Last month, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) released the annual “Report Cards” for school districts across the state.

Per state and federal law, following the ISBE’s compilation of the reports, public school districts are legally required to release their report cards to the public. 

Diverse student profile

The report listed a total of 779 students enrolled in D91. The largest racial population of students was black students at 52.9 percent, followed by white students (22.3 percent), Hispanic (12.5 percent) and Asian (3.1 percent).

The percentage of low-income students, 50.1 percent, roughly matched the state average of 49.9 percent. Also, 6.8 percent of students qualified as limited-English proficient, i.e. students who qualify for transitional bilingual education programs, and 16.2 percent were designated as IEP (individualized education plan) students who qualified for special education services.

The instructional settings across the district indicate that Forest Park comes in below state averages for student-to-teacher ratios and average class sizes. Statewide, the average student-to-teacher ratio is 18.7, and in D91 it is 10.7. Considering kindergarten through eighth grades, the overall class size average in D91 is 16 as opposed to Illinois’ average of 21.1.

With the high number of minority and low-income students in the district, Superintendent Louis Cavallo said Forest Park has been very accommodating to the varying needs of the student population.

“Our approach has been to meet the needs of each individual child,” Cavallo said. “We assess the needs of every child early in the school year and apply the appropriate interventions if necessary. We have also spent a great deal of time and effort to ensure that our curriculum and instruction are not only aligned with the Common Core Standards but also 21st-century skills.” 

Not-so-diverse faculty profile

Despite the large number of minority students in the district, 86.9 percent of full-time faculty in D91 are white, followed by 6.8 percent black and 2.3 percent Hispanic. Of the 88 total full-time faculty members in Forest Park, 80.7 percent were female and 19.3 percent male.

The teacher retention rate is 81.5 percent, which fell just below the state average of 85.8 percent. Seventy-two percent have master’s degrees or higher.

Teacher attendance, however, is much higher than the state average. In D91, 93.1 percent of teachers were absent 10 days or less within the school year compared to the state average of 76.5 percent. 

Teacher salaries fell a bit below state average while district administrator salaries are above average. The average teacher salary in Forest Park is $58,776 compared to the Illinois average of $63,450, a difference of $4,674. Forest Park administrators averaged a salary of $116,856 compared to the state’s average of $103,634, a difference of over $13,000. 

School district finances

Instructional expenditures per pupil in D91 exceeded the state average, $13,298 compared to $7,712. Operating expenditures per pupil were $21,713 in Forest Park compared to Illinois’ $12,821. 

Academic performance

Overall state testing performance in 2014-2015 shows that in the district, 21.3 percent of students met or exceeded the PARCC exam standards compared to the state’s 33 percent. In 2015-2016, percentages inched higher, with 23.3 percent meeting or exceeding in the district compared to the state average of 33.4 percent.

The PARCC test scoring, it should be noted, has been controversial, with a number of parents refusing to let their children participate. The state is planning to replace PARCC with SAT tests at the high school level next year.

Regarding time devoted to teaching the main subjects of math, science, language arts and social studies, D91 spent fewer minutes per day on subjects for the most part compared to the state average. The District Report Card analyzed time spent in third, sixth and eighth grades for their data. In math, third-graders spent 70 minutes per day to Illinois’ 71 minutes; sixth-graders spent 42 minutes a day compared to Illinois’ 60 minutes; and eighth-graders also spent 42 minutes as opposed to the 57-minute state average. The biggest time differences were found in third grade language arts comparisons, with Forest Park spending 70 minutes a day to the state’s average 133 minutes. Sixth-graders spent 84 minutes compared to 90 minutes and eighth-graders at 84 minutes exceeded the state average of 79 minutes. Time spent on science and social science closely mirrored state averages ranges between one to eight minute differences.

As overall performance on state tests is growing, Cavallo says progress has been successfully done by hard work but there is still more work needed to exceed state averages.

“Our staff has worked hard to align our curriculum with standards, participated in extensive professional development to improve instruction and we have purchased all new learning resources,” he said. “While our scores are generally in line with the state and we saw a slight increase over last year, we believe we can, and will, continue to improve.”

Overall, Cavallo said he is pleased with the results of the District Report Card and remains optimistic that further improvements will be coming in the future.

“While we are definitely moving in the right direction and our teachers are working hard, we will continue to look for areas where we can improve,” he said. “We have taken an in-depth look at our scores and identified areas where we need to focus attention. We will continue to provide the resources and training for our teachers to be able to meet the needs of all of our students.”

D91 school board President Mary Win Connor agreed with Cavallo that the district as a whole is always looking to improve scores and the educational environment for its students and staff.

“As a board, our job is to provide the staff and administration the tools, training and policies to keep our students moving forward socially, emotionally and scholastically,” Connor said. “We have made many decisions in my eight years on the school board toward that end. [We have made] technology available to all students, [provided] professional development for our staff, administration and board, [and] new playgrounds and many other things have all been toward providing our students with all the tools we can to help them move forward.”

To view the District Report Card in its entirety, visit isbe.net.

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