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The 2013 Achievement Report presented to the School Board on Jan. 21 shows that about 25% of white students in the District scored at or above the 96th percentile in reading and math on the 2013 ISATs (e.g., at or better than 96% of all Illinois students taking the ISATs). About 45% scored at or above the 89th percentile.

These figures show up in the data that uses Illinois stanines to report how District 65 students have done over time. There are nine stanines, ranging from a low of 1 to a high of 9. Stanines are percentile ranges that provide rough estimates of statistical significance (half standard deviation units).

The top three stanines and their percentile ranges are: 1) the seventh stanine – 77th through 88th percentiles; 2) the eighth stanine – 89th through 95th percentiles; and 3) the ninth stanine – 96th through the 99th percentiles.

Only 22% of the students in Illinois are in the top three stanines: 12% in stanine 7; 6% in stanine 8; and 4% in stanine 9.

One way to assess student achievement is to compute the percentage of students in each stanine and to monitor shifts from year to year. This provides a much more nuanced view of top-level achievement than other customary analyses.

Percent in Each of the Top Three Stanines: Figures 1 through 4 show the percentages of white and black students at District 65 who scored in stanine seven, in stanine eight and in stanine nine in reading and math on the 2006 through the 2013 ISATs. The percentages are a composite for all third- through eighth-graders in each subgroup, the largest two subgroups in the District.

The charts also show the statewide average, that is the percentage of all Illinois students in each stanine. These percentages are constant throughout the period.

District 65 white students, on average, have performed at levels much higher than the statewide average. On the whole, there are not substantial shifts in the percentages of District 65 students in the top three stanines between 2006 and 2013. The larger shifts in the eight-year span are a decline in the percentage of white students who were in stanine nine in reading and math (4 and 6 points, respectively), and a slight increase in stanine 7.

The wide gap in the achievement by ethnicity may be due in significant part to differences in opportunity associated with household income, as well as the increased challenges faced by children living in poverty.  According to data presented by the District, 77% of the District’s black students are from low-income households (measured by free- and reduced-fee lunch status) and 9% are homeless.  By contrast, 7% of white students are from low-income households.

Cohort Comparison 3rd to 8th Grade: Figures 5 and 6 show the trends between third and eighth grades for three cohorts of District 65 students in reading and math. The data, which is for all District 65 third-graders and eighth-graders for the years indicated, was provided by Paul Zavitkovsky of the University of Illinois-Chicago.

The results are mixed for the cohorts, with some showing slight improvement between third- and eighth-grades, and others slight declines.