Lake County schools show drops on standardized tests, but 2 buck trend
Most Lake County school districts show decline on standardized test scores, according to results released Tuesday on the 2017 Illinois School Report Card, but amid the downturn, two schools in Ingleside showed dramatic improvement.
The number of Big Hollow Middle School students meeting/exceeding proficiency standards increased by 7.1 percentage points, the highest increase in the county, and at Big Hollow Elementary School the number increased by 5.7 percentage points.
Of 540 schools in Cook, DuPage, Kane Lake, and McHenry counties surveyed by the Daily Herald show declining proficiency scores on the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, test taken by third- through eighth-graders. State officials say the scores could be updated later in the week.
In Lake County, test scores improved in just seven out of 24 elementary and middle school districts from last year, but most remained higher that the Illinois average of 34.1 percent.
Big Hollow Elementary District 38 increased its number of students meeting and exceeding standards from 31 percent to 37.6 percent, an increase of 6.6 percentage points, which tied the district with Grass Lake Elementary District 36 in Antioch for the biggest increase this year.
Big Hollow Elementary District 38 Superintendent Bob Gold said he was pleasantly surprised by the district's progress.
"We're trying to address a lot of academic performance issues we're seeing and providing more support for teachers," he said. "That it is working is good news for them, it really is."
Somewhat mollifying the lower test scores elsewhere was the news that among the 17 school districts whose scores slipped this year, nine of them decreased by only 1.5 percentage points or less. One of those districts with a slight decline was Round Lake School District 116, which went from 18 percent of its students meeting/exceeding state standards to 16.7 percent of its students doing the same this year.
Donn Mendoza, the district's deputy superintendent, said he didn't think such a small decrease was all that significant, especially because school leaders have been putting more of a focus on older students in recent years.
"At the high school our graduation rate has gone from 72 percent to 90 percent in three years," Mendoza said. "We're trying to take what we've done at the secondary level and apply it to the elementary level."
The third- and fourth-largest percentage-point increases in the meets/exceeds category were seen at Wauconda Unit District 118, up from 33.3 percent in 2016 to 37.6 percent this year, and Fox Lake District 114, up from 28.4 percent to 32.5 percent.
Dave Wilm, District 118's assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, attributed the district's success to strengthening alignment to the state's learning standards, including implementing a new math curriculum for elementary students.
"But ultimately any success we have is from our hard working teachers and their efforts," Wilm said.
Fox Lake Superintendent Heather Friziellie, who assumed the district's top job in July, said they focus on helping students succeed in the classroom.
"Our teachers are making sure kids are making progress toward our standards. I don't care about the PARCC. The PARCC is just an indicator," Friziellie said. "If we are successful, you'll only see our scores increase further."
New SAT test
Results released by the state are the first since Illinois adopted the SAT as the preferred college-readiness assessor for high schools. Yet, despite the change from the long-standing ACT test, Lake County high schools continue to lead the way academically.
Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire led the way with 77.9 percent of students meeting or exceeding the state's standards on the SAT, just ahead of Deerfield High School's 77.6 percent and Libertyville High School's 77 percent. Stevenson also led all suburban schools surveyed by the Daily Herald with a composite SAT score of 1,233.
Last year, Stevenson led the suburban pack with an average ACT score of 26.9.
"We weren't concerned about the transition," Stevenson spokesman Jim Conrey said. "Historically, Stevenson students have tested really well. Our kids are very well prepared and we didn't really have any reason to believe there'd be a big drop off." Sixteen out of 21 Lake County high schools had a higher percentage of students meeting or exceeding state standards than the state average of 38 percent.