At the Proviso Township School District 209 Board of Education meeting, Dec. 8 at Proviso East High School, the board discussed the preliminary results of PARCC testing, estimated enrollment, and the possibility of a state-funded SAT test.

The meeting began with a moment of recognition for 17 Proviso East students who earned a place on the “high” honor roll for the first quarter of the year. Students in attendance received applause as they accepted their achievement certificate from members of the board.

Proviso East Principal Dr. Patrick Hardy told students the district was proud of their achievement, which he hoped would inspire other students as well.

Prior to the meeting, which began at 7:30 p.m., the district held a forum to discuss the search for a new superintendent for the district.

“We had the first forum tonight and we may have many more,” Theresa Kelly, president of the board told the audience.

The board then discussed preliminary results for PARCC testing. This first year of PARCC testing will serve as a baseline for test scores and will establish performance targets for upcoming years, according to a letter to the board from State Superintendent Tony Smith. Final scores will be released later in December.

Districtwide, 30.2 percent of students were deemed proficient in English language arts (ELA) testing and 13.2 percent met the proficient level in math testing. Students at Proviso East achieved only 13.1 percent proficiency and 2.9 percent proficiency in ELA and math testing, respectively. The percent of students attaining proficiency at Proviso West was only slightly higher for ELA and slightly lower for math. Proviso Math and Science Academy achieved 78.4 percent proficiency in ELA and 45.6 percent proficiency in math.

Several board members expressed concern over the scores but were told that, statewide, proficiency scores had dropped as well.

In the state superintendent’s letter to the board, Smith wrote about framing the test results for members of the community, saying, “First of all, while the numbers aren’t final, we know that the percent of students who demonstrate proficiency are likely lower than the percentage of students who were proficient on the previous test. Please let everyone in your communities know that we fully expect results to improve as teachers and students become more familiar with the higher standards. … I do not want anyone to use these results to shame teachers or schools.”

The board also debated the merits of SAT versus ACT testing for students in the district at the meeting. The board discussed whether to go ahead and purchase ACT tests for all students in the district at a cost of $44,126.50, which would be given free of charge to students.

In previous years, the ACT was administered to students as part of PSAE testing. Last year, the district provided it to 11th-grade students via a state-funded initiative. However, the state is likely to move away from ACT in favor of SAT testing for students in Illinois. Funding for statewide SAT testing has not been approved, due to the continuing budget stalemate in Springfield.

Board member Teresa McKelvy said she preferred students take the ACT test again this year, as students have already taken a practice ACT test and another practice ACT test is planned. The money for the test was also already allocated in the superintendent’s budget for the year.

During public comment, several parents said they appreciated that the district would continue with the ACT test. The parents said they were concerned about their students dealing with the change in testing that would result from taking an SAT test and their ability to do well on the SAT. A vote was scheduled to be taken on purchasing the ACT at last night’s special board meeting after press deadline.

Also of note, were the release of enrollment estimates for the coming freshman class in D209. Of the 87 eighth-grade students in Forest Park School District 91, only 34 students are expected to enroll in the district for the 2016-2017 school year.

This story has been changed to clarify that the session prior to the board meeting was a public forum, not a closed-session meeting.