Illinois' new school report card shows three Unit 5 junior high schools and one elementary school are underperforming, while three of the district’s grade schools received high marks.
District 87 had three grade schools and its junior high rated as underperforming.
The report released Wednesday is intended to measure students’ academic growth through the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, which replaced No Child Left Behind and is intended to reduce emphasis on standardized test scores.
Schools are given one of four rankings: exemplary, commendable, underperforming, and lowest-performing.
Unit 5’s Evans, Kingsley and Parkside junior high schools were deemed underperforming, along with Colene Hoose Elementary.
The district also had three grade schools rated as exemplary: Carlock, Grove and Prairieland. The exemplary designation goes to schools performing among the top 10 percent.
Lowest-performing schools are those ranked among the bottom 5 percent.
Unit 5 Superintendent Mark Daniel said he was “fairly pleased” with the district’s performance, saying he prefers to measure its academic progress districtwide.
Schools are measured in part on how particular student groups perform, including economically disadvantaged students, those with disabilities and English learners.
“This is subgroup driven, which makes sense,” Daniel said. “We have some students that aren’t quite yet mastering the English language and that makes it difficult for them to achieve on the PARCC exam.”
Daniel said the district will seek to provide greater intervention for students with disabilities which might include behavioral support.
“Every one of our schools that were in the underperforming category had that piece,” Daniel said.
He added the district might also look to expand its bilingual program.
“We may have to adjust some resources for our bilingual groups of students, but for the most part, by the time we reach into the high school years, our students to very well,” Daniel said. “That is the ultimate outcome we are after.”
Four District 87 schools were rated as underperforming: Bloomington Junior High and Irving, Sheridan and Stevenson elementary schools.
Each of the other schools in the district was rated as commendable.
Superintendent Barry Reilly said he was assured by Illinois State Board of Education officials the report is not intended to be punitive for underperforming schools, but said such labels cast a negative perception.
“They told us three times it’s not punitive,” Reilly said. “I’m just asking you as a human being, if you were told you were underperforming, you’d consider that nonpunitive? I just don’t get it.”
Reilly added he believes the designations are not a reflection on the students, teachers or staff at any school.
“I could take the staff of Oakland or Bent or Washington, those are the three elementary schools that are not listed as being underperforming,” Reilly said. “I could switch them out and that’s going to change the dynamic of how they determine what’s commendable and what’s underperforming? It’s just ridiculous how they do it.”
Reilly said it will take time to fully verify and analyze the data in the report card, but noted there are some bright spots, including a high school graduation rate of 89.5 percent, which is better than that state average of 87 percent.
He added the report card is just one of many ways the district measures academic progress.
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