Despite standardized test scores declining at most suburban schools, Elgin Area School District U-46 officials say the picture is not so bleak.
Administrators this week presented highlights from the 2017 Illinois School Report Card released Tuesday.
"We are on the right path," U-46 CEO Tony Sanders told the school board Monday night. "We are showing growth above the state in many areas."
U-46's expenditures per pupil is lower than the state average, its number of students enrolled in and passing Advanced Placement courses is increasing, and graduation rates are improving, officials said.
Yet in U-46, 36 elementary and middle schools showed declines in the percentage of students meeting and exceeding proficiency standards, while 12 schools showed increases on the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers test, or PARCC, given to third- through eighth-graders. As a district, 27.9 percent of students are meeting and exceeding standards -- a 1.3-percentage-point dip.
U-46 educates 39,377 students -- 53 percent Hispanic, 27.7 percent white, 8 percent Asian, and 6 percent black -- and 61 percent come from low-income backgrounds.
On PARCC, 28.4 percent of students met or exceeded proficiency standards in math and 27.4 percent in English language arts (ELA), slightly below state averages, officials said.
"One thing that we noticed was on the ELA there were some sharp changes when we switched from primary paper to online. You can see a decrease anywhere from 11 to 13 percentage points," said Matthew Raimondi, U-46 coordinator of assessment and accountability.
At the high schools, 53 percent of students met the College Board's bench marks in evidence-based reading and writing on the SAT college entrance exam, compared to 56 percent of students nationwide. For SAT math, 31 percent of U-46 11th-graders met national bench marks compared to 35 percent of students nationwide, officials said.
U-46's average SAT composite score is 979 on a 1,600-point scale compared to the national average score of 992.
The state's minimum SAT composite score to meet college readiness is 1,080 -- higher than the College Board's 1,010 composite.
Riamondi said U-46's average composite score was 30 points higher than expected compared to other Illinois districts with similarly high percentages of low-income students.
U-46's five-year and four-year graduation rates have increased from the year before to 88.7 percent and 85.6 percent, respectively -- the state's five-year rate is 88.4 percent and four-year rate is 87 percent.
According to the National Student Clearing House, 68.4 percent of U-46 students from the 2015 graduating class immediately enrolled in a college or university compared to previous classes.
"When we look at the assessment results from PARCC or the SAT, they might only predict 30 percent of the students to be college and career ready, when we are seeing the majority of our students actually are successful in college," Raimondi said.
Sanders said ultimately local assessment data from classroom tests is much more meaningful for teachers and principals, than PARCC.
"Having one assessment given to every student in every subject in English only, when we have a student population of 28.7 percent LEP (Limited English Proficient), is problematic to draw any conclusions from that on an annual basis," Sanders said. "Especially when you get the results 6 months after you have given the test."