Report cards highlight graduation and growth
Graduation is the norm rather than the exception at Southland College Preparatory High School in Richton Park.
For the last five years, all of the school's seniors have graduated, Southland's CEO Blondean Davis said. A graduation rate of 100 percent — achieved by only 13 other Illinois high schools — was key in earning the small charter school an “exemplary” designation on the state's new report card system in which graduation rates accounted for half of a high school's score.
The distinction only went to the top 10 percent of the state's high schools this year, according to the Illinois State Board of Education andwas achieved by only five other south suburban high schools.
Despite being on the state's financial watch list for the past three years, all three LincolnWay 210 District high schools – Central, East and West – were deemed exemplary. Also on top were Lemont and Plainfield North High Schools.
The vast majority of state schools – 70 percent – were “commendable.”
Schools fall into one of four tiers based on last year's test data: “exemplary,” “commendable,” “underperforming” or
For Lincoln-Way Superintendent Scott Tingley, that “exemplary” status was a “highlight” of the new report card.
“That's outstanding. We are very pleased,” he said, noting that the district's graduation rate has been “consistently high” at about 97 percent.
“Their findings show that Lincoln-Way 210 is putting students first, andwe will continue to strive to improve. The state will continue to increase their expectations, and we need to make sure we stay on pace,” he said.
High schools also were rated
on the number of freshmen on track to graduate, which for Lincoln-Way was 95 percent.
“If we can keep them on track, they aremore likely to graduate,” Tingley said.
Lincoln-Way students also posted some of the highest proficiency scores among high schools in this area, with district averages of 56.8 proficiency in English Language Arts and 58.8 percent in math.
Right alongside LincolnWay was Lemont High School, with proficiency scores of 59.8 and 55.8, respectively, and a graduation rate of 97 percent and 95 percent of freshmen on track.
Southland Prep, which has a maximum of 540 students who are chosen in a lottery open to Rich Township District 227 residents, posted proficiency scores of 44.2 percent in English Language Arts and 35 percent in math, and saw 90 percent of its freshmen on track.
But tests are only part of evaluating a student’s readiness for college, Davis said.
The school’s success is duein part to its small size— the teachers know every student’s name — and its nine-hour school days, and if students are struggling academically, tutoring is available after school and on Saturdays, Davis. said.
“We never let them fall behind,” she said.
Southland College Preparatory officials said their school was the only charter high school in the state to receive exemplary ranking.
In the K-8 school districts, 19 south suburban schools were ranked exemplary, led by Frankfort School District 157C, where all three schools received the honor — Grand Prairie Elementary, Chelsea Elementary and Hickory Creek Middle School; and North Palos District 117, with three of its five schools on top— OakRidge Elementary, Glen Oaks Elementary, and Conrady Junior High.
Nine of those 19 schools were in Lincoln-Way High School feeder districts. Some exemplary schools were: Anna McDonald and Wilson Creek inManhattan District 114, Nelson Prairie and Spencer Pointe in New Lenox District 122, Frankfort Square School in Summit Hill 161, and Union School in District 81.
“We value our partner- ship with the other elementary feeder districts and the high school,” said Frankfort 157C Superintendent Maura Zinni, adding that administrators in these districts meet monthly to ensure a seamless transition from grade school to high school.
Other exemplary schools were Kolb Elementary, District 122, Oak Lawn; Hamlin Upper Grade Center, District 125, Alsip; Independence Junior High, District 128, Palos Heights; Nathan Hale Primary School, District 130, Crestwood; McAuliffe School in District 140, Tinley Park; the Kruse Educational Center, District 146, in Orland Park, andWilliam J. Butler School, District 33C, Lockport.
At the elementary level, half of the ranking was based on academic growth, and Union School, with 92 students, saw a growth rate of over 80 percent in English Language Arts and nearly 70 percent in math.
Union Superintendent Tim Baldermann said many changeswere made to make the school competitive and bring it up from the bottom 10 percent to the top 10 percent.
They changed the curriculum, extended the school year two extra weeks to dedicate extra days for remediation and enrichment, and partnered with Lincoln-West High School students for tutoring, he said.
Every school day, all students get a quality breakfast and lunch, made in the school cafeteria, which “goes a longway” in helping kids learn, Baldermann said.
“We are thrilled with the way things are going,” he said, giving credit to the “hard-working” staff, students and school board.
Likewise, Frankfort 157C’s top scores were not achieved overnight, but are the results of a long term goal to design and imple- ment a “rigorous curriculum tightly aligned to the state standards,” Zinni said.
District-wide, students posted growth rates and proficiencies of more than 70 percent in both English and math. Over 86 percent of Chelsea Elementary students were skilled in English, according to the scores.
“If we do not see growth, then we turn back to our curriculum to determine where we have missed the mark and make adjustments,” she said.
The curriculum process is “never ending,” and teachers are continually supported by the district’s six instructional coaches, who provide in-house professional development, Zinni said.
Zinni and Davis both credited a strong partnership with parents as a key to success in the schools.
For Jeannie Stachowiak, superintendent inNorthPalos District 117, the exemplary designations are an affirmation that “all the work we’ve done all year has translated to student learning.”
“The one thing we celebrate is that our eighth grade scores are the highest. That is our real measure,” she said.
The new ranking system relies heavily on another new feature of the report cards: measuring students’ year- over-year improvement on standardized tests instead of simply their passing rates.
ConradyJuniorHighstudents showed more than a 66 percent growth in English Language Arts and over 65 percent growth in math, with corresponding proficiency rates of 66 and 59 percent, according to the data.
Also posting high growth and proficiency rates were the district’s other two exemplary schools, Glen Oaks and Oak Ridge Elementary.
The district’s two prekindergarten through first grade centers were commendable, but those schools also have a high bilingual population, of 50 and 60 percent, and it takes a few years for students to learn the language, Stachowiak said.
According to the report card data, among the 70 percent designated as “commendable,” therewere large ranges of scores for growth andproficiency, but all these schools showed that they were meeting the needs of students in all sub-groups.
Schools with one or more low-performing student groups were deemed “underperforming,” unless they fell within the bottom 5 percent, or the “lowest performing” schools.
Five south suburban schools were considered to be the lowest performing: Thornridge High School, Rosa Park Middle School in West Harvey-Dixmoor District 147, BrookwoodMiddle School in District 167, Glenwood, Roosevelt Elementary in Dolton Districct 148, and Childs Elementary School in Posen-Robbins District 143.5 where the other two district schools were rated as underperforming, according to the state.
Rosa Parks feeds into Thornridge, as do a few of the “underperforming” school districts, such as Districts 148 and 149 – both in Dolton.
Thornridge, the only south suburban high school listed as “lowest performing,” had proficiency scores that were under 10 percent, but still comparable to its “commendable” sister schools, Thornton and Thornwood, and a graduation rate of 75 percent that has steadily increased in recent years, according to school officials.
Even though Thornridge is categorized among low performing schools, Superintendent Nathaniel Cunningham has instilled checks and balances to improve the quality of education at all District 205 schools, district spokesman Earl King said.
Thornridge has been in a “turnaround phase” for the past two years, he said.
Under the new “Every Students Succeeds Act” guidelines, a school-wide student improvement plan has been initiated that targets reading, math, and the ”systematic cultural process and development involving our parents and students,” he said.
It appears to be paying off, according to numbers from Principal Ebonie Williams.
Graduation rates have increased steadily from 61.6 percent in 2016 to 75 percent in 2018.
During that same time, the number of freshmen on track to graduate jumped from29.7 to 64 percent.
Also during that two-year period, the school’s attendance rate increased from 79 to 85 percent, but its absentee rate increased significantly, King said. According to the school report card, its chronic absentee rate is 64 percent.
To rectify the problem, the district has hired additional truant officers and plans to bring the school’s at-risk counselors and families together to ensure that students are attending school both daily, and punctually, King said.
Thornridge’s SAT proficiency rate is 8 percent and has not changed since 2016, but a new curriculum has been installed, including a newintegratedmathcurriculum for ninth grade students, Williams said.
District 147 Superintendent Johnnetta Miller said while she is “disappointed” in the current rating, she sees it as an opportunity for growth. Test scores were down from the previous year, she said, and the latest proficiency rates of 8.1 percent in English Language Arts and 2.3 percent in math, are among the lowest in the area.
The district has seen “continuous change” and a “lack of stability” in the last several years, with five superintendents in as many years, Miller said.
It also closed an elementary building, changed to grade centers, and placed the teachers in different
Southland College Prep Charter High School in Richton Park was one of 14 state high schools with a 100 percent graduation rate. Above, the class of 2018 celebrated its commencement at Harris Theatre in Chicago.
Southland College Prep High School in Richton Park is one of five exemplary high schools in the south suburban area, according to the new state report card.
Last month, Hickory Creek School in Frankfort District 157C celebrated winning a national Blue Ribbon for academic excellence. Last week, all three District 157C schools were rated as “exemplary” by the state board of education.