Leyden high schools miss yearly progress mark
Updated: December 30, 2012 3:08PM
The results of the latest state school report cards – increases and decreases – should be read skeptically, a Leyden School District 212 official says.
“What’s tricky about report cards is it’s a different group of students each year,” Curriculum and Instruction Assistant Superintendent Mikkel Storaasli said. “There are variations in the different groups. You have to be careful about the conclusions you draw year to year.”
The annual school report card is mostly based on the Prairie State Achievement Exam, a test given to juniors each spring. It has some value, Storaasli said.
“They give you a snapshot of where you are at,” he said. “They tend to hone in on reading and math.”
The Leyden high schools did not make adequate yearly progress on this year’s report card. Under No Child Left Behind, at least 85 percent of students had to meet or exceed state standards in math and reading.
This year, only 14 Illinois high schools reached AYP.
“At this point, the way the law is set up, it is nearly impossible to make AYP,” Storaasli said. “We don’t believe we are a failing school and the law needs to be reformed or revamped or appealed.”
In reading, all student subgroups, except Hispanic students at West Leyden High School, saw an increase in performance from the previous year’s test. Subgroups are broken down by low income, special education and student ethnic backgrounds.
While Storaasli repeated that the results have to be taken with a grain of salt, he added the district has made changes. It has offered professional development for teachers and two years ago created a separate literacy department – rather than including literacy with the English department.
Math scores were mixed. Scores by special education students increased. Storaasli suggests that’s partially due to trying to place special education students in general education math classes, which are more rigorous.
Scores by white students at both campuses, in contrast, decreased. White students account for 35.1 percent of students in the district and those of Latino ancestry account for 58.6 percent.
“That typically has been the subgroup that has scored the highest,” Storaasli said. “I don’t know why there has been a dip.”
Two other trends of interest in the report card: First, the number of students with limited English proficiency has decreased from 13.5 percent of students in 2001 to 4.1 percent in 2012.
“I think it started with 9/11,” Storaasli said. “It’s harder to get into the country. And the economic crash in 2008. I think that has slowed some immigration into the country.”
Also, the number of students from low-income families in the district has risen from 17.7 percent in 2010 to 47.4 percent in 2012. Those numbers are based on the number of students who apply for free or reduced price lunches.
“Our suspicion is that in the low years, it was under-reported,” Storaasli said. “When economic times go bad, we saw a significant increase in families that applied.”