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updated: 11/1/2011 3:13 PM

7 local schools meet federal standards after failing

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  • Sophomore English teacher Joseph Geocaris works with students using iPads on assignments at Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire.

       Sophomore English teacher Joseph Geocaris works with students using iPads on assignments at Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire.
    Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

  • Sophomore English teacher Joseph Geocaris talks while students use iPads in a Stevenson High School class that includes special education students and regular students.

       Sophomore English teacher Joseph Geocaris talks while students use iPads in a Stevenson High School class that includes special education students and regular students.
    Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

  • Homeroom classes added at Helen Keller Junior High School in Schaumburg give each student a mentor of sorts and may have helped the school make adequate yearly progress this year after failing in 2010, Principal Sue Mayernick said.

       Homeroom classes added at Helen Keller Junior High School in Schaumburg give each student a mentor of sorts and may have helped the school make adequate yearly progress this year after failing in 2010, Principal Sue Mayernick said.
    Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

  • Teacher Mark Shydlowski looks at an old class photo with students in their homeroom at Helen Keller School in Schaumburg. A new 20-minute homeroom period helps teachers identify students who have problems with tardiness or behavior, which may affect test scores.

       Teacher Mark Shydlowski looks at an old class photo with students in their homeroom at Helen Keller School in Schaumburg. A new 20-minute homeroom period helps teachers identify students who have problems with tardiness or behavior, which may affect test scores.
    Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

 
 

As expectations continue to rise, it's not easy for schools to make "adequate yearly progress" as defined by the No Child Left Behind Act.

To make AYP this year, 85 percent of students schoolwide and those in several subgroups must meet federal benchmarks on a standardized test. The required percentage is up from 77.5 percent in 2010. Despite those hurdles, seven schools in the North, Northwest and West suburbs made AYP this year after failing last year, according to state report card data released this week. The data include student scores on various achievement tests, school districts' rates of meeting or exceeding state standards, teacher pay and experience and the amount of tax dollars spent per pupil in each district.

"It's nice to publicly say we made it," said Troy Gobble, assistant principal for teaching and learning at Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, which made AYP this year after falling short last year.

Also, three schools -- Virginia Lake in Palatine, Frederick School in Grayslake and Glacier Ridge in Crystal Lake -- met standards for the second year in a row, winning removal from state and federal academic watch lists and the consequences the lists bring. One such repercussion is some watch-listed schools must allow parents to enroll their children in other schools.

While several schools targeted students in subgroups -- which include Hispanics and those with special needs -- who didn't score well enough in the past, administrators say it's best to focus on helping every student improve -- regardless of demographics. "While we tried to focus in on the subgroups, everything we did benefited the whole school," said Eric Detweiler, principal of Frederick School, which teaches fifth- and sixth-graders.

The three schools are among only nine in the state to be removed this year from watch lists for making AYP twice in a row, according to the Illinois State Board of Education.

Detweiler said Frederick School's revamped booster program, which provides math and reading assistance after school, helped the school progress in 2010 and 2011.

Virginia Lake added similar after-school help, "an extended-day program where targeted students can receive an additional 90 minutes of instruction three to four days a week," said Mary Zarr, an assistant superintendent for Palatine Township Elementary District 15.

Twenty minutes of in-school support time -- a homeroom period added in February -- may have helped students at Helen Keller Junior High School in Schaumburg make AYP this year after students who speak limited English caused the school to fail in 2010, Principal Sue Mayernick said.

Homeroom teachers serve as mentors for roughly 15 students, helping spot issues with tardiness or behavior, which can affect test performance, Mayernick said.

"Especially with the middle school student, you're looking at the whole kid," she said. "We have to be that support for all of those issues."

The school also tests students' math skills three times a year and gives extra assistance in math and reading to those who score less than the 40th percentile for their grade level, Mayernick said.

In addition to Keller and Stevenson, five other suburban schools made adequate progress this year after failing last year: Cooper Middle School in Buffalo Grove; Fox Meadow Elementary School in South Elgin; Richard F. Bernotas Middle School in Crystal Lake; McHenry Middle School in McHenry; and Gemini Junior High in Niles.

"That's a pretty heavy lift and substantial improvement," Christopher Koch, state schools superintendent, said of 152 schools statewide that failed last year but passed AYP in 2011. "That's great, great progress for a school."

Stevenson made AYP this year because students with special needs and Hispanic students met or exceeded standards in greater numbers. The school analyzed the education plan and transcript of each student who didn't meet standards in 2011 and looked for ways to help increase his or her performance and understanding of tested concepts.

"It wasn't that we spent a specific amount of time working on our Hispanic kids," Gobble said. "We focused on all students to try to improve everyone."

Although the school is glad to have met No Child Left Behind standards, other goals, such as helping each student score higher on the ACT than predicted by practice tests and maintaining a high average ACT score schoolwide, are more important, Gobble said.

And if Stevenson fails to meet adequate yearly progress next year, Gobble said, "we won't be any greater or less of a school."

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