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State report card results presented to Dist. U-46


By Seth Hancock
  The 2017 report card issued by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) has been released, and the School District U-46 administration presented data to the Board of Education on Monday, Oct. 30. It was a special meeting not on the board’s meeting schedule.
  Laura Hill, director of assessment and accountability, said the report card data was “only a fraction of what we use as educators.”
  The data showed that the district saw a drop in number of students meeting or exceeding standards on the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) exam, given to third through eighth graders, to 28 percent in 2017, down from 29 percent in 2016 and 33 percent in 2015. The state average was 34 percent.
  In math, the PARCC data showed 28.4 percent meeting or exceeding standards, and 27.4 percent met or exceeded standards in English Language Arts (ELA).
  It was the first year the SAT was used to measure high school students, and U-46 had 31 percent meeting or exceeding standards on the composite compared to 39 percent from the state. U-46 was at 32 percent for ELA (40 percent state average), and 29 percent in math (37 percent state average).
  Despite continuing to lag behind the state, U-46 CEO Tony Sanders said: “I will continue to say that we are on the right path, that we are showing growth above the state in many areas.”
  Sanders called it “problematic to draw any conclusions” from the PARCC exam scores because it is an exam primarily taken in English and the district has a high population of students who are deemed Limited English Proficiency (LEP).
  Despite implementing a dual language program in the 2011-12 school year that U-46 has touted as leading to bilingualism and bi-literacy, the district has seen a steady increase in LEP students since 2009, increasing year to year from around 20 percent in 2009 to now 28.7 percent.
  The number of low-income students has also been on the rise since 2009 and is now at 60.9 percent. The percentages of students with an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), 13.1 percent, and those who are homeless, 1.6 percent, have been relatively flat.
  The percentage of Hispanic students in the district has risen from 39.3 percent in 2006 to 53.3 percent in 2017, and the number of white students has declined from 44.7 percent to 27.7 percent. Asian students (8.3 percent) and black students (6.3 percent) have remained flat, under a percentage point change for both categories.
  The 2017 enrollment is 39,377 which is down from 39,963 in 2016 and 40,400 in 2015, which was the peak in enrollment over the past five years. From 2008 to 2017, the districts attendance rate has dropped from 94.3 percent to 92.8 percent.
  On advanced placement courses, the district saw an increase from 6,073 to 6,362 students taking AP courses from 2016 to 2017, and the number of exams given increased from 3,515 to 3,725. Within the four categories, the district saw an increase in the number of AP scholars from 395 to 442.
  The district’s four-year graduation rate was 86.1 percent, and five-year was 89.9 percent.
  Using National Student Clearinghouse data, the district showed that 63.1 percent of U-46 graduates in 2009 enrolled in college the first year after graduation and 51.8 percent of those students are either still enrolled or have graduated (43.2 percent have graduated).
  Matt Raimondi, coordinator of assessment and accountability, said “similar results are seen for other graduating classes like the class of 2010” which saw 65 percent enroll right after graduation with 51.7 percent having either graduated college (39.9 percent) or are still enrolled.
  Concerning the PARCC exam and the ELA portion, Raimondi said “we have found that there is a relationship” between taking the exam with paper and pencil compared to online saying there has been an 11 to 13 percent downward among all grade levels since going to online only.
  Board member Jeanette Ward said she has personal experience saying: “I have taken the test myself, and it is very frustrating to have to scroll back up to the story that’s provided to answer questions about it.”
  Ward, who said she’s “no fan of PARCC,” made some suggestions that a paper portion is given with the story while the test is taken online or providing students with two monitors. Hill called those “great suggestions” and Raimondi said the district can offer feedback to the vendors and make those suggestions.
  Board member Veronica Noland asked if other districts have seen the same kind of drop since moving from paper to online which Raimondi said “the state hasn’t released any data on district’s transitioning from one mode to the next,” but they would speak to other districts.
  Board member Melissa Owens asked if the PARCC exam is completely taken in English which Raimondi said “some students can take the math portion in Spanish.”
  Board member Sue Kerr said there was a disparity with low-income schools generally underperforming and said “we pretty much have a curriculum that’s uniform throughout the district” and asked if schools can use different resources to which Suzanne Johnson, assistant superintendent of teaching and learning, said the district is “drafting a plan to do a deeper data analysis.” In answering a question from board member Donna Smith, Johnson said “certainly there is flexibility” in classroom instruction.
  Board member Traci Ellis said she wants to “ensure we are looking at the kids as capable, ready” and said the adults need to change which Johnson said it’s “upon us the adults to do a better job” and it’s about “changing adult behaviors.” Owens said “we do need to address that” disparity from low-income schools.
  Ward responded: “One way to address low-income or low-performing schools is to allow the parents the freedom to choose their school. Even inside U-46 you could do something like that where if a parent’s student is attending a low performing school, they could have the freedom to pick a different school in the district. I think that would help a lot that students wouldn’t be continually stuck in a low performing school.”
  Ward also noted the poor math scores in the data and asked if the district was considering changing the curriculum? Johnson said “we are not considering a new math curriculum” but are looking at adding a new geometry bridge course.
  Expenditures per student in the district have risen from under $10,000 in 2012 to $12,095 in 2017, and Ward noted that the operational spending has increased faster than instructional spending and asked why that was, and the administrative response was due to the increase in salaries of $7.6 million, increase in textbook expenditures by $6.8 million and the $2.3 million increase in benefit costs over the previous year. Please note that our operating expenditures per pupil is approximately $800 less per student than the state average.”
  Board member Phil Costello asked for an explanation on the attendance rate decline to which Sanders said “we’re looking into that” to find a “specific cause or try and dig deeper into any kind of rationale.”

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