Re­port cards high­light grad­u­a­tion and growth

Daily Southtown (Sunday) - - FRONT PAGE - By Su­san DeMar Laf­ferty

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

“low­est per­form­ing.”

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

CHARLES OS­GOOD/SCPHS

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.

SU­SAN DEMAR LAF­FERTY/DAILY SOUTH­TOWN

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.

SU­SAN DEMAR LAF­FERTY/DAILY SOUTH­TOWN

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.

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