Tuesday, November 7, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews
On Oct. 29, the Illinois State Board of Education released its annual Illinois School Report Card, the comprehensive picture of the academic and financial condition of public schools in the state.
According to this year’s data, there’s still a large divide between Proviso Math and Science Academy and Provisos East and West, when it comes to a range of benchmarks, including test scores, truancy rates and college readiness — which is consistent with historic patterns.
But the data also indicates that the district’s recent focus on equity may be paying off at the margins, particularly when it comes to benchmarks that measure aspects of the school experience, such as truancy and test participation rates, that aren’t as quantifiable as test scores.
Last year, the SAT replaced the ACT as the one college entrance exam administered by the state at no cost to high school juniors. The 2017 ISBE report cards show the results of that first year of free SAT testing.
At PMSA, 74 percent of juniors who took the SAT in the 2016-17 academic year met or exceeded state standards. At Proviso East and Proviso West, 9 percent of juniors at each school met or exceeded state standards on the SAT.
District-wide, 25 percent of juniors met or exceeded state standards. The percentage of public high school juniors in the state who met or exceeded standards on the SAT last school year was 39 percent.
District 209 students’ performance on the SAT charted by demographic. | ISBE
Although the ACT is no longer the state’s main assessment exam, the new school reports also showed the ACT scores of last year’s graduating class, the last graduating class to take the test before the switch to the SAT.
ACT designates students with an ACT score of 21 or higher as being college ready. The chart above shows the college-readiness of PMSA graduating seniors who took the exam. | ISBE
ACT designates students with an ACT score of 21 or higher as being college ready. The chart above shows the college-readiness of Proviso East graduating seniors who took the exam. | ISBE
ACT designates students with an ACT score of 21 or higher as being college ready. The chart above shows the college-readiness of Proviso West graduating seniors who took the exam. | ISBE
During an interview on Monday, Proviso Townships High School District 209 Supt. Jesse Rodriguez said that the district has responded to the switch to the SAT, which constituted an unfunded state mandate, by repurposing its budget to prepare students for the new assessment.
“We’re looking at decoding the SAT so our students can be better prepared and our teachers are better prepared while administering the test,” Rodriguez said, adding that last year the district applied the money it saved by closing Ombudsman, an alternative education program that allows students to recover credits, to personalized learning centers at East and West.
Rodriguez said that the learning centers attributed to the notable increase in the percentage of students participating in standardize tests across the district — from 88 percent in 2015-16 to 91 percent in 2016-17.
The increase was most pronounced at Proviso East, where the number of students participating in standardized testing jumped by eight percent. At West, the participation rate decreased by five percent on the math portion of the SAT and 1 percent on the English and language arts (ELA) portion.
The percentage of students participating in standardized testing in District 209 between the 2014-15 and 2016-17 school years has improved. | ISBE
The new state data also showed some progress in the chronic truancy rate in the district, which is down by a percentage point. The rate has held steady since 2013, when the truancy rate was 46 percent before dropping sharply the following year.
Students who miss 5 percent of school days without a valid excuse. | ISBE
Across the district, the percentage of freshmen on track to graduate climbed four percentage points since 2015-16 to 73 percent in 2016-17. At Proviso East, the percentage of students graduating within four to seven years increased by two percentage points and the total number of students taking early college coursework increased by 1.4 percent.
The percentage of freshmen students in D209 who are on track to graduate has climbed steadily since 2014. | ISBE
Rodriguez said that the district has allocated more money to ensure that more students at East and West are taking early college coursework. He said that the district closely monitors the student and teacher attendance rate on a regular basis.
The rate of what the ISBE calls parental contact — which, according to the state, includes “parent-teacher conferences, parental visits to school, school visits to home, telephone conversations, and written correspondence”— was nearly 100 percent at PMSA. At East and West, the parental contact rate was 74 percent and 83 percent, respectively.
Last year, Rodriguez said, the district allocated money to fund parent centers at East and West, along with community schools and translators for families whose first language is not English, in order to bring more parents into the school.
The superintendent said that the district’s school board also has a “very, very strong” community engagement committee, headed by board member Rodney Alexander, which is working on finding ways to increase parental engagement.
One particularly troublesome data point included in the new state report cards is teacher attendance, or the percentage of teachers who are absent fewer than 10 days in a school year.
According to ISBE, the metric is new and there’s only one year’s data. Across the district , according to the state, only 57 percent of teachers have missed fewer than 10 days, compared with 75 percent of teachers across the state. In 2015-16, the teacher attendance rate in D209 was 94 percent, state data shows.
Rodriguez said that the state’s data on teacher attendance doesn’t align with the district’s internal reporting, which shows a much higher percentage.
Other districts, such as Oak Park and River Forest High School District 200, have experienced similar differences between their internal reporting and the state’s data when it comes to the teacher attendance metric. VFP
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