OP schools decline in state standardized tests

Change in how exams are scored impacts D97, OPRF


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By Terry Dean

Staff reporter

Editor's note: Story updated to reflect corrected errors that appeared in print version.

The winding down of No Child Left Behind is a welcome sign to District 97, according to officials there.

The frustration with the more than 10-year-old federal law played out at the D97 Board of Education meeting, Sept. 24, where the district's 2013 state standardized test results were discussed.

The district as a whole did not make adequate yearly progress on the Illinois Standardized Achievement Test, or ISATs. But making matters worse, according to D97 officials, was the change in how tests were scored this year.

The Illinois State Board of Education earlier this year raised the performance levels on the tests, resulting in students needing to score higher in reading and math to make AYP.

That change, according to ISBE, is tied to the Common Core standards adopted by Illinois schools that will eventually replace NCLB.

Because of the change in "cut scores," D97, as well as many other school districts in the state, had a considerably lower percentage of students meeting or exceeding state standards on the ISAT, D97 officials noted. The Prairie State Achievement Test, taken by high school juniors in Illinois, were also affected by the cut score change.

While Oak Park and River Forest High School's cut scores did not change, the school did not make AYP this year. The school, however, did experience percentage increases in reading and in math for some subgroups on this year's PSAE.  

Holmes Elementary was the only D97 school to make AYP in both reading and math for all of its subgroups. The school, officials noted, made AYP through the "safe harbor" provision under NCLB. "Safe harbor" allows a subgroup to make AYP if it shows a 10 percent decrease in the percentage of scores that failed to meet or exceed standards from the previous year.

While not making AYP, Beye Elementary was the only D97 school that increased its percentage of students meeting or exceeding standards in reading on this year's ISATs. Every other school in the district saw its percentages drop.

Illinois schools with a high minority student population also saw a significant drop from the previous year, D97 officials noted.

Statewide, about 58 percent of students on average met or exceeded standards this year. The target range for students needing to meet or exceed standards this year was 92.5 percent. Under NCLB, the target range has increased since 2003 when the law was adopted. By 2014, 100 percent of students are required to meet or exceed standards in reading and math.

"This year, we got caught in a double-whammy with AYP with not only the target increasing to 92-and-a-half percent but also because the cut score was raised for students meeting or exceeding state requirements," said Felicia Starks-Turner, D97's coordinator for administrative services.

Harla Hutchinson, D97's student data specialist, noted other flaws with AYP, including how the safe-harbor provision is applied.

"I'm still not 100 percent sure how they do that because when you read what they say about it, when you look at what they show on the reports with safe harbor and whether you made AYP or didn't make AYP, it doesn't make sense to me," she said.

D97 board members and administrators also expressed frustration with how AYP has been applied over the years, and also the cut-score changes. Officials, however, noted that large numbers of D97 students are doing well academically, which the ISATs don't capture.

CONTACT: tdean@wjinc.com

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Kopper is missing the point  

Posted: October 7th, 2013 5:27 PM

No, the intro of Common Core and the IL decision to raise "state standards" has nothing to do with the NCLB 92.5% target. IL could have left the "state standards" the same & the NCLB target would still be 92.5%. IL determined it standards were too low because college frosh who met the old standards were being deemed educationally deficient by educators once they got to college. Separate from not making NCLB's 92.5%, # of D97 kids meeting IL (now higher) "state standards" decreased (as expected).

Bill Kopper from Oak Park  

Posted: October 7th, 2013 4:49 PM

To my critic:From the article: "The target range for students needing to meet or exceed standards this year was 92.5 percent." Agree the state raised cut off scores that determines who is meeting/exceeding standards - which is tied to that 92.5% That doesn't mean raw test scores fell. OP 97 says under old cutoffs, more students would have exceeded standards in '13 compared to '12. WJ makes me think test ISAT scores went down. Headline should read "OP fails to meet state standards."

Judy from Oak Park  

Posted: October 6th, 2013 9:06 AM

@Three things and Bridgett - RIGHT ON! Read TO, WITH and AROUND your kids, limit or better yet, CUT OUT all screen time and TALK with your kids. I would only add, have fun with patterns - number patterns, shape patterns, word patterns. Start when your kids are very young. Learning is a life long pursuit! Testing does not prove much - high test scores do not predict success and happiness! Value life - enjoy nature - take walks together. We are just too busy chasing the dollar these days.


Posted: October 6th, 2013 6:21 AM

The other issue quite frankly is values in our society. Good old fashioned hard work, discipline etc are irrevelant to kids with Miley, Kim K etc. that combined with sports and drugs means kids focus on learning is greatly diminshed. Each parent has to reinforce those values to offset the social/overhyped media influence.


Posted: October 6th, 2013 6:17 AM

The seeds of poor performance are sown in grammar/middle school. My son tells me that there are numerous fellow black students at Julian who cannot write a cohesive sentence and very poor math skills. This is by product of 30 kids in a class and teacher who are working with little support from home. Having worked at school on LA projects, the teachers do really care but they a working with kids who are soo far behind they can never catch up. SAD


Posted: October 6th, 2013 6:14 AM

Having attended OPRF (and my brother Fenwick) as an AA, it is very laze faire in it's approach to performance/ expectations. I recall fellow athletes who nver did much work or were given extra help. The sad part is the world is far more competitive (in 68 there were 160 million people in us, 320 today and half billion in 20 years) - go to any ivy league school and now international is half class. So these kids need a good education more than ever. The gap is the failure of 97 and high school


Posted: October 5th, 2013 10:38 PM

I am sick of the teacher OR parent is responsible debates. Of course good parenting is a huge plus for kids. However, regardless of what they experience at home, our schools should take responsibility for the 6-7 hours a day they have with our kids. The goal of public education should be to educate all kids- not just those whose parents already educate them.


Posted: October 5th, 2013 10:03 AM

I know of families who have tutors for their elementary kids. it's become so competitive in OP that if you don't have a tutor, you don't believe your child can do well. Never mind that now instead of actually being with your kid teaching them, you are paying others to do so. I think kids need time with their parents and it doesn't necessarily have to be educational. As the other poster said throw a ball around, play games, give your child some attention.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: October 4th, 2013 6:29 PM

We haven't had a TV for 17 years.Our kids are 10 years old. We don't own any play station, wii, etc. My kids do not have mobile devices, they don't have any social media accounts. We talk a lot. We read a lot. When you cut out all the recreational screen time, it's amazing how much time you free up. I am convinced that not having a TV (or any large amounts of screen time-- Internet, DVDs, Smartphones, etc.) is *the* major factor, and everything else flows from that one decision.

Speedway from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: October 4th, 2013 3:54 PM

So we have at least two things to help with our children. Cutting out the tv and the phone for both parents and children. Spending quality time whatever is available with your kids. Its not enough to spend it in the same room but you must be engaged (doing something with) your child. Remember they do want to please you. Anymore thoughts out there.

Three Things  

Posted: October 4th, 2013 2:06 PM

Hi Speedway, we both work full time. It's a challenge somedays to find the time, but we basically don't watch any TV, and put our phones away when we come home. Our kids are going to do what they see us doing, so if we don't want them to be glued to the xbox, we can't be glued to facebook. For single parents or shift workers, obviously there's way less time for my "3 things" but do what you can with what time you have. Just try to keep it fun and not a chore.

Speedway from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: October 4th, 2013 1:19 PM

To Three - Great job! What do parents who both work do to help their children succeed. How about single parents, what is your strategy that works to help your kids succeed. List 2-3 things that you think helped and how you accomplished it. Instead of pointing fingers let's share useful information that may help.

Kopper is still wrong  

Posted: October 4th, 2013 12:28 PM

Fact: the percentage of kids meeting or exceeding Illinois standards decreased in D97 for 2012. Fact: the standards increased after the powers that be adjudged the standards to be too low. Fact: The number of D97 kids who meet or exceed standards has absolutely nothing to do with the NCLB requirement that 92.5% of students meet or exceed state standards. Conclusion:The headline is not misleading-the number of kids who met or exceeded state standards declined due to the change in scoring. Get it?

Bill Kopper from Oak Park  

Posted: October 4th, 2013 11:26 AM

@ Kopper is Wrong. ISBE didn't raise the standards in a vacuum. They wanted to align them with Common Core. Regardless of iSBE cut off, NCLB raised proficiency to 92.5% up form the 85% Illinois had to meet the last 2 years. This doesn't mean test scores declined as suggested by the article. It means OP97 students did not have the ISAT scores to ensure 92.5% proficiently (NCLB) across the various measured groups. Hence district failed to make AYP as 2 bars were raised.

OP Transplant  

Posted: October 4th, 2013 9:26 AM

Speedway - Given the amount Oak Parkers pay in taxes, arguing that the state made the standards too high for Oak Park kids to meet requirements rings a little hollow. The shift in standards was state-wide. Many districts still made the cut. Ours didn't. It should have. Commence excuse making.

Three things  

Posted: October 4th, 2013 8:21 AM

1. Read BOOKS TO your kid, WITH your kid, and AROUND your kid. Go to the library weekly and let them pick any book they want. Let them see YOU reading too. 2. Play cards and/or sports with your kid, everyday. Counting and keeping score by hand (not by computer) is fun AND builds math and other life skills. 3. Limit screen time. Whatever you're doing now, cut it in half. Then cut it in half again. That means you too. These devices are ruining all of our brains.

Speedway from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: October 4th, 2013 4:24 AM

Scores really didn't go down the curve went up. So many parents have children who are doing above the standards. Can you list the three most important things you did to help your kids excel.

Disappointed parent  

Posted: October 3rd, 2013 10:23 PM

D97 schools are not at all academically rigorous. This year OPRF had a record low number of national merit semifinalists; most were NOT D97 grads. The poster below is correct that the kids who do thrive have parents who supplement outside of the classroom. The fact that parents have to find academic challenge for their kids outside school is a true shame, and LOTS of kids are getting left behind. Common Core is just exposing the elephant in Oak Park's room. Ipads are not going to fix this.


Posted: October 3rd, 2013 9:38 PM

Did IQ's drop? Finally people will start to realize there is a very big lack of leadership and strategy at the board level. Innovation and excellence starts at the top and our board has done little to really drive results - rather they are wonderful administrators of common core...

Are you kidding me?  

Posted: October 3rd, 2013 8:11 PM

As an OP taxpayer I want results, not excuses. Even looking at "page 14" the "increase" does not look statistically significant. Overall it looks pretty flat. What's the plan? Time to focus on the fundamentals and stop wasting time on "ipads for all" , "asphalt free playgrounds" and the like. Common sense please.

HS Parent  

Posted: October 2nd, 2013 4:44 PM

D97 has skated along with the soft ISAT standards, making it look as though they are educating students. But the HS Prairie State scores for minorities are awful. The HS needs to do its part but the truth of the matter is many students arrive at HS poorly prepared by D97 so no wonder they struggle in HS. The HS fix will require many actions - including a real commitment by D97 to preparing minority students for academically challenging classes.

OPRF Parent from River Forest  

Posted: October 2nd, 2013 4:10 PM

I hope that D97 is studying and implementing in other schools what Holmes Elementary must be doing RIGHT, like its after-school programs that have helped cut the achievement gap by 50%. Holmes did make AYP even though D97 administrators say they don't know why. (?)

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: October 2nd, 2013 4:01 PM

"Story updated to reflect corrected errors that appeared in print version." How can anyone think reading and spelling will improve when a newspaper in Oak Park, can go to press without correcting their own mistakes.

former D97 parent  

Posted: October 2nd, 2013 3:37 PM

For years D97 has relied on its great arts & music program to keep parents happy while also depending on parents to do a lot of teaching of reading/math at home (or through enrichment programs at Northwestern, Dominican, etc). They got away with the for years due to the low ISAT expectations. Now that the common core is here the gap is showing. Time for D97 to take responsibility for really teaching - not just rewarding the kids who walk in the door already having the skills and knowledge.

OP Transplant  

Posted: October 2nd, 2013 12:58 PM

Violet-My point is that other districts might also have some parents who are not involved. Every district takes the same tests, with the same standards. Even with the changes, some districts are still more successful than others.

Grumpy Old Guy from Oak Park  

Posted: October 2nd, 2013 12:50 PM

I got it. Why don't we just give all the little buggers ipads. That'll teach 'em.

Violet Aura  

Posted: October 2nd, 2013 11:35 AM

@Dist. 97 Parent & OP Transplant: Nice facile comments. As if there is one thing that can be done for children who do not have intellectual stimulation in their home environments nor actively involved parents.

Kopper is wrong  

Posted: October 2nd, 2013 11:22 AM

NCLB's rising standards are not the issue. What is the issue is that Illinois raised its standards and the number of kids in D97 meeting or exceeding Illinois' (new) standards decreased from last year. Fact remains, we are not getting it done. Yet, all we hear about are new buildings, new playgrounds and wellness committee fundraisers from D97. More meat, less potatoes, please.

Bill Kopper from Oak Park  

Posted: October 2nd, 2013 11:02 AM

The headline is very MISLEADING. All should review the OP97 presentation on this topic: http://www.op97.org/documents/2AnnualStudentPerformanceReport.pdf Page 14 shows that our school scores went up, but the new ISBE/NCLB standards/cut off went up. D97 improvement did not cover the gap. So quit complaining and read the report, then get up to speed on common core and PARCC.

Concerned Oak Parker from Oak Park  

Posted: October 2nd, 2013 10:47 AM

Maybe we could solve this problem by raising our own property taxes again?

OP Transplant  

Posted: October 2nd, 2013 9:22 AM

When I was a kid and came home with a bad test grade, my mother didn't want to hear me complain how hard the test was. Her standard response - "Didn't all the other kids take the same test?" I think my mom needs to talk to the D97 administrators.

District 97 Parent from Oak Park  

Posted: October 2nd, 2013 9:17 AM

This is terrible. I really don't want to hear the district's excuses. We teach our kids not to make excuses.

OP Res 253 from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: October 2nd, 2013 8:55 AM

It's my understanding that common core includes a "common" standard amongst participating states for "performance at grade level". To achieve this, states regressed to the mean. Some states had to lower their targets. Illinois has to raise theirs in two steps over two years, in order for our 4th grade reader to be equivalent to all others' 4th grade reader. NCLB has a host of issues, but raising performance expectations in IL is appropriate. Our 4th grader would be in 3rd in MA. SHAME!


Posted: October 2nd, 2013 6:10 AM

Well it sounds like two seperate issues. OP development and changing expectations. Bemoaning the change in standards does not sound like the makr of leadership - the correct response is we are looking for ways to improve regardless of changing standards. Also, District 97 continues sideways movement with little real progress from Board leadership perspective. Great administrators but little real vision and execution.

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