As was the case for many other Illinois school districts, Lake Park High School District 108 did not meet state improvement standards this year.
The district failed to make progress under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, but Lake Park officials say the mandate is "a single snapshot" based on the Prairie State Achievement Exam, which is taken by a different group of juniors each spring, and fails to track cumulative achievements.
"While recognizing the importance of the (exam), we've embraced more of a growth model that looks at progress from the time our students enter as freshmen" said Lake Park Superintendent Lynne Panega, adding that students perform well on the ACT preliminary PLAN test, as well as the actual ACTs.
Lake Park tested 99 percent of its students on the Prairie State Achievement Exam last spring, but less than 66 percent of them met or exceeded state standards in reading, while 67 percent met or exceeded state math standards.
The state's minimum target in both subjects is 85 percent meeting or exceeding standards. This year, according to the state report card on student achievement, about one-third of all schools in Illinois failed to meet that standard.
In Lake Park, not one demographic group met the standards, with white students coming closest at 73 percent in reading, and Asian students coming closest in math at just more than 83 percent.
Lake Park has aggressively revamped its curriculum during the past five years, with such changes as integrating reading strategies into classes, ramping up its advanced placement class offerings, aligning classes to meet test goals, and assessing students regularly to target areas where they might be falling behind.
Panega said Lake Park is now seeing the fruits of that labor in other test scores.
"We think its important to look at the ACT from the perspective of which students have been exposed to our curriculum throughout their entire high school career," she said. "Those who have been here the whole time score almost an entire point higher on the ACTs than those who are transfers or have been exposed to another curriculum."
Lake Park has also nearly doubled the number of students taking advanced placement exams in the past seven years. In 2005, 280 students took 460 advanced placement exams for college credit. This year, 556 students took 933 exams.
"We know our community does judge us based on (No Child Left Behind), but it's also important for use to look at some internal indicators that are very meaningful for us," Panega said. "Hopefully the feds will focus on the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind on growth models, make it more meaningful, and get the ISAT (Illinois State Achievement Test) and the PSAE aligned."