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updated: 9/6/2012 11:37 PM

District 214: We're reaching our goals

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With the new school year under way, the Northwest Suburban High School District 214 school board got an update on how its schools are living up to districtwide goals.

Steve Cordogan, director of research and evaluation for District 214, told the school board on Thursday that with some minor deviations, students in the district are meeting or exceeding goals dealing with Advanced Placement exams, ACT scores and other measures of student success.

The number of AP courses taken has increased 87.6 percent from five years ago, from 4,394 courses taken in 2006-2007 to 8,242 courses in 2011-2012, Cordogan said.

Grades of D and F dropped substantially between 2006 and 2009 but have started to increase slightly in recent years, Cordogan said.

With the number of low income and special education students growing each year, officials said it's time to reapply the strategies that have been successful and maybe look for new ways to reach those groups.

"One of the biggest challenges we face is that our at-risk populations are increasing substantially," said Cordogan.

On the other hand, when looking at student scores on the EXPLORE test compared with how they did on the ACT, all student groups are improving. He added that the at-risk students are improving as fast or at a faster rate than the rest of the student body.

"That's the way we talk about closing the achievement gap," said Superintendent David Schuler.

The district's ACT score dropped .1 point for the Class of 2012 after posting an all-time high score of 23.4 in 2011.

But Cordogan said the answer is not teaching to the test.

"When you divert instructional time to try to game a test, that will not work," Cordogan said.

The statistics-based update left the school board congratulating the staff and looking forward to the year ahead.

"The data are all faces, our students faces, and that's how our staff views it," Schuler said. "The data helps us structure how we do things and what types of interventions are needed."

At the next meeting the school board will discuss implementing a social-emotional learning goal to try to focus on how students are progressing outside of their test scores.

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