The Oct. 31 federal deadline for the state to release its school report cards passed without districts 97 and 200 officially knowing whether their schools made Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) under No Child Left Behind.

The Oak Park school districts received preliminary scores for students who took the Illinois Standard Achievement Test for elementary and middle schools, and the Prairie State Achievement exam for high school students, two weeks ago.

The state’s report cards are more than four months late, said officials from both districts. The state initially promised to have report cards ready by this past June.

“It’s way past due,” said Dist. 97 Supt. Constance Collins. “We’re not happy with that, and I don’t think anyone in the state is happy.”

The summer date was pushed back to August, then September and then October. District officials said the state has informed them to now look for report cards sometime this month.

States are required to release their report cards by Oct. 31 under a federal deadline. But the Halloween deadline passed, turning Oct. 31 into a witching hour for school districts who are already gearing up to take the ISATs and PSAEs next spring.

“We use the information to help us evaluate the effectives of our program and the progress of our students, but receiving it this late in the first semester diminishes its usefulness to us significantly for the current school year, and that is indeed frustrating,” said Susan Bridge, superintendent/principal at Oak Park and River Forest High School.

OPRF students take the PSAE next April while Dist. 97 students take the ISAT in March.

Based on the preliminary scores they have received, Dist. 97 should make AYP for the 2005-2006 school year, said Kevin Anderson, assistant superintendent for teaching and learning.

Bridge said the high school was still analyzing its raw numbers.

Anderson said Dist. 97 prepares for next spring’s tests based on the previous year’s results. The main problem, he noted, is that schools won’t know if they made AYP until the state releases report cards. He added that students in the district are preparing for next spring’s ISATs even without knowing how they did on the previous tests.

“It hasn’t kept us from doing our plans or our goals,” Anderson said. “We can look at our students’ [individual] scores, but until the state puts a stamp on that, they’re all preliminary.”

Last year, all Dist. 97 schools made AYP in math and reading, but OPRF did not. But the news was mixed for black students at the high school and at some Dist. 97 schools who continued to score low in those areas.

The state’s handling of the ISATs has been an issue since this spring when tests failed to arrive at school districts on time, among other problems. Harcourt Assessment Inc., a Texas-based company, was contracted to prepare, print and distribute the ISATs and PSAEs this year. Some schools across the state, including District 90 in River Forest, received the wrong testing materials and received materials late. The tests, once they arrived, also contained errors.

In September, the state hired Iowa-based Pearson Educational Measurement Company to print and distribute the ISATs. Pearson was awarded a $33 million contract to provide the service, which includes delivering, printing, retrieving and scoring tests. The contract begins next spring and runs through September 2009. Harcourt will still be responsible for providing test questions, and will be paid $3.5 million for fiscal year 2007. The state also contracted with ACT, the organization responsible for college entrance exams, to administer the PSAE to high school students for $52 million.

Anderson said the district doesn’t deal directly with Harcourt, but instead was told about the delayed results from ISBE officials. Calls to the Illinois State Board of Education were not returned by press time.

The school report card is officially presented to the district 97 and 200 school boards once they’re released by the state.

Board President Carolyn Newberry Schwartz said this is the latest that results have been released during her nearly six years on the board.

“I think the main concern is that the schools don’t know their status,” she said.

CONTACT: tdean@wjinc.com

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