Beye, Brooks don't make the grade: state

? Too large a portion of the black population at the schools test below state standards. Poor students at Brooks also miss state's target.

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By DREW CARTER

Two Oak Park Elementary School District 97 schools did not meet state standards last year, while others in the district made the mark narrowly.

Results from the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT), the state-wide standardized test taken by all students in third, fifth and eighth grades, show achievement gaps between white, regular education students and black students, economically disadvantaged students and students with disabilities.

The results?#34;and official state determinations of Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), defined by whether students test at or above state standards?#34;were made public last week at the Board of Education's regular meeting Dec. 1.

At Beye Elementary, 230 N. Cuyler Ave., 68.3 percent of African-American students in third and fifth grades did not make AYP in reading.

At Brooks Middle School,325 S. Kenilworth Ave., more than 70 percent of students in two subgroups were not making AYP in math?#34;African-American students and economically disadvantaged students.

If any subgroup does not make AYP?#34;defined as at least 37 percent of students in subgroups, or 40 percent of total students?#34;a school is deemed to be not making AYP.

The requirements were formulated by the 2001 federal No Child Left Behind law.

In future years, the percent of students needing to be making AYP rises. Next year's target will grow to 47.5 percent, and steps have been charted to increase to 100 percent in 2014.

If Beye fails to make AYP for a second year, it could be identified for School Improvement by the state, which would include offering parents the choice to relocate their students to a school that is making AYP. Oak Park and River Forest High School this year is in School Improvement.

Brooks, because it does not receive federal Title I funds, would not be affected by the punishment.

Other schools near minimums

Schools narrowly making AYP include Irving, 1125 S. Cuyler Ave., where 41.7 percent of black students made AYP in reading; Lincoln, 1111 S. Grove Ave., where 45 percent of students with disabilities made AYP; and Julian Middle School,416 S. Ridgeland Ave, where 42.2 percent of black students made AYP in math.

Also at Julian, only 36.7 percent of economically disadvantaged students made the grade in math, but the school still made AYP.

That's explained by a loophole in the No Child law called Safe Harbor, which redefines targets for schools that fail to make AYP. The new target becomes 10 percent more than the number of students failing to make AYP the previous year.

For example, at Julian last year, 27.6 percent of economically disadvantaged students made AYP in math, meaning 72.4 percent did not make it. Adding 7.2 percent to 27.6 percent results in the Safe Harbor Target this year, which was 34.8 percent.

The 36.7 percent of Julian economically disadvantaged students that made AYP were enough to satisfy the target.

At Brooks, 28.2 percent of black students making AYP in math were not enough to meet the 34.4 Safe Harbor Target.

To make AYP, schools also must meet requirements for daily attendance and the percentage of students taking the ISAT. All Oak Park schools passed in those areas.

Changes being made

Beye Principal Jonathan Ellwanger and student support specialist Karen Foleno reviewed for the board a litany of support programs at the school, including the Wise Words Program, Future Leaders of the World (FLOW), and serving breakfast to lower the number of tardies each morning.

Ellwanger helped bring a computer tool to the district on a pilot program that tracks a student's progress throughout a grading period. The benchmarking program challenges and encourages students along the way "until they get that magical 3 on their report card," Ellwanger said. A score of three?#34;either on a grade card or the ISAT?#34;indicates the student is working or testing at grade level.

Assistant Principal for Curriculum Linda Dallam reminded the board of a new academic support program at the middle schools.

Core classroom teachers gave up a planning period to give extra help to struggling students during the school day. The student/teacher ratio during the periods is about 5 to 1, Dallam said.

"A huge [benefit] of the program is the opportunity for relationships to form" between teachers and students, Dallam said. "We know relationships are terribly important to learning.

"I feel very confident that is going to make a difference," she said.

Board President Ade Onayemi said after the meeting that the same issues apply at both middle schools, regardless of the different categories the state has placed them.

Contact dcarter@wjinc.com

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