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The Examiner U-46 News Feed

Illinois Report Card not all favorable for U-46


By Seth Hancock
  The Illinois Report Card by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) shows School District U-46 to be lagging behind the state in some key student achievement numbers.
  According to the report card there were 2,129 total U-46 teachers in 2016 which is 67 more than the 2,062 in 2012. Over the last 10 years U-46 teachers have received higher salaries than the state average every year except one and have averaged $3,781 more each year than their state colleagues.
  U-46’s retention rates for teachers was 83.3 percent in 2016, 85.8 percent for the state.
  Results from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) exam, given to third through eighth graders, show 29 percent of U-46 were deemed ready for the next level, down from 32.2 percent in 2015, compared to 34 percent for the state, an uptick from 32.9 percent.
  The Dynamic Learning Maps test, for “students with significant cognitive disabilities,” showed both U-46 and the state at 17 percent of students at or above target which is down from 2015 for both when U-46 was at 24 percent and the state at 28 percent.
  Freshmen on track showed U-46 at 81.9 percent, down from 85 percent in 2015 and 96 percent in 2014. The state was at 82.4 percent, down from 83 percent in 2015 and 87 percent in 2014.
  On college readiness, determined by percentage of high school juniors receiving a 21 or higher on the ACT, U-46 was at 39 percent and the state at 46 percent. Across the board U-46 students were below the state: English (52 percent U-46, 62 percent state), math (35 percent U-46, 40 percent state), reading (30 percent U-46, 40 percent state), science (28 percent U-46, 34 percent state) and all four subjects (18 percent U-46, 25 percent state).
  Post secondary enrollment was at 66 percent for U-46, up from 64 percent the prior two years. The state was 68 percent, down from 70 percent in 2015 and 69 percent in 2014.
  The percentage of U-46 graduates needing remedial courses in college was 58 percent, down from 60 percent in 2015, compared to 49 percent for the state, which is flat from 2015. Among subjects: Reading (U-46 19 percent, state 17 percent), math (U-46 49 percent, state 41 percent) and communications (U-46 31 percent, state 22 percent).
  There were 17 total schools in U-46 with under 20 percent of students ready for the next level, seven above 50 percent.
  It was a mixed bag with some positives, but the U-46 administration emphasized the positives when it presented the report card to the Board of Education earlier this school year.
  U-46 CEO Tony Sanders said: “I think that there’s a lot to celebrate in this year’s report card. You can easily move the needle on student achievement by pushing kids out of school.”
  Sanders offered no evidence of other schools “pushing kids out of school.”
  Some of those positives, according to Sanders, were the lowest dropout rate in the district’s history, 2 percent, as well as the first time having a graduation rate above the state average, 88.4 percent for U-46 and 86.4 percent for the state.
  The district had a higher percentage of eighth graders passing an algebra course, 35.1 percent compared to 28.4 percent for the state. Algebra is not a requirement at the middle school level.
  Both the administration’s presentation as well as the ISBE’s report card focus on dividing students among subgroups instead of providing the message that all students, regardless of background, are capable of academic excellence.
  Sanders said what makes U-46 strong is its focus on “social and emotional learning” as well as diversity.
  The presentation highlighted schools that the administration labeled “beating the odds” based on the percentage of low-income students, not the top achieving schools in the district.
  “Although the percentage of students that are proficient was less than the state average, it’s important to take into account an external variable, poverty or low income,” said Matthew Raimondi, coordinator of assessment and accountability.
  According to the report card Bartlett’s Prairieview Elementary topped the district with 61.8 percent meeting or exceeding expectation while Wayne was right behind at 61.5 percent. There were four other elementary schools above 50 percent, three from Bartlett and one from Hanover Park, while 19 were at or below 25 percent with Elgin’s Channing Memorial the lowest at 9.6 percent.
  Bartlett’s Eastview was the only middle school above 50 percent at 54.7. High schools: South Elgin (27.3 percent), Bartlett (26 percent), Streamwood (21.5 percent), Larkin (12.1 percent) and Elgin (5.9 percent).
  Laura Hill, director of assessment and accountability, said: “We note that our Hispanic population has been increasing to an all-time high of 52 percent of U-46 students. The white population is continuing to decrease, similar to the state of Illinois.”
  The percentage of Hispanic students was 52.3 percent and whites 28.5 percent, compared to 48.8 percent for the state. Hill said that 57.8 percent of U-46 students deemed low-income is “the lowest in three years” and 28.4 percent who have limited proficiency in English “is a new record high population for U-46, or double the percentage in the state of Illinois.”
  Regarding the PARCC results Hill said “in general, the majority of U-46 students perform at or above grade level norms” including the approaching category, which Sanders said “are actually performing at the level we are expecting them to perform,” which would make it 57 percent at or above grade level which is still a failing grade under a traditional grading scale.
  Terri Lozier, assistant superintendent, presented Advanced Placement (AP) data and said “the trend is going up” from 5,329 students completing an AP course in 2012 to 6,029 in 2016, and the total number of exams going from 2,668 to 3,515.
  Board member Phil Costello shared concerns with those schools below 20 percent and asked: “How do you approach something that seems to be going below the safety net?”
  Sanders responded that “a lot of those schools that are below … one thing that I will always point out is that PARCC is a test, especially the ELA portion, is a test given in English only” and Hill said “you are not seeing growth data” which is seen from MAP tests.
  Costello said “I give you that could be a root cause, as long as it’s identified … and at least addressed.”
  Board member Sue Kerr asked if the most successful schools share information with the rest of the district’s schools which Hill said they do through data dialogues and peer reviews.
  Lozier noted the district goal of increasing the number of students taking AP courses each year by 2 percent. Board member Jeanette Ward asked: “We have a goal to increase by 2 percent each year the number of students taking the AP exam, but I don’t see that those passing the AP exam are increasing by a similar percentage. Am I wrong about that?”
  Lozier said Ward was correct but “our choice was to get more students enrolled in the classes so that they have greater exposure to more rigorous classes” and that focusing on increasing the number of students who pass an AP exam “could have the exact opposite effect of getting kids enrolled” if students decide not to enroll because of “worrying about the exam.”
  District U-46 teachers made on average $3,000 more last year than teachers across the state. According to the report card the average salary for a U-46 teacher in 2016 was $66,561 compared to the state average of $63,450.
  As The Examiner reported last week, the district’s current budget spends $511.4 million which is an increase of $3.8 million from last year and $57.7 million more than from 2012-13, and that comes despite a downward trend in enrollment. There were 40,687 students in 2012-13 and 39,711 in 2016, a decrease of 976 students.

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