Making gains, but not ‘AYP’
By Emily McFarlan Miller email@example.com October 31, 2012 12:02AM
Sixth-grade students discuss a topic during a reading class Friday at Otter Creek Elementary School in Elgin. October 28, 2011 | Michael Smart~Sun-Times Media
Highest-ranked U46 schools
1. Centennial Elementary School, Bartlett (Sun-Times ranking: 139) – 93.5 percent of students meets or exceeds state standards on the ISAT
2. Sycamore Trails Elementary School, Bartlett (Sun-Times ranking: 271) – 92.9 percent meets or exceeds
3. Prairieview Elementary School, Bartlett (Sun-Times ranking: 273) – 91.1 percent meets or exceeds
4. Bartlett Elementary School, Bartlett (Sun-Times ranking: 281) – 90.7 percent meets or exceeds
5. Wayne Elementary School, Wayne (Sun-Times ranking: 304) -- 93 percent meets or exceeds
Highest-ranked D300 schools
1. Eastview Elementary School, Algonquin (Sun-Times ranking: 475) – 89.9 percent of students meets or exceeds state standards on the ISAT
2. Westfield Community School, Algonquin (Sun-Times ranking: 480) – 89.8 percent meets or exceeds
3. Lincoln Prairie Elementary School, Lake in the Hills (Sun-Times ranking: 491) – 92.8 percent meets or exceeds
4. Sleepy Hollow Elementary School, Sleepy Hollow (Sun-Times ranking: 522) – 89.2 percent meets or exceeds
5. Kenneth E. Neubert Elementary School, Algonquin (Sun-Times ranking: 529) – 92.4 percent meets or exceeds
Lowest-ranked U46 schools
1. Century Oaks Elementary School, Elgin (Sun-Times ranking: 1879) – 68.5 percent of students meets or exceeds state standards on the ISAT
2. Lowrie Elementary School, Elgin (Sun-Times ranking: 1854) – 68.8 percent meets or exceeds
3. Huff Elementary School, Elgin (Sun-Times ranking: 1828) -- 68 percent meets or exceeds
4. Coleman Elementary School, Elgin (Sun-Times ranking: 1808) – 73.8 percent meets or exceeds
5. Lords Park Elementary School, Elgin (Sun-Times ranking: 1797) – 69.7 percent meets or exceeds
Lowest-ranked D300 schools
1. Perry Elementary School, Carpentersville (Sun-Times ranking: 2048) – 61.3 percent of students meets or exceeds state standards on the ISAT
2. Golfview Elementary School, Carpentersville (Sun-Times ranking: 1860) – 68.2 percent meets or exceeds
3. Meadowdale Elementary School, Carpentersville (Sun-Times ranking: 1838) – 66.5 percent meets or exceeds
4. Parkview Elementary School, Carpentersville (Sun-Times ranking: 1596) – 71.5 percent meets or exceeds
5. Gary D. Wright Elementary School, Hampshire (Sun-Times ranking: 1261) – 83.7 percent meets or exceeds
1. Bartlett High School, Bartlett (Sun-Times ranking: 133) – 60.2 percent of students meets or exceeds state standards on the PSAE
2. South Elgin High School, South Elgin (Sun-Times ranking: 205) – 55.6 percent meets or exceeds
3. Elgin High School, Elgin (Sun-Times ranking: 403) – 41.8 percent meets or exceeds
4. Streamwood High School, Streamwood (Sun-Times ranking: 512) – 41.1 percent meets or exceeds
5. Larkin High School, Elgin (Sun-Times ranking: 515) – 35.7 percent meets or exceeds
1. Harry D. Jacobs High School, Algonquin (Sun-Times ranking: 135) – 60.8 percent of students meets or exceeds state standards on the PSAE
2. Hampshire High School, Hampshire (Sun-Times ranking: 187) – 57.1 percent meets or exceeds
3. Dundee-Crown High School, Carpentersville (Sun-Times ranking: 488) – 39.6 percent meets or exceeds
Source: Chicago Sun-Times 2012 rankings,
of 689 ranked high schools
Updated: December 1, 2012 4:57PM
ELGIN — In Laura Abernethy’s fifth- and sixth-grade classroom at Sheridan Elementary School, colorful pennants waved from each student’s desk as they mixed different materials with water and studied them under microscopes on Tuesday afternoon.
Some banners were decorated with an “A+.” One had a drawing of a book and the word “reading.” Each represented a goal that student had set with the help of his or her teacher.
And if you ask Sheridan Principal Nita White, those students are progressing toward meeting those goals.
You can see it on the wall of White’s office, where she has taped up index cards representing each student and, during meetings with teachers each Tuesday, moves those cards to the right as students make gains on assessments.
You can see it in their scores on the Illinois Standard Achievement Test, or ISAT: 79.1 percent of students meet or exceed state standards this year on the standardized test. That’s up from 73.5 percent last year and about 55 percent in 2002, just after the federal No Child Left Behind Act went into effect.
But, by No Child Left Behind’s definition, Sheridan Elementary School hasn’t made Adequate Yearly Progress, or AYP, since 2007.
And, White said, “That’s the part that’s a little disheartening.”
“We’re moving in the right direction. No, we’re not at 85 percent, but we’re still making progress.”
In fact, only 10 of 53 schools in Elgin School District U46 — or about 18 percent — made AYP this year, according to Illinois State Report Card data made public today by the Illinois State Board of Education. All are in Bartlett or Streamwood, with one each in Wayne and Hanover Park.
That is two fewer than last year, and, for the first time, includes no middle schools in addition to no high schools. Both Kenyon Woods Middle School in South Elgin and Tefft Middle School in Streamwood slipped from the list this year.
And that means, like many of its neighboring Fox Valley school districts, U46 itself has failed to make AYP again for the sixth year, since 2006.
Which is to say, “in the most simple terms, we saw little change,” according to Ben Churchill, assistant superintendent for high school teaching and learning in nearby Community Unit School District 300.
“The schools that historically do well continue to do well. The schools that seem to struggle in some areas continue to struggle in some areas,” Churchill said.
In Illinois, 713 districts and 3,786 schools failed to make AYP, according to the state board. That’s 82 percent of districts, up slightly from 80 percent last year, and 66 percent of schools, up from 65 percent.
That comes even as the ever-rising benchmark for AYP remained the same in 2012 as 2011: 85 percent of students at each school again were expected to meet or exceed state standards this year.
That percentage has inched up each year since No Child Left Behind was passed in 2001 — except this year. That’s because Illinois received a freeze this year while its waiver from the act’s requirements is under review, according to the state board.
“We are truly in a transition period in education as we move away from the punitive and one-size-fits-all nature of No Child Left Behind and into a system that will provide more comprehensive and useful information for parents, educators and students themselves about each child’s progress over time,” State Superintendent of Education Christopher A. Koch said Tuesday in a written statement.
“We are hopeful that this is the last year we report on AYP results and can instead offer data that paints a fuller picture of each student’s and school’s learning experience.”
Of 25 schools in District 300, six — 24 percent — made AYP this year, all in Algonquin, Hampshire, Lake in the Hills and Sleepy Hollow.
That’s three fewer than last year and, like U46, includes no middle or high schools. It also, for the first time this school year, does not include the district’s Cambridge Lakes Charter School in Pingree Grove.
The Carpentersville-based school district has not made AYP since 2007, according to Illinois School Report Card data.
But, Churchill said, “We definitely do not see ourselves as a failing district. In fact, we see ourselves as a district with great strengths and doing some amazing things for our kids.”
And, at nearly every grade level, those kids are making “some really impressive gains,” according to Kristin Corriveau, assistant superintendent for preschool and elementary teaching and learning in District 300.
Instead of looking at students’ standardized test scores, comparing fourth grade results in one year to fourth grade results in the next, Corriveau has been comparing the same groups of students year over year within that data. For one, fifth-graders gained 7.8 percentage points in reading on the ISAT compared to their scores the previous spring as fourth-graders on the test, she said.
But that one test isn’t the only data point is relying on to measure its students’ progress, she added. It also administers AIMSweb tests to elementary students three times a year, including weekly progress monitoring tests to students who receive extra support.
Taking tests at several points throughout the year allows classroom teachers to “make adjustments on the fly,” Churchill said. Otherwise, he said, “The ISAT comes out once a year, and we get the results how many months after the test was administered?”
At the high school level, District 300 looks at data points such as students’ participation in Advanced Placement classes, he said. The 545 students in AP classes last school year took 27 more exams than the year before (a total 795) and scored a “three” or higher on 32 more of those tests (a total 420).
And while only 26 percent of students’ scores meet all four College Readiness Benchmarks, he said, 63 percent of District 300 students go directly to college after graduation. That’s the same as the national average and above the state average of 57 percent.
“I could care less about a test score — one test score in a kid’s life. I care desperately about what they do after they leave our halls, and overwhelmingly, they’re doing well,” Churchill said.
In Elgin, U46 spokesman Patrick Mogge said, “Our focus remains on Destination 2015.”
Destination 2015 is the district’s five-year accountability plan, which includes benchmarks representing where students need to be in grades one, three and six to stay on track for high school and college readiness, among other things. But some of the biggest growth the district has seen, Mogge noted, has been at the high school level, in National Career Readiness certification and participation in AP classes.
The National Career Readiness Certificate certifies essential skills needed for workplace success, based on the results of the WorkKeys assessment. Last school year, the first all high school seniors in U46 were required to take the assessment, 20 percent of students earned a gold level certificate or higher — a 1,900 percent increase over 2008, he said.
And, like in District 300, the 299 students in AP courses last year in U46 took more exams and scored higher: Those students took 2,658 exams compared to 2,246 the year before, the spokesman said. And they scored a “three” or higher on 1,421 of those exams compared to 1,256 the year before.
At Sheridan, students take the MAP and Fountas and Pinnell assessments three times a year, according to its principal. And, White said, she shares those results with her students. Teachers share them with parents at parent-teacher conferences. They set goals.
On Tuesday, she and the school’s two literacy coaches spread out in her office, papers strewn across the table, looking at the progress of the students with whom those coaches work. Of the 49 students coach Donna Madaffari has been working with this school year, only four students now aren’t meeting standards, White said.
Looking at the cards taped up on her wall, thinking about the students they represent and the progress they’ve made, she said, “I used to do this. I used to put it in a binder and keep it on a shelf. Having it up here means I can see it. It’s a constant conversation.”
The principal has been leading that conversation for three years now, she said, and, “we’ve seen an increase for three years.”
Next year, though, the percentage of students who must meet or exceed state standards to make AYP is 92.5, she said. And assessments are expected to become more rigorous as Illinois prepares to implement the Common Core Standards in districts across the state, Churchill added.
But, White said, “I’m not shooting for a 92, but I’m shooting for — plus four or plus five is a good target.”
“That’s real. That’s where we are.”