Listen to this article

Four area schools were among the top in Illinois last year, according to recently released 2019 state report card data.

Champaign’s Carrie Busey Elementary, Prairieview-Ogden Junior High and Monticello High School each received the “exemplary” designation for the second year in a row.

St. Joseph-Ogden High School received it for the first time since the state began using the designations (others: commendable, under-performing and lowest performing) to show how well schools are meeting the needs of students in a host of areas.

Exemplary schools are among the top 10 percent of schools in the state and have no under-performing student groups (for example, students with disabilities, economically disadvantaged students or English learners) at or below the “all students” group in the lowest-performing 5 percent of all schools. Also, high schools have a graduation rate higher than 67 percent.

St. Joseph-Ogden staff were thrilled to learn the high school earned the top honor.

“SJ-O has extremely high expectations for our academics and is very proud when our students are recognized for their academic performance,” Principal Gary Page said.

While a number of factors played a role, he said the biggest were “the shared expectation for academic excellence and the trusting relationship within our school community.

“When students want to be challenged academically and teachers are willing to put the extra effort into challenging students, it fosters a great atmosphere for academic success,” Page said, adding the district is constantly evaluating its curriculum, course offerings and data, among other things, to improve student success.

Nearby at Prairieview-Ogden, Superintendent Vic White said it felt great to receive the designation two years in a row.

“It proves it’s not a one-time thing, and we’re educating our kids properly,” he said. “Yes, it’s a picture of our school at one point in time. But I’d hope you could walk in anytime and see that picture.”

White gives the credit to teachers.

“They put in the extra time,” he said. “If a kid doesn’t understand something, they’re willing to give up their prep time or lunch time to meet with and work him until he understands. Therefore, kids are mastering the lessons.”

No school in Champaign, Douglas, Ford, Piatt and Vermilion counties were among the lowest-performing 5 percent of schools in the state. However, a number were on the under-performing list because they have one or more student groups under-performing at or below the “all students” group in the lowest-performing 5 percent of all schools.

They include:

— Champaign’s Edison and Franklin middle schools and Garden Hills, Washington, Dr. Howard, Robeson and Westview elementaries.

— Rantoul City Schools’ JW Eater Junior High and Pleasant Acres Elementary.

— Unity Junior High.

— Urbana Middle School and Dr. Preston Williams, Thomas Paine and Wiley elementaries.

— Arthur Grade School.

— Danville’s North Ridge Middle School and Mark Denman Elementary.

— Hoopeston’s Maple Elementary.

— Westville’s Judith Giacoma Elementary.

Here’s a look at how districts did in other areas:

Reading and math growth

All students in grades 3-8 took the Illinois Assessment of Readiness (a shortened version of last year’s Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers), and a whopping 50 percent of the K-8 designation is based on growth in English language arts and math.

Most area schools were close to the state’s 50 percent growth marks, and a number exceeded them.

They include:

— Cerro Gordo (63 percent growth in ELA, 55 percent growth in math).

— Ludlow (59 percent in ELA, 54 in math).

— Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley (59 percent in ELA, 53 in math).

— Mahomet-Seymour (53 percent in ELA, 56 in math).

— St. Joseph (52 percent in ELA, 57 in math).

— Georgetown-Ridge Farm (53 percent in ELA, 52 in math).

— Oakwood (52 percent in ELA, 54 in math).

— Honorable mention: Bement, which saw 65 percent growth in ELA.

Graduation rate

This also counts for half of the high school designation.

Arcola and Monticello tied for having the highest percentage of graduates in the area — 98 percent. Tying for second place were SJ-O and Salt Fork with 96 percent.

Danville’s rate was the lowest at 70 percent, while Hoopeston Area was the second-lowest at 71 percent.

Academic success

While ELA and math scores used to be the main factors in determining whether schools met state benchmarks, they each accounted for only 7.5 percent of the total K-8 and high school designation last year.

Leading the pack:

— Prairieview-Ogden (62 percent of students met or exceeded ELA standards, and 51 percent did in math).

— Mahomet-Seymour (59 percent in ELA, 65 in math).

— SJ-O (57 percent in ELA, 60 in math).

— St. Joseph (49 percent in ELA, 50 in math).

— Honorable mentions: Gifford, Armstrong-Ellis and Monticello, where 72, 71 and 61 percent of students, respectively, met or exceeded science standards.

— Needs improvement: Rantoul City Schools, where 9 percent of students met or exceeded ELA standards and 8 percent met or exceeded math standards.

Also struggling in math were Bement (5 percent met or exceeded), Georgetown-Ridge Farm (8 percent) and Arcola and Danville (9 percent).

Chronic absenteeism

While most districts’ rate for chronic absenteeism (percentage of students who miss 10 percent or more of school days a year) was in the double digits, three districts doubled or more than doubled the state’s rate of 18 percent.

They are Rantoul Township High School (760 students) with 48 percent, Danville (5,505 students) with 41 percent and Urbana (4,566 students) with 36 percent.

Districts with the lowest percentage include Prairieview-Ogden (280 students) with 3 percent, Bismarck-Henning (595 students) with 5 percent and St. Joseph(822 students).

Three districts were at 9 percent: Salt Fork (907 students), SJ-O (457 students) and Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley (1,008 students).

Instructional spending per pupil

Armstrong-Ellis, a grade-school district that had 75 students last year, topped the list, spending $11,291 per student.

Also high were Armstrong Township High School, which spent $8,641 on its 134 students; Ludlow, another grade-school district, which spent $8,479 on its 55 students; and Urbana, which spent $8,265 on its 4,566 students.

In all other districts, the amount ranged from $3,067 (Bismarck-Henning) to $7,401 (Deland-Weldon).

Early college coursework

Monticello had the highest percentage of 10th-to-12th-graders get a jump start in college coursework — 50 percent.

Close behind were Georgetown-Ridge Farm with 47 percent, Champaign with 45 percent and SJ-O with 44 percent.


Noelle McGee is a Danville-based reporter at The News-Gazette. Her email is, and you can follow her on Twitter (@n_mcgee).