Where school scores soared in Lake County
Students at Pritchett Elementary School in Buffalo Grove scored significantly better on the state's most recent standardized tests than they did the previous year, one of the biggest growth spurts among Lake County's schools, new data shows.
Pritchett's scores improved dramatically in both reading and math, according to the Illinois State Board of Education's latest school report cards, which are based on tests administered in the spring.
The state began measuring growth and declines on the exam using a new model last year.
Using a scale of 0-200, any score above 100 is considered progress from the previous year. The higher the score above 100, the greater the growth. Any score under 100 indicates a decline. The lower the number, the greater the slide. The state's average growth on the reading exam was 102.7. The state's average growth for math was 108.3.
Pritchett students recorded a growth score of 116.3 on the reading test and a whopping 121.4 on the math test.
Aptakisic-Tripp School District 102 administrators credited instructional, professional and philosophical practices that began in 2010 for the improvements, said Robert Hudson, assistant superintendent for educational innovation.
Teachers began emphasizing personalized learning, life skills and more rigorous academic lessons, among other changes. All were done to coincide with the district's transition to Common Core standards, Hudson said.
"We know that these tests are becoming more challenging," Hudson said. "Instead of shying away from it, we embraced it."
The ISAT scores recently were released to the media but couldn't be published until today.
Under the new growth measurement model, students earn more points for meeting or exceeding state standards and fewer points if their scores fall below standards.
A school's growth score is reached by adding up all the tested students' points and dividing by the number of students.
The growth scores varied widely from school to school around the county.
In addition to Pritchett, other elementary schools showing the most significant progress in reading included:
• Hough Street in Barrington, which scored 112.9.
• Kildeer Countryside in Long Grove, which scored 112.8.
• Countryside in Barrington, which scored 112.
• Half Day in Lincolnshire, which scored 111.9.
• Lines Elementary in Barrington, which scored 110.9.
Lake County elementary schools showing the most growth on the math test included:
• Kildeer Countryside, which scored 120.1.
• Country Meadows in Long Grove, which scored 118.7.
• Prairie Elementary in Buffalo Grove, which scored 117.9.
• Tripp in Buffalo Grove, which scored 117.4.
• Copeland Manor in Libertyville, which scored 117.3.
Growth data only is available for elementary and middle schools. High schoolers take the Prairie State Achievement Examination as juniors, so it's not possible to measure a single student's progress year to year.
Pritchett serves pre-kindergartners through fourth-graders. The school's third- and fourth-graders took the ISAT in early March, as did students across the state.
With Common Core on the way, District 102 administrators held meetings with community members in 2010 and 2011 to discuss changing their educational approach. They eventually opted to target four categories:
• Human capital, which officials described as dealing with teacher retention, professional development and related issues.
• Personalization and academic rigor.
• Communication with the community.
• Life and learning, which focuses on how students are being prepared to succeed later in school and afterward.
Professional development has become critically important to Pritchett's success, Hudson said. Throughout the year, teachers meet with experts and learn about educational strategies they can use in their classrooms, such as a form of literary analysis called close reading or lessons that emphasize proper grammar and syntax in all subjects, not just English.
"And (they apply) them in authentic, real-world environments," Hudson said. "They're using these strategies right away."
Pritchett students are aware of the new approaches, too.
Clear instructional targets called "I can" statements are included on assignments and posted on posters or on white boards in classrooms to remind pupils about the big-picture lessons being taught.
"I can read at grade level fluently" might be one target. "I can multiply a one-digit number by another one-digit number" could be a mission statement for math.
If the methods prove successful, Hudson said, the teachers share them with their peers in regularly scheduled meetings. They tell their fellow teachers about approaches that don't seem to be getting the desired results, too.
The active involvement gives teachers more ownership of what is taught in their classroom, and how, said Julie Brua, the district's assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.
"Teachers aren't afraid to speak up and say, 'This is where we want to go next,'" she said. "The teachers have that voice. It's huge."
The goal for all of these strategies, at least when it comes to the standardized test scores, is continuous improvement over time, Hudson said.
He doesn't sound surprised by the students' forward progress.
"It makes sense," he said. "A lot of things we have in place are going well."