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updated: 10/31/2012 8:12 AM

North Aurora elementary school passes -- district peers do not

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  • Carol Wicks, the learning resource center director at Fearn Elementary School in North Aurora, prepares to record students reading captions to go with a slideshow on ecosystems. A student subgroup at the school made enough progress in reading and mathematics scores that the school was deemed to have made "adequate yearly progress."

       Carol Wicks, the learning resource center director at Fearn Elementary School in North Aurora, prepares to record students reading captions to go with a slideshow on ecosystems. A student subgroup at the school made enough progress in reading and mathematics scores that the school was deemed to have made "adequate yearly progress."
    Susan Sarkauskas | Staff Photographer

  • Fifth-grade teacher Karen Laskowski starts a "directed reading" session in her classroom Monday at Fearn Elementary School in North Aurora.

       Fifth-grade teacher Karen Laskowski starts a "directed reading" session in her classroom Monday at Fearn Elementary School in North Aurora.
    Susan Sarkauskas | Staff Photographer

  • A fifth-grade student at Fearn Elementary School works with her teacher, Carol Laskowski, on reading.

       A fifth-grade student at Fearn Elementary School works with her teacher, Carol Laskowski, on reading.
    Susan Sarkauskas | Staff Photographer

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Fearn Elementary School in North Aurora bounced back into the "passing" column on its 2012 state report card.

That again makes it the only school in the West Aurora school district to do so.

Fearn failed to make "adequate yearly progress" last year, after rejoicing over its 2010 grade.

Schools, districts and student subgroups had to have 85 percent or more of students tested "meet or exceed" goals on standardized tests administered in the spring. Students in third through sixth grades, eighth grade and 11th grade were tested. All were tested in reading and math; some grades were also tested in science. A school can fail if any subgroups of the student population don't meet or exceed those standards, and a district can fail if a school fails.

Last year, Fearn's subgroup of economically disadvantaged students failed to make adequate progress as mandated by the federal No Child Left Behind Act. They didn't hit the 85 percent mark this year, either, but improved enough that they were put in the "safe harbor" category and marked positively.

Principal Mike Smith said the teachers worked hard in the 2011-12 school year implementing a Professional Learning Community approach. They met in small collaborative teams once a week to look at data and instruction in reading and math. That time was held "sacred," Smith said; no interruptions from him or parents or other activities were allowed.

Students were pretested at the beginning of each quarter to see what they already knew about what was going to be taught. The teachers could then tailor instruction to fill the gaps. And they didn't just focus on the minimum of "meeting" standards; they pushed students toward membership in the "exceeds" group, Smith said. Teachers also focused on three or four key concepts in each unit that were deemed nonnegotiable, must-know concepts.

"I have a staff that really puts in the time," Smith said. It is continuing the practice this year.

In the Tri-Cities, the Aurora area and the Elburn area, no school district made the grade, overall, this year.

The West Aurora district is now in the third year of corrective action, and on the state's academic watch list for the third year. At least four of its schools have to offer students the choice to attend better-performing schools, although the district has been unable to find another nearby district willing to accept students.

The Batavia school district is in the second year of district improvement and the second year on the academic early warning list. Rotolo Middle School had to offer school choice to students for the first time this fall.

The Kaneland school district is in the first year of district improvement, and the first year on the academic early warning list. One of its elementary schools, Kaneland John Stewart in Elburn, had to offer school choice to students for the first time this fall.

And the St. Charles school district is in district improvement for the second year, and on the early warning list for the second year. Bell-Graham Elementary School did not make AYP because one of its subgroups, students with disabilities, did not have 85 percent of its members meet or exceed the goal.

At Kaneland John Stewart, only 75.2 percent of the economically disadvantaged subgroup made the grade.

It had to offer school choice because it is a Title I federal funds-receiving school that did not make AYP for the second year in a row.

At Rotolo, the students with disabilities subgroup and the black subgroup didn't reach the goals in reading and mathematics. Economically disadvantaged students missed the mark in mathematics.

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