By Maria Maxham
The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) released school and district report cards last week, and Forest Park District 91's scores are disappointing. With small gains in some areas, two of the three schools serving children in grades 3-8 were listed as "underperforming," with the third given a "commendable" rating.
Forest Park Middle School
Forest Park Middle School is designated as an "underperforming" school by the ISBE, "a school in which one or more student groups is performing at or below the level of 'all students' groups in the lowest performing 5 percent of schools."
At the Forest Park Middle School, only 24 percent of students, less than a quarter of the school population, met or exceeded levels in English and Language Arts (ELA), a fall from last year's 27 percent.
Although a slight gain was made in math, with 12 percent meeting or exceeding expectations as opposed to last year's 10 percent, in a school of 193 students that means only 23 were performing at or above grade level.
Since the 2017/2018 data was based on a PARCC assessment and this year's on Illinois Assesment Readiness (IAR) test, it could be argued that a comparison is unfair. But student growth, compared to the growth of other students in the state, is still below where Forest Park needs to be, with 34 percent growth for the middle school in ELA, compared to the state growth rate of 50 percent, and 43 percent growth in math compared to the state rate of 50 percent.
This despite average class size in the middle school (14 students) is much lower than the state average of 22 students.
Additionally, according to the ISBE, D91's financial capacity to meet expectations is at 156.6 percent, indicating the school has the resources available to be properly educating students.
Field-Stevenson Elementary School
Like the Middle School, Field-Stevenson, which teaches students from third through fifth grade, has been given the lowest designation by the ISBE: "underperforming."
The biggest improvement at Field was the overall math proficiency, which rose to 32 percent of students meeting or exceeding standards from last school year's 21 percent. But ELA scores showed a drop, from 41 percent to 37 percent.
Although class size is slightly under the state average (20 students at Field vs. 22 statewide), growth rate is also below state average, 46 percent at Field compared to 50 percent statewide in ELA, and 44 percent at Field compared to the state growth of 50 percent.
Field-Stevenson is included in the 156.6 percent capability to meet expectations through available resources.
Grant-White Elementary School
The only school of the three mentioned in this article to be given a "commendable" rating by the ISBE, Grant-White has "no underperforming student groups and a graduation rate greater than 67 percent," the ISBE's criteria for this ranking.
The school's ELA scores went up from 45 percent to 49 percent from last year, and down only 1 percentage point from 29 percent to 28 percent in math. Growth in ELA was above the state average, at 58 percent, but below in math at 39 percent.
With more than ample resources, the reasons behind the underperforming of D91 schools will be top of mind at the Nov. 14 meeting where D91 Supt. Cavallo will be present and discuss the test scores. The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. at the D91 office, 424 Desplaines Ave. There are two opportunities for public comment during the meetings, once to discuss issues on the night's agenda and another to bring up other issues. The meetings are open to the public.
The Forest Park Review will follow up on this issue after the school board meeting.