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Article updated: 10/31/2011 8:49 AM

Report Cards: Richmond still failing

By Susan Sarkauskas

Once again, Richmond Elementary School in St. Charles did not make "adequate yearly progress" in getting more students to meet or exceed state goals on standardized reading and mathematics tests, according to the 2011 state report card released today.

It might have celebrated, however, that more students than ever did. Especially that its Hispanic subgroup gained 9.3 percentage points in reading and 4.7 percentage points in mathematics. Its low-income subgroup, gaining 10 points, was judged to have "made AYP," unlike last year, and more of the low-income students met or exceeded standards on the math test, attaining AYP.

But in some ways it doesn't mean a hill of beans anymore. Because Richmond isn't Richmond anymore.

This fall, the district combined the students from Richmond and nearby Davis Elementary School. It is now sending kindergartners through second-graders to Davis Primary and third- through fifth-graders to what it calls Richmond Intermediate.

The district did so for several reasons, according to administrators. When Richmond was mandated, because of its poor scores, to offer parents the choice of other schools, more than 100 elected to do so. Some of them went to Davis, which grew by 48 students in the same time. Superintendent Don Schlomann said that led to Davis being overcrowded and Richmond being underused.

District officials say they also wanted Richmond's demographics to be more like those of the rest of the district. Before the merger, Richmond was about 54 percent Hispanic and 61 percent low-income, compared to 7 percent and 12 percent districtwide. With the merger, the district expects Hispanic enrollment at both schools to hover near 22 percent.

Several parents of Davis Elementary students sued the district, arguing the plan was a way of circumventing the federal No Child Left Behind Act, as Richmond was facing escalating consequences for its failures. Other critics said the district was trying to "dilute" the subgroups, by moving them to different buildings, so it wouldn't have to report their scores. Schools have to report scores only for subgroups of 45 or more students.

A Kane County judge dismissed the suit.

No Child Left Behind calls for incremental progress each year toward its goal of having 100 percent of students make the grade by 2014.

Children from throughout the district were free to apply to attend Richmond Intermediate. This year, 458 students are enrolled in Davis and 446 in Richmond.

Schlomann also said earlier this year that rather than being a way to avoid having a school labeled a failure, the district expects that now Davis Primary may get that label.

First- and second-graders do not take the Illinois Standards Achievement Tests; Davis' 2012 AYP status will be determined by how the third-graders at Richmond Intermediate do on the tests.

The district has asked the Illinois State Board of Education for a review of Richmond's improvement status, and it expects Richmond Intermediate will get the same AYP status as Davis, which was in its first year of not making AYP.

"It was never our intention to make Richmond make AYP (with the merger)," said Becky McCabe, area assistant superintendent for kindergarten-through-fifth-grade education. The merger was just about balancing enrollment and piloting programs, such as a longer school day, issuing students tablet computers for use at school and home, and adding foreign-language instruction, she said.

"This has nothing to do with AYP."

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