Highland Park wrestles with NCLB law
HPHS Prairie State results versus No Child targets
Updated: October 25, 2012 2:56PM
HIGHLAND PARK — Highland Park High School missed the 85-percent achievement targets of the No Child Left Behind law for all demographic categories with the exception of white students on the Prairie State Achievement Exams taken last spring.
But the school was hardly alone, according to District 113 officials. Only 11 high schools out of the 669 tested in the state made Adequate Yearly Progress for all of the student groups counted under the No Child Left Behind law.
Deerfield High School, also in District 113, was the only comprehensive suburban high school with open enrollment to make the targets for all subgroups, according to the district.
On a schoolwide basis, the proportion of 11th grade students passing the state test remained steady at 77 percent. White students surpassed the bar barely, with passing rates of 88 percent in reading and 89 percent in math.
The school lost some ground among Hispanic students, with the proportion of students meeting and exceeding standards dipping from 36 to 33 percent in reading and from 38 to 34 percent in math. Communications Director Natalie Kaplan noted the figures represent two different groups of students.
“The system does not take into acount student growth, but instead measures one junior class to the next, establishing arbitrary benchmarks” that every group must reach “or the entire school is labeled as failing,” said Kaplan, noting the district’s internal monitoring, from freshman year on, shows Latino students are making progress in reading and math.
Suburban educators were hoping for a reprieve this year from the No Child Left Behind Law, optimistic that the U.S. Department of Education would approve Illinois’ request for a waiver as it had for some other states.
But the state’s waiver didn’t come through due largely to a dispute over Illinois’ 2016 timetable for linking teacher evaluations to student growth (read: test scores) — two years too late, according to the Feds.
So the consequences still stand for schools that fail to keep pace with the achievement targets of the No Child Left Behind law.
However, Illinois was given permission to hold the student achievement target to 85 percent for a second consecutive year. The required passing rate — the percentage of students meeting or exceeding standards — was set to rise to 92.5 percent on the state tests that students took last spring.
At Highland Park High School, passing rates among low-income students rose from 29 percent to 37 percent in reading and from 33 percent to 45 percent in math, but still fell short of the achievement requirements of the 10-year-old federal law. The law set a 2014 due date for all students in every demographic category to meet or exceed their state’s standards. The law also imposed an escalating system of consequences, starting with transfer options for students at lagging schools.
In seeking a waiver, Illinois has proposed replacing the current system with one that looks at the progress of individual students. Targets would be set for each school and subgroup with the goal of cutting in half the size of the achievement gaps by 2018.
The state also has pledged to address the mismatch between the ISAT exams, which are taken by elementary and middle school students, and the much tougher Prarie State Achievement Exams taken at the high school level. Currently, Illinois’ students pass 82 percent of all ISAT exams, but only 51 percent of the PSAE exams taken in high school. The high school exam includes the ACT college admissions test.
Going forward, the state plans to measure all students against college and career-readiness standards.