An unexpected increase in Riverside-Brookfield High School’s enrollment by more than 100 students has put a strain on the school’s resources, according to Superintendent/Principal Jack Baldermann.
At a school board meeting on Aug. 23, Baldermann announced that as of that date, 1,416 students were enrolled at RB, a 133-student increase from the last day of school in June. In a typical year, he said, the school only sees a growth of 50 to 60 students over the summer.
“Our enrollment is exploding,” Baldermann said, adding that RB has seen a 25-percent increase in its student body over the past four years. “For our little school, that’s a lot.”
In a separate interview, Baldermann said that because of the larger student body, class sizes have been “maxed out” in some areas, with some classes going over their limits. The English as a Second Language program has also been expanded. Although no extra staff members have been hired this year, Baldermann said the school might have to increase the staff slightly in the future to accommodate the growth.
While the school has been able to absorb the increase in enrollment, the costs that inherently come with a larger student body do put a slight strain on RB’s budget. Baldermann said the cost of each student is approximately $10,000 a year, and the school will not be receiving any extra state funding to accommodate their growing population.
“An extra 100 students is a big deal for us, because there are extra costs that go along with that,” he said. “We have more students, but not more money from the state. A very small percentage of funding is tied to our numbers.”
As for long-term growth, Baldermann said he did think that this year’s enrollment increase was an anomaly, and the board will continue to budget for expected increases of only 50-60 students every year.
Test scores up
A more welcome increase that was also presented at the RB school board’s Aug. 23 meeting had to do with the school’s pass rates on standardized tests and Advanced Placement exams, both of which rose noticeably from the 2003-04 school year.
Although RB’s overall pass rate for last year’s Prairie State Achievement Exam rose only 1 percent, Baldermann said the school had achieved its highest-ever pass rates in the math and science sections, and their second-highest pass rate in reading.
In math, the pass rate was 76 percent, up from 72.1 percent last year and 63 percent in 2001. In science, 75.2 percent of students passed, up from 74.6 percent last year and 69 percent in 2001.
The reading pass rate for last year actually decreased slightly, going from 77.2 percent last year to 75.6. Although Baldermann said RB would be paying more attention to reading this year because of the results, he also pointed out that the school’s reading score is still within the top 20 scores in the state.
Overall, RB was ranked 11th in the state for PSAE scores by School Search A+, an information service that provides data on Illinois school districts.
As for AP exams, Baldermann said the pass rate has increased by 16 percent since last year. However, with approximately 900 exams taken and only 456 passed, this still leaves the pass rate at only about 50 percent.
While this seems low, Baldermann stressed that the value of an AP class goes beyond the exam itself, and that the school’s main goal is to expose its students to a college-level curriculum.
“If we wanted to jack up the pass rate, we could do that easily,” he said. “The test is only part of the experience to get ready for exams at a collegiate level.”
In the past few years, the number of students taking AP classes and exams has greatly increased. In 2003-04, Baldermann said, there were only about 600 exams taken, and he expects well over 1,000 exams to be taken this year. Baldermann pointed out that far more RB students are given the opportunity to take AP classes than at other high schools.
“Nobody in Illinois is doing a better job of exposing a higher percentage of kids to a rigorous curriculum,” he said.