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'Room to grow' at 2 District 87 schools based on latest state report card

District 87 sign

The latest data from the Illinois State Board of Education's annual release of school rankings shows two schools in Bloomington District 87 continue to have persistent disparities in student achievement.

Bloomington Junior High School and Sheridan Elementary School both received what's called a "comprehensive" designation from ISBE, based on data from the 2022-2023 school year — one of five different markers the state uses to define academic progress and student success within a given school.The designators determine what kind of additional funding support schools may receive to achieve progress.

Nicole Rummel, D-87's assistant superintendent of teaching and learning, said the designations are a result of lower-performing student subgroups at both schools. Subgroups include students with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs), low-income students and racial student groups. The Bloomington school district is among the mostdiverse in the state.

Rummel added the state's designator doesn't mean that no progress has been made in the district — or at those two schools.

"While we did not reach the target identified by the state and we definitely have room to grow and are continuing to implement supports at that school, we do want to acknowledge the hard work that the students, parents and staff have made at that building," she said.

In particular, Sheridan's "African-American, Black and low-income students have some of the highest subgroup scores in their building, so there's lots to be proud of," she said.

Three District 87 schools received a "commendable" designation from the state, including Bloomington High School and Irving and Oakland elementary schools.

According to ISBE, commendable schools have "no underperforming student groups at or below the 'all students' group of the lowest-performing 5 percent of schools" in the state.

High schools who receive that designation must graduate more than 67% of their students; BHS' graduation rate last year was 79%, lower than the state average of 87%.

Chronic absenteeism — defined as when a student misses 10% or more days of school per year — dropped last year from 43% in the 2021-2022 school year to 34% district-wide.

"While we have seen a decrease in D-87, we would like to see that continue to decline," Rummel said. "One of the [new] things that we did do over the past year is... set points to contact parents regarding absences. So, whether it's [an] excused or unexcused absence, we notify parents either by phone call, by letter, or we have a conference with them at set intervals when their students are absent from school [at] three absences, five absences, seven, and so on."

Another school, Washington Elementary, earned an "exemplary" designation from the state, meaning its student performance is among the top 10% in the state.

Much of the academic data the school report cards are based on each year come from standardized assessment tests and while that data "is what it is," Rummel said it "doesn't take into account a lot of other things that are happening in schools — the other work that educators are doing to help support our students with regards to social-emotional learning, well-being and other needs that students have."

District 87's enrollment dropped slightly over the past year: 4,866 students were reported enrolled for this academic year, down 116 students from 4,982 in 2022. The percentage of low-income students increased from 53% in 2022 to 59% this year.

Unit 5

Enrollment also slightly declined in McLean County's largest school district. Unit 5 reported 12,308 enrolled students this year, an 85-student difference from last year.

Of the district's two high schools, four junior high and 17 elementary schools, two were designated "exemplary" [Prarieland and Towanda elementary schools], while 16 were "commendable," including both high schools.

Kingsley Junior High and Fox Creek, Pepper Ridge and Sugar Creek elementary schools were designated as "targeted," meaning at least one subset of students is performing below the lowest 5% of schools.

"When reviewing the historical data, you will notice that five schools designated as targeted or comprehensive last year showed improvement and were not designated this year," Unit 5 spokesperson Dayna Brown said in a statement. "This includes Oakdale [Elementary School], which was comprehensive last year and is commendable this year ... a large improvement in performance."

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Lyndsay Jones is a reporter at WGLT. She joined the station in 2021. You can reach her at lljone3@ilstu.edu.
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