Danville district, high school fail to meet standard

Danville district, high school fail to meet standard

DANVILLE – Despite a number of improvements in standardized test scores, the Danville School District and high school failed to meet Illinois learning standards in 2006, officials said Friday.

Associate Superintendent Mark Denman said the district did not make adequate yearly progress, required by the federal No Child Left Behind, because special education students' reading scores did not meet benchmarks, and the high school did not because of juniors' math scores.

As a result, Denman said, the district was placed on the state's academic warning list. And the high school moved to the state's academic watch list from the academic warning list, where it landed after failing to meet standards in 2005.

Administrators said they already have taken steps to help more students throughout the district meet or exceed state standards in the future. That includes developing a high school improvement plan, addressing everything from instruction to school climate and culture.

"The scores aren't going to keep us down," said Marla Bauerle-Hill, who will unveil details at Wednesday evening's school board meeting. "We've got some improvements to do in math. We're going to improve in all of it. We've got fabulous teachers and students and parents, and we're going full power ahead."

Also at the meeting, administrators will present the long-awaited results of the Prairie State Achievement Exam, taken by juniors, and the Illinois Standards Achievement Test, taken by third- through eighth-graders.

ISAT results showed that all elementaries except Meade Park made adequate yearly progress, and that North Ridge and South View middle schools did not because special education students' reading test scores fell below benchmarks.

School officials got final ISAT scores on Feb. 20, but did not get high school scores or the district's combined scores until late this week. Denman said some information, such as high school breakdowns on curricular areas in math, still weren't available on Friday.

While not passing, the report cards contained good news, Denman said. "Certainly, our goal is to make (adequate progress). But we're showing positive growth. I was especially pleased to see amazing growth in some of our subgroups," he said, adding that some groups showed increases in every reading and math area.

For example, districtwide scores for black students went up 8.7 percent in math and 5.2 percent in reading. Those for Hispanic students – a relatively small subgroup, Denman said – went up 17 percent in math and 15.8 percent in reading.

Even special education students saw increases – 6.3 percent in math and 4.6 percent in reading. Despite the bump, reading scores still fell short of the 47.5 percent state threshold.

"I think any large district has this challenge," Denman said. "It's not easy. These are students with identified learning difficulties. But we're working with the kids to get those up."

The high school report card showed decreases in both math and reading, Denman said.

Math scores dropped from 46 percent in 2005 to 38.5 percent in 2006. Reading scores dropped from 58.7 percent in 2005 to 55 percent in 2006.

"That's not the direction we want to go," Denman admitted.

Denman said the district is not in jeopardy of losing funding. However, schools that did not meet benchmarks must submit school improvement plans to the Illinois State Board of Education. The state board will offer them extra support.

Also, Denman said, administrators and teachers this year will begin implementing improvement strategies, such as the ones Bauerle-Hill and high school staff began developing around Thanksgiving when preliminary data started trickling in.

"We've already started some things to help across the board," said Bauerle-Hill, who took over as principal in August. She is eager to launch efforts that include re-energizing three college-prep programs – Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID), for students with average grades; the Academy in Medical Sciences (AIMS) for students interested in health care; and a manufacturing/engineering academy (MERIT) for students interested in those fields.

Another will focus on freshmen. "I think we lose some," Bauerle-Hill said. "They're going from elementary school and middle school where it's very family-like, and you have one teacher with 25 students ... to high school. We need to make their transition easier."

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