Poor suburban students struggle even more on PARCC

Updated 12/10/2015 5:23 PM

While educators and parents are struggling to understand the meaning of just-released results of the state's new standardized test, one metric is clear -- poor students are still doing worse.

In June, a Daily Herald and WBEZ analysis of 10 years of State Report Card data found an undeniable link between poverty and school achievement. The new test -- Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC -- did not change the outcome for low-income students in Illinois.


The new test is a measure of whether students are college- and career-ready, and according to its data, schools with more poor students are struggling to prepare those children for the future more than wealthier schools.

Elementary schools with more than 90 percent low-income students scored the worst, with an average 15.6 percent meeting or exceeding standards. Meanwhile, schools with the fewest low-income students had an average of 63.8 percent meeting or exceeding -- a 48.2-point gap.

The latest statistics reiterate that income level dictates a very different educational experience across the suburbs.

For example, several schools in Aurora East District 131, a district with one of the suburbs' highest poverty levels, had less than 10 percent of students meeting or exceeding standards on the PARCC test.

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That's in stark contrast to some of the schools with the largest percentages of students meeting those college- and career-readiness benchmarks, often in communities with very few low-income students such as Lincolnshire, Naperville or Oak Brook.

Student poverty also was an indicator of large differentials even within the same district, according to the test results.

In Palatine Township Elementary District 15, the highest-achieving school -- Marion Jordan Elementary School with 79.4 percent meeting/exceeding -- has the least poverty in the district: 6 percent. The lowest-achieving -- Jane Addams Elementary School with 24.3 percent meeting/exceeding -- has the most poverty at 71.1 percent.

For months educators warned that PARCC's rigor and different form of questioning would likely cause scores to drop statewide, which proved true when results were released this week, but schools with more poor students saw a larger drop.

Schools with the fewest poor students saw their meets/exceeds percentages drop an average of 20.2 percentage points, while those at the poorest level dropped 23.4 percentage points on average.

According to the latest data, more than half the students from 193 schools in the Northwest suburbs were classified as low-income -- a figure mirrored by the state average of 54.2 percent.

"We've got to lift up every student. That's the challenge," Ken Ender, president of Harper College in Palatine, said in June upon seeing similar results to what was released this week." I don't see a bright future for us, our kids and our grandkids if we can't bring everybody along. The stakes are very high."

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