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Most Dist. 202 Schools Don't Meet No Child Left Behind Standards

One official says district 'not happy' with test scores; on the positive side, overall math and reading numbers continue to improve.

Only six of Plainfield School District 202's 28 eligible schools made adequate yearly progress as defined by the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

But district officials are heartened by one trend: there have been vast improvements in math and reading since 2004.

According to district data, seven years ago there were nearly 5,800 students tested in reading and math from third through eighth grades and in 11th grade. Of those students, 62.7 percent met state reading standards and 66.3 percent met state math standards.

In 2011, district data shows that of about 15,600 students tested in third through eighth grades and in 11th grade, 81 percent met state reading standards and 87 percent met state math standards.

District data also shows that since 2004, the district has shown progress in both reading and math as more students are enrolled in the district.

Still, the No Child Left Behind Act forces districts to improve by 7.5 percentage points each year and at least 85 percent of students in nine different ethnic and socioeconomic subgroups must meet state standards. Those subgroups are divided into race – white, black, Hispanic, Asian, Native American and multiracial – as well as students who have limited English proficiency or disabilities or who belong in low income families.

If one of the subgroups does not meet state standards, then the whole school is labeled as failing.

Five elementary schools and one middle school made adequate yearly progress. They are , , Liberty, and elementary schools and .

In 2010, 19 schools did not make yearly progress.

Changes in the way schools will be measured will be implemented by 2014-15 and should assess schools by how much they grow, rather than an arbitrary benchmark they have to reach, said Carmen Ayala, the district’s superintendent for curriculum and instruction.

Some of the test scores released at Monday’s school board meeting concerned district officials.

For instance, 75 percent of black students met state reading standards two years ago, but only 70 percent met state standards in 2011.

“This is a concern,” Ayala said.

Reading scores for children with disabilities also declined from 49 percent who met state standards two years ago to 42 percent who met standards this year; new state regulations, however, forced some disabled students to take the same test as regular education students instead of an alternative test.

Math scores among Hispanic students dipped 4 percent from 84 percent of students who met standards last year to 80 percent who met state standards this year. 

Overall, math scores dropped from 89 percent of all district students who met state standards last year to 87 percent from last spring’s tests. While down 2 percent in one year, it is up 21 percent since 2003, district officials said.

The Illinois Standards Achievement Test is given to elementary and middle school students. The Prairie State Achievement Exam, which includes the ACT college entrance exam, is given to 11th graders.

At the high school level, reading scores for 11th-graders dipped from 62 percent who met state reading standards last year to 53 percent who met standards this year. In math, 65 percent of 11th graders met state standards last year and 56 percent met standards this year.

Students must take the Prairie State Achievement Exam to graduate, and this was the first year the state included test scores of students who were not academically ready to take the exam as juniors, but took it as seniors, Ayala said.

Nonetheless, the district was not pleased with the high schools’ scores, Ayala said.

Looking at other data, including ACT test scores, will help the district see how well the high schools are improving, she said.

“We’re not happy with the scores we have,” Ayala said. “… [But] the Prairie State does not give a true picture of growth.”

Ayala said the district remains committed to improving academic achievement for all students and is implementing new methods to help students succeed.

The district is aligning its common core curriculum and will be continuing to increase its rigor. Students will soon be expected to understand fractions by the third grade and algebra by eighth grade, Ayala said.

Literacy and spelling standards are also going to improve, she said.

Next year the district may need to offer a choice to families in schools that have not made adequate yearly progress for two consecutive years so that parents can opt to send their children to a better-performing school.

Mike dombrowski August 16, 2011 at 01:42 PM
Maybe it's time to go back to the old ways of teaching math and stop using a calculator and show them how to do basic stuff on paper then go to the calculator for the rest. These days a kid can not read a clock unless it's digital. Technology is great but it takes away the basic thinking process. I work in the correctional system traing inmates to do machine shop work and it is amazing how little they know about basic math without using a calculator. They do not know how to think.
Jerry August 16, 2011 at 02:18 PM
I knew this district was in trouble when my son, who just graduated from pshs, was in third grade and his teacher was reprimanded for teaching multiplication tables. It wasn't part of the "Everyday Math" curriculum that was being taught by the district. I decided at that point that if my kids were to have any decent grasp of basic math skills it was going to fall upon me to teach them. This is a systemic problem...from the district administrators who set the curriculum to the building administration that implements it to the teacher in the classroom trying to do what he/she can with the hand they are dealt. Not to mention the fact that Illinois in general and PSD202 in particular cannot retain teachers with any kind of experience...and it's no wonder why. This system, and the people running it, are failing...and the victims of their failure are our children.
Zach August 16, 2011 at 04:24 PM
Meeting the NCLB standard of "100% passing" is impossible, at least at the high school level. If 100% of high school students scored a 21 on the ACT in Reading and Math, the ACT Corporation would simply make the test harder. Also, most kids can read an analog watch, but holding 21st century kids to 20th century standards will put us even further behind other countries.
Alan Cook August 16, 2011 at 05:59 PM
National math test scores continue to be disappointing. This poor trend persists in spite of new texts, standardized tests with attached implied threats, or laptops in the class. At some point, maybe we should admit that math, as it is taught currently and in the recent past, seems irrelevant to a large percentage of grade school kids. Why blame a sixth grade student or teacher trapped by meaningless lessons? Teachers are frustrated. Students check out. The missing element is reality. Instead of insisting that students learn another sixteen formulae, we need to involve them in tangible life projects. And the task must be interesting. A Trip To The Number Yard is a math book focusing on the building of a bungalow. Odd numbered chapters cover the phases of the project: lot layout, foundation, framing, all the way through until the trim out. The even numbered chapters introduce the math needed for the next stage of building and/or reviews the previous lessons. This type of project-oriented math engages kids. It is fun. They have a reason to learn the math they may have ignored in the standard lecture format of a classroom. Alan Cook info@thenumberyard.com www.thenumberyard.com
lynn August 17, 2011 at 03:46 AM
These kids aren't taught at all. They are given ISAT test prep classes in math and reading for several months in avance of the tests. Teaching has been thrown out the window!! Ask your kids what they are doing. They have posters placed all over the room weeks in advance of the test so it is "legitimate" and tell the kids if they have any problems on the test to "look around the room for the answer". It all boils down to testing and not learning. Sad! Instead of learning new material, they are subject to review of old material just for the sake of the test. Teach them and they will learn. Teach them the right way and they will perform.
Nick Beam August 18, 2011 at 12:27 AM
This is one of the most accurate criticisms of the district that have read yet.
Tina Saenz Garcia August 18, 2011 at 02:35 PM
This is something that I have complained about to my child's case managers over the years and though they 'unofficially' agreed there was nothing they could do about it officially. The schools are not teaching our children to be thinkers but rather conformers.
Tina Saenz Garcia August 18, 2011 at 02:40 PM
I agree w/everything you have written except that the teachers are forced by building administrators to do this . . especially in tough times we are in because if not they will be reprimanded or even not asked to return the following year if they are not already tenured.
Sheila Raddatz August 18, 2011 at 04:14 PM
I have mixed feelings about our school system. Maybe if we weren't so cash strapped, we would have have a different school system. It just seems that we are pressing so hard to help the kids that aren't making the grade and penalizing/holding back on the kids that are doing well. (Our district provides kindergarten tutors--seriously! Get off the couch parents and teach your kids the ABC's and stop using district money--excuse me while I vented here).
Annabelle Howard August 18, 2011 at 05:21 PM
At the risk of appearing like nothing but an "uninformed" self-promoter . . . dare I add a comment about my online CMT games that helped 17,000 CT kids this year? I will. The data is phenomenal on how much these games help children. Educational solutions can sometimes come from out-of-town. I do not live in Plainfield, but I am based in CT. What is unusual about my approach is that our system gives every kid access to every game (math, math vocab, comprehension, editing, science vocab, etc) AT EVERY GRADE LEVEL! So, kids are free to go up or down a level, as needed, skill by skill. Students are literally choosing to self-remediate. The system empowers kids to catch up and/or get ahead. I am a life-long teacher who has taught in 3 countries. I see that attention spans are shorter and have developed these games to be very student, parent, and teacher-friendly. Yes, I do need to earn a living, "my conscience," and I also genuinely work to be a part of the solution. The Official CMT League can be Googled :)
Local Boy August 19, 2011 at 01:25 AM
That's great Annabelle that you live in Connecticut, but this article is talking about the Plainfield in Illinois. I hope you realize this and that you know it is not about Plainfield, CT. If you don't, then you are "uninformed."
Annabelle Howard August 19, 2011 at 05:25 PM
Dear "my conscience" and "Local Boy," I sincerely apologize for trespassing on your patch and am very sorry for upsetting you both. I do not wish to offend. I did indeed mistake your town for one in CT. An honest mistake made in haste. However, my400words is based on the Common Core State Standards and is relevant for a national audience. I have spent a lifetime in education, first as a teacher, then as a writer, and now as an entrepreneur. I am truly doing my best to be a part of the solution. I have never once engaged in spam (sent unsolicited bulk messages indiscriminately). I do, however, personally invest my time via social media sites to engage, learn, and inform as best I can. This will be my last post on this thread. I offer sincere apologies and good wishes to you both :)

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