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Our View: Snapshot from report card data

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

Are DeKalb County’s schools failing our children?

Of course not.

But if the only information you had was the Adequate Yearly Progress report released last week by the state of Illinois, you might think otherwise.

These school report cards have been released annually since the No Child Left Behind Act was passed by Congress during President George W. Bush’s first term.

Although well-intentioned, NCLB’s requirement that schools meet progressively higher goals on standardized testing until all classes and subgroups achieve 100 percent of the national standards is unrealistic.

A school is listed as failing under NCLB standards, for example, if a subset of English-as-second-language students, or students with learning disabilities, doesn’t meet the standards.

This year, 92.5 percent of students – as a whole and within each subgroup – had to meet or exceed the reading and math standards set by the state in order to achieve AYP status. That’s up from 85 percent of students last year. Schools also could meet AYP if the number of children not meeting standards drops by 10 percent from the previous year.

As a result, none of the nine school districts serving DeKalb County students made AYP this year. Altogether, only 10 area schools – including elementary, middle and high schools – met NCLB’s ever-increasing standards.

As we write each year when the new school report card information comes out, parents should not be overly alarmed. Generally, DeKalb County schools compare favorably with other schools in Illinois.

The problem mostly lies with NCLB itself and its arbitrary, unreasonable requirements.

But that doesn’t mean there’s not room for improvement in our schools.

The numbers show that many high school juniors  – who have completed most of their public school careers – are not meeting state standards in math and reading. Even among area schools that did make AYP in 2012-13 – Indian Creek, Kaneland and Hinckley-Big Rock – the highest level of students meeting standards was around 70 percent. That means that about 30 percent of students at a minimum were not up to standards, and at some schools the number was less than half for some categories.

That needs to improve.

Parents who are concerned about their children’s school’s performance should set up a meeting with the principal, and get more involved themselves in their child’s schooling if they are not already.

Schools should focus on the goal behind the law, which is getting more kids up to state standards, instead of the arbitrary number of students set by the federal government. Although the standards set by “No Child” might not be attainable, the data are not without meaning.

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