River Forest has long prided itself on having a top-flight school system. At the heart of this has been Elementary District 90’s record of student achievement on standardized tests; consistently the schools have been among the very best in the state.

The results of the scores from the first-ever Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, tests, are no exception. Sixty-nine percent of the youngsters who took the test met or exceeded expectations. That figure far outpaced students statewide.

Statewide, just 33 percent of students met or exceeded state standards on the PARCC exam.

However, the results, which were released Dec. 11, also show an achievement gap continues among students of color, and the district has work to do to raise the level of all student achievement, officials said. 

It’s an issue that the district will work on this year – and quite likely for longer.

“Any performance discrepancies are an area of concern,” District 90 Superintendent Ed Condon said. “We sent a message to our families, making sure to address this issue up front. We want to dedicate adequate time to analyze the data as fully as possible and understand it.” 

What the results mean and their impact will be addressed during a meeting of the school board’s committee of the whole on Jan. 5, 2016, Condon said.

Condon said, however, that test scores are only one gauge of student achievement. And here, he said, there is room for improvement.

One area of strength was third-grade math. Across the board, white students met or exceeded standards across the board at Roosevelt Middle School. However, the results, especially in the area of exceeding expectations, were not at levels seen on the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT), which was phased out last year. 

Only in fifth grade did a majority of African-American students meet or exceed expectations. Only in eighth grade did a majority of Hispanic students meet or exceed benchmarks. 

At Lincoln and Willard elementary schools, a majority of white, African-American and Hispanic students exceeded or met expectations in math; Hispanic youngsters at the elementary level met state standards in math only in third grade.

To continue focusing attention on math, the district will continue working with the University of Illinois-Chicago to better align instruction and Common Core standards, Condon said. All math teachers began working on this program last year, after the district noticed that fewer students were meeting or exceeding standards in that area.

“We’re confident that ongoing professional training will be of great value,” said Condon, who added the district also would review its math resources. 

In the area of English/language arts, Roosevelt students exceeded and met standards, except for African-American eighth-graders.

At Lincoln and Willard, a majority of white and African-American students exceeded or met expectations in English language arts. A majority of Hispanics exceeded or met expectations only in fourth grade.

Girls outperformed the boys in English/language arts in every grade, whereas boys did better across the board in mathematics. Forty-six percent of low-income students met or exceeded standards in sixth grade English language arts at the elementary school level. 

Approximately 98 percent of the students took the exams. Separate results for Lincoln and Willard were not available.

The gap in proficiency levels among students, along with other issues, was the impetus for the formation of the Inclusiveness Advisory Board in 2014 and the board’s equity committee this summer. 

“The IAB is working on the policies, practices, and procedures that affect the District’s climate of inclusion,” said Dr. Condon. “While the Equity Committee pursues evidence-based practices that decrease or eliminate the performance gap between groups of students,” he said.

Of the 1,355 students in the district last year, approximately 72.5 percent were white, 6.9 percent African-American; 8.9 percent Hispanic, 5.1 Asian and 6.6 percent bi-racial. Around 19 percent have disabilities; nearly 3 percent are English language learners. 

Approximately 108 certified staff work in the district. The ratio of students to teachers is 15:1, slightly lower than the state ratio. The average class size in 2015 was 21 students; about the state average.

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