It's not an exact science, but educators in Huntley Unit District 158 say more challenging coursework, continued adjustments to the curriculum and high expectations of all students helped high school juniors again raise the bar in a statewide science assessment.
According to 2012 Illinois Interactive Report Card data released today, the number of Huntley High School juniors who met or exceeded state standards in science jumped 8.1 percentage points, from 67 percent in 2011 to 75.1 percent in 2012. Of the 519 Huntley High School students who took the Prairie State Achievement Exam science test this year, 59.3 percent met state standards, while another 15.8 percent exceeded standards.
That 8.1 percentage point increase put Huntley High School third -- in terms of improvement -- among high schools in 92 suburban school districts examined by the Daily Herald. Willowbrook High School saw a 10.1 percentage point increase and Glenbard East High School improved 9.3 percentage points.
However, Huntley High was the only school in the top three to perform above the state average of 64.3 percent of students meeting or exceeding state standards. Willowbrook and Glenbard East had meeting and exceeding rates of 59.2 percent and 58.5 percent, respectively.
"I don't think there is any one magic solution," said Mike Moan, director of curriculum and instruction in District 158. "There are a number of things, including the hard work of the teachers to meet the needs of all of our students. There has been a concerted effort on the part of the high school staff to really look at the instruction being given and the rigor with which we teach courses. And there's high expectations for students across the board."
The Prairie State Achievement Exam science component is composed of an ACT science exam plus an Illinois State Board of Education-developed science test. The results of the two tests make up the PSAE science grade.
District 158, which has one high school, was first among districts with a high school in terms of improving 11th-grade science achievement. The high school also saw gains in ACT assessments, raising science scores from 22.0 to 22.4 in the 2011-2012 school year. The state average in ACT science was 20.8.
"We have done a lot do a lot of work specifically geared toward performance on the ACT and exposure to the types of questions students will see," said Sheilagh DeLorenzo, biology level leader at Huntley High School. "The ACT is a science reasoning test, not a recall of facts and figures. It is skill-based and students need to know how to interpret scientific data and graphing."
Streamwood High School in Elgin Area School District U-46 also experienced gains in science, growing 7.2 percentage points to 42 percent of students meeting or exceeding state standards. That increase was sixth among 92 high schools the Daily Herald analyzed.
Hampshire High School was just outside of the top 10 schools for science. The high school was 11th, increasing from 55.7 in 2011 to 61.8 in 2012.
• For a school-by-school breakdown, go to http://www.dailyherald.com/section/reportcards