Despite years of interventions, programs and evaluations, School District 202 has once again failed to make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) under the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). In fact, in some areas, students performed less well on the Prairie State Achievement Exam (PSAE) than they had in recent years, according to a report on student achievement presented to the School Board on Sept. 27.

Other topics on the student achievement report related to graduation rates, discipline and AP tests (see sidebar).

Dr. Judith Levinson, director of research, evaluation and assessment, sad that with the increased level of standards this year, “a preliminary review of result in districts around us indicates that all high schools are in the same position we are – not making AYP.”

Progress Against NCLB Standards Appears to Be Slipping

This is the eighth year of the federal program authorized in 2002 that requires that a range of population subgroups in a school (white, black, Hispanic, low income and students with disabilities) meet or exceed standards in reading and mathematics through 2013-2014; the percentage of each subgroup that must meet standards is increased each year.

This year, 77.5 percent of all subgroups at Evanston Township High School and the school as a whole were required to meet or exceed standards. Only white students did so (90.7 percent in reading and 93.7 percent in math) and in fact, the average score for the school as a whole was only 63.2 percent in reading and 66.2 percent in math.

In addition, although some groups had been showing a steady upward trend in meeting standards through the 2007-2008 and 2008-2009 school year, this year, almost all groups have experienced some fall-off in scores from recent years, the report revealed. Dr. Oscar Hawthorne, assistant superintendent/principal said that, according to the Illinois State Board of Education, students across the state had experienced a decrease in reading of three percentage points, as compared to last year.

However, most of the District’s underperforming subgroups dropped off more than three points. For example, in 2008, 46.2 percent of black students met or exceeded reading standards; in 2010 only 36.6 percent of black students met or exceeded reading standards. Results for math for both black and Hispanic students were equally as bleak: in 2008, 50.7 percent of black students met or exceeded standards in math, the percent dropped to 39.3 percent in 2010; 60 percent of Hispanic students met or exceeded math standards in 2009, the percent dropped to 44.3 percent in 2010.

“This is below our hopes and expectations,” remarked Mr. Hawthorne in response to the report. “Our charge must be to eliminate racial predictability in achievement.”

Students Start High School With An Achievement Gap

Administrators maintain that “the gap in achievement in reading and math between white students and black/Hispanic students exists when students enter ETHS as freshmen,” according to the report. “While 95 percent of white incoming freshmen are at or above the national average, between 60 and 70 percent of black and Hispanic students enter ETHS at or above the national average.”

“We inherit this problem,” said Board member Deborah Graham. “We need to do a better job of coordinating and articulating with District 65 so that children come into this building better prepared for what awaits them here.”

One positive note is that all ETHS students show improvement in their performance from their scores on the EXPLORE test to their scores on the ACT test. Peter Bavis, associate principal for teaching and learning, presented an analysis of the progress of student performance between the EXPLORE test, which students take in eighth grade, and the ACT, which students take as juniors as part of the PSAE as well as a longitudinal study of scores on the ACT. This analysis is based on two cohorts measured beginning with EXPLORE in 2005-2006 and 2006-2007 and ending with PSAE/ACT in 2008-2009 and 2009-2010. Mr. Bavis’ presentation included all of the subgroups mandated under the NCLB: white, black, Hispanic, students with disabilities and low income students.

Students Improve, But Not at the Same Rate

However, white, wealthier and non-disabled students improve their performance on the set of standardized tests appreciably more during their tenure at the District than do black, Hispanic, low-income and disabled students. For example, white students who were juniors in 2009-2010 had an average EXPLORE score in English of 19.5 and a PSAE/ACT score of 28.3, an 8.8 point, or 45 percent improvement.

Black students of the same cohort scored 14.0 on the English part of the EXPLORE test and 18.0 on the PSAE/ACT, a 4.0 point or 28.6 percent improvement. Other groups showed similar disparities.

Board president Rachel Hayman expressed her concern about this gap. “We’ve got something systemic going here that a program here, a class there isn’t going to fix. It doesn’t make sense to me that based on skin color some are achieving at a greater rate.”

Mr. Hawthorne said, “We need to look at the high school experience that students of color experience, versus that of white students and ask some tough questions about activities, contact with adults and discipline.”

Mr. Hawthorne outlined a series of initiatives to be taken in the 2010-2011 school year to address the challenges of student achievement including race/equity training for all staff, test preparation classes, expanded and refined implementation of System of Supports, a Positive Behavior Supports program, and other classroom programs.

District 202 School Board Discusses AP Participation, Graducation Rates and Suspensions

In addition to presenting the District’s performance on the PSAE, administrators also reported on AP course participation and test performance, graduation rates and suspensions as components of student achievement.

AP Course Participation and Test Performance

The percentage (21.4 percent) of students participating in AP exams is the highest since 1995 (11.2 percent). Despite this increase, 74 percent of students score a “”3″” or higher, which is similar to the percentage of students who have done so over the years, despite the large increase in numbers of students taking the tests.

The District runs three-hour summer time AP boot camps to help students feel more confident about taking AP classes.

Graduation Rates

According to administrators, “”graduation rate was a concern for the high school last year, based on graduation statistics of the Class of 2009.”” ETHS administrators undertook a focused effort to boost the graduation rate last year, including the identification of seniors who were behind in the required credits to graduate and the implementation of a credit-recovery program. This past year, all groups saw an improvement in graduation rate: 92.5 percent as compared to 87.5 percent in 2009. ETHS now exceeds the minimum graduation rate requirement of the No Child Left Behind Act, which is 80 percent in all groups.

Suspensions

Board members were disappointed to learn that the number of suspensions has increased this year compared to last, despite the fact that the Board set itself a goal to reduce them (1191 for 2009 and 1276 for 2010). Board members expressed their concern about this lack of improvement and asked for a more detailed report later in the year with more details about the suspensions.