22 Fox Valley schools deemed 'underperforming' by state rating
It is a little shocking to see the word "underperforming" assigned to a Geneva elementary school.
Harrison Street Elementary -- in a middle-class suburb with median household income of about $95,000 -- has experienced teachers. It was the only school in the Geneva, Batavia, St. Charles, Central and Kaneland school districts to be designated so, according to the 2018 Illinois Report Card.
Of 196 schools in Kane and McHenry counties, 143 were rated as "commendable," 31 were "exemplary," and 22 were "underperforming," and none were identified as "lowest-performing" under the state's new ranking system. That system is aimed at targeting resources to students who need it the most.
At Elgin Area School District U-46, the state's second-largest, 45 schools were commendable and eight underperforming. None made the exemplary or lowest-performing lists.
Underperforming schools have one or more student groups performing at or below "all students" in the lowest-performing 5 percent of schools statewide. This year, the state listed 11 possible groups to be evaluated: economically disadvantaged, students with disabilities, English learners, former English learners, and racial and ethnic groups.
At Harrison Street in Geneva District 304, only 18.8 percent of Hispanic fourth-graders met the state's benchmark on the English language arts test, and none of the low-income fourth-graders met or exceeded the mathematics benchmark.
"I can understand why looking at student groups is important," said Andrew Barrett, District 304's assistant superintendent for curriculum and learning. And he doesn't want any particular group blamed for the designation. "It is a really awesome school, and they are doing so much good there."
Officials there have not been told yet what led to the state assigning the underperforming designation.
"We think it is the (academic) growth, because it is the biggest piece of the pie and because it did not exist before," Barrett said. The academic growth indicator is the average of the individual student growth percentile in English language arts and math. It measures a student's growth from the previous year compared to grade-level peers statewide.
"You can't just say it is about math proficiency or reading proficiency. It is more complicated than that," he said.
Identifying student groups that need support is helpful to target resources, but calling out a group of students as underperforming can be detrimental for public perception of schools, U-46 officials said.
"This is not how we actually look at the data," said Laura Hill, U-46's director of assessment and accountability. "We do not look at students by what racial group they belong to. We look at learners as a whole."
Among U-46's underperforming schools are Elgin High, middle schools Abbott and Larsen in Elgin, and Tefft and Canton in Streamwood, and elementary schools Laurel Hill and Parkwood in Hanover Park and Ronald O'Neal in Elgin. Officials would not specify which student groups were underperforming and said they don't see a pattern across grades that could explain performance shortfalls.
"We're taking in a lot of information and trying to determine not only how scores were developed but also what are our next steps in providing support for each of our schools," said Josh Carpenter, assistant superintendent of teaching and learning. "This is a good thing, but there's also the newness factor we need to take into account as we look at these scores."
How U-46 students scoredA snapshot of U-46's 2018 school report card.
• Enrollment: 38,764
• Demographics: Low-income, 59.1 percent; limited English proficiency, 31.5 percent; Individualized Education Program, 13.5 percent
• Racial/ethnic makeup: Hispanic, 54 percent; white, 26.7 percent; Asian, 8.3 percent; black, 6.5 percent
• Expenditures per pupil: $11,946
• State school rankings: 45 commendable; 8 underperforming
• Eighth-grade PARCC proficiency: Math, 27 percent; English language arts, 28 percent
• Average student growth percentile: Math, 48 percent; English language arts, 47 percent
• SAT proficiency: Math, 28 percent; English reading and writing, 29 percent meeting state bench marks
• Chronic absenteeism: 19 percent (students who have missed 10 percent or more of school days whether excused or unexcused)
• Graduation rate: 5-year, 87.2 percent; 4-year, 83.8 percent; freshmen on track, 81 percent
Source: Illinois Report Card