Brooks Elementary School Principal Shahran Spears watches the education growth of students at Brooks Elementary School – and not how they tested on one particular day.
“I think what we’re most proud of at Brooks are the gains our students have made overall,” Spears said. “We continue to show gains in areas, and that’s what we focus on. We focus on where our students are in September, and where they are in June.”
Brooks Elementary was the only school in DeKalb School District 428 that made Adequate Yearly Progress, or AYP, as defined by the federal No Child Left Behind act. Those statistics were released by the Illinois State Board of Education today.
Of the 46 schools DeKalb County students attend, 17 made AYP this year. Last year, 19 of the 47 schools local students attended made adequate progress. The number of schools overall changed because DeKalb’s Wright and Chesebro elementary schools were merged to form Founders Elementary School.
Two DeKalb schools that made adequate progress last year – Lincoln and Malta elementary schools – did not this year, even though testing standards were the same. All the other schools in District 428 – from the high school down – failed to make AYP this year.
Statewide, 82 percent of Illinois districts and 66 percent of schools failed to make adequate progress. Only 11 high schools statewide met AYP standards.
ONE FALLS, THEY ALL FALL
District 428 Assistant Superintendent Douglas Moeller noted that No Child Left Behind fails an entire school and district if a subgroup in a school fails to make adequate progress. For example, if low-income third-graders at Lincoln Elementary School failed to meet standards in math, the entire school and the district fail, Moeller said.
The increasing standards of No Child Left Behind have made making adequate progress harder. Until this year, schools in Illinois were required to increase their Adequate Yearly Progress score by 7.5 percent a year.
In 2010, the minimum AYP score was 77.5 percent, and last year it was 85 percent.
“As you’ll see in most districts [statewide], as the percentage continues to increase ... more and more schools have not made [AYP] in the district,” Moeller said.
Under No Child Left Behind, schools are expected to reach 100 percent proficiency in 2014.
The state applied for an exemption to No Child Left Behind, which is under federal review. The state was allowed to use last year’s standards for this year rather than the higher 92 percent standard in the interim.
A FOCUS ON SUBGROUPS
No Child Left Behind is designed to ensure that students of all backgrounds and means are learning, and addressing issues within subgroups can also reverse a district’s fortunes.
Sycamore Middle School, which failed to make adequate progress the past two years, met AYP standards this year in part because of successful reading and math intervention programs, said principal Jim Cleven.
Cleven said the middle school would have met the standard the past two years, but some subgroups, such as low-income students and special education students, did not hit all the benchmarks. Bolstering after-school programs to focus on academic, nutritional and recreational needs and providing more subject-focused study halls also have helped those groups, Cleven said.
“We can really help the kids that are right there on the line,” Cleven said. “We’re going to work to strive to be better. We never want to stand still.”
As a whole, Sycamore District 427 increased the number of schools that made adequate yearly progress from two to four of its seven schools. North, Southeast and West elementary schools joined Sycamore Middle School in making adequate progress.
In Sandwich School District 430, three elementary schools met the standards – Woodbury, Prairie View and Haskin. The other three schools, including the middle school and high school, did not.
Sandwich Superintendent Rick Schmitt said the district’s improvement efforts have led to his students beating the state average in reading and math, despite having a lower tax rate and less money spent per pupil.
“Our community definitely has many things to be proud of,” Schmitt said.
SHIFT TO COMMON CORE
Starting in 2014, the state will shift to Common Core standards that will assess students based on their learning growth.
Common Core standards allow students across the country to learn the same skills and content at each grade level. Forty-six states have adopted the Common Core, which will allow students to be fairly compared to students from cities across the country.
The state has also signed on to a new assessment model called Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. The new test would be introduced in the 2014-15 school year in place of the Illinois Standards Achievement Test and Prairie State Achievement Examination.
Common Core implementation has become a major focus in Genoa-Kingston School District 424, where three of four schools again failed to meet adequate progress benchmarks.
Genoa Elementary School failed to make adequate progress after meeting the standards last year, but Kingston Elementary School met the requirements after falling short last year.
Superintendent Joe Burgess said AYP numbers are not a strong indicator of student improvement, as the 2010 third-grade classes in each elementary school were completely different from the 2011 groups.
“I’m sure everyone reads test scores differently,” Burgess said. “But what’s more important to us, is to follow those individual student trends and look at their growth as they progress.”
But the results still show areas for improvement, Burgess said. Among county high schools, Genoa-Kingston had the lowest percentage of students meet reading and math benchmarks with 42.4 percent and 43.7 percent of students hitting the respective goals.
Burgess said the district already was assessing ways to improve curriculum delivery and substance before the numbers were released. He said there has been a big push to align the curriculum with Common Core standards and make sure what is being taught is the same as what is being assessed.
“It’s a one-day snapshot,” he said, of AYP results. “We do extensive local assessments and look at our local data a lot harder.”