Lake Forest, Lake Bluff school results mixed as state releases report card
Updated: December 4, 2011 10:34AM
Two local schools landed on the Chicago Sun-Times top 50 after the release of the state’s School Report Card on Monday.
Lake Forest’s Cherokee Elementary School was ranked number 32 on the Chicago Sun-Times top 50 elementary schools in the state list. Lake Forest High School came in at number 10 on the Chicago Sun-Times top 50 high schools in the state list, up one position from number 11 in 2010.
Although it ranked in the top 10 in the state, Lake Forest High School has not met all of the requirements for Adequate Yearly Progress as outlined in the federal No Child Left Behind law because only 80.2 percent of all students met or exceeded state reading standards, down from 82.2 percent the previous year. The No Child Left Behind Act required in 2011 that 85 percent of all tested students must meet or exceed state standards in reading. Only 44.7 percent of disabled students met or exceeded state reading standards, which was below the safe harbor target of 58 percent. In addition, only 43.4 percent of disabled students met or exceeded state math standards. The safe harbor target in math was 58.7 percent.
For more than a decade, the Chicago Sun-Times has based its exclusive rankings of public schools on average scores on state achievement tests, not on the percent who meet state standards. Only 2011 reading and math results from the Illinois Standards Achievement Tests and Prairie State Achieve Exams taken last spring were analyzed. Results in those subjects can trigger sanctions under the federal No Child Left Behind Law.
At LFHS, 83.7 percent of students met or exceeded standards in math, a slight decrease from the previous year’s 84.1 percent. And in science the percent of students who met or exceeded standards also fell to 82.5 percent from the previous year’s 86.3 percent — the highest science PSAE score in the school’s history.
District 115 Superintendent Harry Griffith is not concerned about the dip in AYP scores at LFHS.
“Unlike some schools in the state, 100 percent of our students take the exams,” Griffith said. “We don’t do handouts and students guides (for these tests), because classroom performance is more important to our students.”
LFHS students focus more on how well they do on final exams and written samples to be evaluated by their instructors, as well as their accomplishment in Honors and Advanced Placement classes, he said.
“The number of students taking AP classes has been growing steadily the last five to seven years. That’s more important to our student population than a PSAE score,” Griffith said.
Griffith also said the district has no intentions of teaching to the test to improve those scores.
“We could make it a higher priority program, but we think that would be dumbing down our curriculum. As an organization, we’re not doing that. We’re still very proud of our students regardless of how these are reported,” he said.
More important to the school, Griffith said, is breaking a new record in its ACT college entrance exam scores. The LFHS Class of 2011 had a composite score of 26.8, the highest score in the school’s history, and placing it in the top five in the state, excluding the city’s elite enrollment magnet schools.
“The ACT focuses on getting you ready for college and getting you ready for life. That’s more important to our students,” Griffith said.
In Lake Forest School District 67, 96 percent of students met or exceeded state goals, up slightly from 95.9 percent the previous year. As a whole, the district had more than 92 percent of its students meet or exceed standards at every grade level and in every subject.
Although District 67 performed well on the assessments, Deer Path Middle School West, 7th and 8th grade, did not make AYP because it did not reach the benchmark for students with disabilities.
In Lake Bluff Elementary School District 65, 93.4 percent of students tested met or exceeded standards on the ISAT. At the Elementary School, scores went up from 94.6 percent the previous year to 95.3 percent this year.
At the Middle School, the numbers dropped from 94.5 percent meeting or exceeding state goals last year to 91.8 percent meeting or exceeding goals this year. As a whole, the district had more than 87 percent of its students meet or exceed standards at every grade level and in every subject.
Interim Superintendent Ben Martindale said the district results were similar to last year’s figures, overall.
“There are slight dips, but when you aggregate everything those slight dips are not statistically significant,” Martindale said. “We’ll make sure the dips we saw this year are not indicative of a trend.”
He points to the district’s small size as a factor in the scores.
“In a district this size, where we don’t have a large number of kids. Twelve students at either end can influence the score level a significant amount,” he said.