District plans to raise scores

District plans to raise scores

DANVILLE – According to Illinois State Board of Education reports, three Danville schools failed to hit the mark on all-important 2003 standardized tests.

But Danville Associate Superintendent Mark Denman said plans are in place to improve Illinois Standards Achievement Test scores at Danville High School, South View Middle School and East Park Elementary School – the three schools that didn't measure up – and at all schools in the Danville district.

Denman said one area of concern last year and this year was math.

"Our African-American and low-income students weren't making adequate yearly progress," he said. "That was the impetus for starting a districtwide math committee and for looking carefully at our curriculum, and these things are ongoing.

"The way we look at it, if there's a problem with students at the high school level, we need to start early, so we started out with middle schools and branched out to elementary schools," Denman said. "We're talking about teaching methods and materials. We gave middle school teachers meeting days to talk about the content they're teaching and how long they're teaching it."

Although most districts give students several different standardized tests, the ISATs are the tests that tell the tale because those results are used to measure school progress, something required by the 2002 federal education legislation known as No Child Left Behind.

ISAT scores determine whether schools have made the required progress, and if they don't for two consecutive years, funding can be withheld and schools must offer parents a choice of changing schools.

Urban schools face special challenges measuring up because the assessments take into account performance of population subgroups, and in rural districts, populations tend to be more homogeneous.

The Danville district is evaluating curriculum methods to see which will be most effective, and some schools are distributing lists of standards to achieve and students' progress toward achieving them.

Danville also hired a curriculum coordinator, Kathy Houpt, in January, reinstating a position that had been cut due to budget troubles.

"She's going to be very important in this effort." Denman said.

He said Danville has more low-income families than most districts, a 61 percent average according to state report cards, and that poses challenges, especially to schools such as East Park with a low-income rate of 77 percent, because many of those students lack resources.

That compares to average low-income rates of 38 percent for Illinois, 23 percent for Champaign and 44 percent for Urbana.

"This process is very complex and we're learning as we go along," Denman said. "We're doing all we can to meet the standards."

Denman said Danville and many other districts throughout the state found errors in the first ISAT results distributed late last year, appealed those results and got many of them changed.

In area counties:

– All schools in Ford, Douglas, Moultrie and DeWitt counties made adequate progress.

– In Piatt County, Atwood-Hammond Elementary School failed to make the required progress.

– In Iroquois County, Sheldon High School and Watseka Community High School failed to make required progress.

– In Edgar County, Chrisman High School failed to make adequate progress.

– In Coles County, four schools failed to make the grade, Charleston High School, Charleston Middle School, Lerna Elementary School and Oakland High School.

And in other Vermilion County districts, three schools didn't measure up to standards – Westville High School, Ridge Farm Elementary School and Potomac Elementary School.

Three schools are placed on academic early warning status, Westville High School, Georgetown-Ridge Farm High School and Hoopeston Area High School, although Hoopeston and Georgetown did meet required annual progress standards.

You can reach Anne Cook at (217) 351-5217 or via e-mail at acook@news-gazette.com.

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