Few school districts in Illinois meet test standards
Only a few local school districts made adequate yearly progress under federal No Child Left Behind requirements, and they're in the minority of school districts around the state.
In the area, Thomasboro, Gifford, Prairieview-Ogden, Deland-Weldon, LeRoy, Armstrong-Ellis and Potomac school districts made adequate yearly progress. Champaign, Urbana and Danville's school districts did not.
Statewide, 82 percent of school districts and 66 percent of schools did not make adequate yearly progress under No Child Left Behind, according to the Illinois State Board of Education.
Eleven high schools in the state made adequate yearly progress, according to Mary Fergus, spokeswoman for the state board of education.
Illinois has applied for a No Child Left Behind waiver with the U.S. Department of Education, and it's under review.
However, the state board was allowed to calculate whether schools and school districts made adequate yearly progress based on last school year's levels. It's a one-time freeze.
That means schools were expected to show 85 percent of students met or exceeded learning standards when taking the Illinois Standard Achievement Test and the Prairie State Achievement Examination.
In Champaign, South Side Elementary made adequate yearly progress, but no other schools did. Northeast Elementary Magnet School was the only Danville school that did. No Urbana schools made adequate yearly progress.
Both Champaign and Urbana's school districts say they're using these tests and others to find out how students are growing, and in what areas they need more help.
In Champaign, Superintendent Judy Wiegand said the school district is working with a company called Educational Consultants and Research Associates Group to monitor students as they take tests throughout high school. The idea is to evaluate the students' growth over time, not just on the Prairie State examination they take junior year.
The company will also evaluate test scores for younger grades.
Wiegand said she expects results in February or March, and she said they'll show where students are making gains and help the school district target areas that need improvement.
While Champaign's graduation rates, which factor into whether schools make adequate yearly progress, are still below the state average, Wiegand said, the district is making special efforts to support freshman. There's a push to make sure they earn enough credits freshman year to become sophomores.
Champaign's graduation rate is 81.4 percent, and the state average is 82.3 percent.
Urbana High School's graduation rate is 87.8 percent, and Don Owen, the school district's assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, said there's a bright spot in that data. While the overall rate is exactly the same as last year's, for the first time, African-American students have a higher graduation rate than any other subgroup. The high school's goal is to have all students "college and career ready," Owen said, "but it's nice not to see a disparity on the graduation rate."
Urbana's graduation rate for African-American students is 90.4 percent, 88.4 percent for white students and 86.3 percent for students who are economically disadvantaged.
No schools in the Urbana school district made adequate yearly progress, though, and Owen said Urbana is moving away from using the ISAT and PSAE tests as anything more than one more data point to see how students are doing. Instead, Urbana's school district is focusing on results from tests chosen within the school district that measure students' individual growth over time.
"They provide more meaningful information to teachers and administrators about how to meet the needs of all students better," Owen said.
The tests used for No Child Left Behind test different groups of kids each year, and don't reflect the school district's move toward implementing the new Common Core state standards.
But new state tests, called the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness of College and Careers Assessment, won't be implemented until 2014-15, Owen said.
ISAT and PSAE scores alone "don't provide useful information for us to make changes," he said.