high schools that accept all students.

Scores on the official school report card are broken down into reading, math and science.

At PMSA, 72.8 percent of students met or exceeded state averages in reading, which includes 16 percent of students who exceeded state standards. 27.2 percent of PMSA students were below the state’s reading standard.

In math, 66.9 percent of PMSA students met the state standards, and another 5.9 percent exceeded those standards.  But, even at PMSA, 27.2 percent of students tested below the state standard in math.

In science, the numbers were similar. 63.3 percent of PMSA students met the state standards, and another 7.7 percent exceeded them. 29 percent of PMSA students were below standards in science.

At the school, boys also outperformed girls by a wide margin in science. 83.1 percent of PMSA boys met or exceeded state standards in science, while only 63.5 percent of girls did so. 12.3 percent of boys exceeded standards in science, compared to just 4.8 percent of girls.

Males also outperformed their female counterparts in math, with 75.4 percent of boys at PMSA exceeding state standards. 71.2 percent of girls did so.

Among high achievers in math, the margin was greater: 10.8 percent of boys exceeded the state standards, while just 2.9 percent of girls did so.

When it came to reading scores, the boys’ margin was much narrower with 73.8 percent of boys meeting or exceeding state standards, and 72.1 percent of girls doing so.

As for the reading high achievers, girls surpassed boys, with 17.3 percent exceeding state standards, compared to 13.8 percent of the boys reaching that benchmark.

PMSA, as might be expected, far outperformed the long struggling Proviso East and West high schools. In District 209, as a whole, only 27.2 percent of students met or exceeded state standards in reading, 25 percent did so in math and only 23.7 percent did so in science.

What’s more, according to the Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) – annual benchmarks put in place by the state, as part of the No Child Left Behind Act – none of the D209’s schools reached met federal education standards. There is some debate as to how accurately these benchmarks reflect student achievement, though.

Regardless, Waller-Echolls told folks who attended Monday night’s ceremony that PMSA is focused on achievement.

“We don’t want to be just good, we want to be great,” she said. “We have an unyielding focus on student achievement, exceeding educational standards, and working diligently to push PMSA all the way to the top.”