D97 elementary schools score well on ISATs, though 'gap' remains

Achievement gap, middle school math scores a frustration

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By BOB SKOLNIK

All District 97 elementary schools made adequate yearly progress (AYP) according to recently released 2005 Illinois Scholastic Achievement Tests (ISAT). But Percy Julian Middle school failed to make AYP in two subgroups for eighth grade mathematics.

The achievement gap between white and black students remains a stubborn problem and the middle schools are a concern, Dr. Kevin Anderson, assistant superintendent for teaching and learning, told the school board last week.

"We have a gap of 20 percent to 50 percent between Caucasian students and black, economically disadvantaged and special ed students," said Anderson.

That achievement gap has been a persistent problem in District 97, and throughout the nation.

Both middle schools had test results showing problems in math results for black, economically disadvantaged and special ed students. Brooks met its AYP goals via a "safe harbor" provision of the No Child Left Behind Act. At Brooks the number of students in the black, economically disadvantaged and special ed sub groups not meeting state standards fell by 10 percent from last year. However Brooks is still on academic early warning because it has not yet made AYP for two consecutive years.

Julian failed to make AYP, despite having better scores than Brooks, because not enough black and economically disadvantaged met state standards. The safe harbor provisions did not apply because Julian met the AYP goals last year.

At Julian only 38 percent of black eighth graders and 33.9 percent of economically disadvantaged eighth graders met or exceeded state standards in math. At Brooks the numbers were slightly worse with 35.8 percent of black eighth graders and 33.9 percent of economically disadvantaged eighth graders meeting or exceeding the standards. In contrast 79.9 percent of white eighth graders at Brooks, and 87 percent of white eight graders at Julian met or exceeded the standards.

Both middle schools made AYP in reading with 82.6 percent meeting or exceeding state standards at Julian and 83 percent at Brooks. While 93.2 percent of white test takers at Julian made the grade in reading, the number dropped to 62 percent for black students. At Brooks the numbers were similar with 90 percent of white students and 70 percent of black students meeting or exceeding the reading standards.

"If we have any children not being successful than that is not acceptable," said Supt. Constance Collins. "We will not be satisfied until every child in our district is doing well."

Anderson said that the district is focusing on its shortfalls in math and may alter its middle school math curriculum to teach more algebra in the middle schools. Declining test scores in middle school is a nation wide phenomena, Anderson said.

In the elementary schools Anderson pointed to a big improvement in reading at Irving school as a particular bright spot.

In other action the board voted to contribute $15,000 to the Early Childhood Collaborative. But the board, citing budget constraints, declined to contribute to a proposed educational cable television channel that would include OPRF and the village of Oak Park.

"This is a wonderful luxury that we can't afford at this time," said board member Dan Burke.

The board also officially hired a full time teacher, Carly Tremain, for the academically talented at Julian and a speech pathologist, Anne Ciocek, for Lincoln School.

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