Nearly three-quarters of all Lyons Township High School juniors met or exceeded state standards on the Prairie State Achievement Exam (PSAE) in 2005, the school’s average composite ACT score of 23.1 is three points above the state average and nearly 90 percent of the school’s seniors graduated last year. Last week, the Chicago Sun-Times declared LT one of the state’s top 25 public high schools.
Yet, for the third consecutive year, according to federal guidelines for the No Child Left Behind Act, LT is failing its students. According to the Illinois State Board of Education, the school has been labeled in Academic Early Warning and the district must offer its students the option to transfer to another school and must provide and pay for supplemental educational services to its low-income, low-achieving students.
The reason? For the third year in a row, LT hasn’t met federal achievement targets for students with disabilities and for economically disadvantaged students. In 2005, LT reported that it had 95 students with disabilities and 54 low-income students in its junior class. The total enrollment of the class was 909.
Specifically, 28.3 percent of students with disabilities met state standards in reading and 23.9 percent met state marks in math. Low-income students did not meet state standards in math, coming in at 28.3 percent.
Both students with disabilities and low-income students are classified as subgroups under NCLB and the federal law requires schools to meet benchmarks for every single student rather than looking at the school as a whole.
Despite the federal mandate, according to Lyons Township High School’s state report card, released last week by the ISBE, the school receives just over 1 percent of its revenue from federal sources.
“Accountability for all students is first and foremost,” said Margaret Trybus, LT’s director of curriculum and instruction. “We’ve been looking at this all across the board.”
Trybus said that the school, even before being mandated by the state to provide supplemental education services, has instituted programs that target under-performing students and its special education students.
Part of the school’s improvement plan is a summer literacy program that Trybus described as a “major reading initiative.” In addition, the school has launched an after-school early intervention program for freshmen and sophomores called STRIVE (Success Through Reaching Individual Expectations).
“It identifies students within quarterly grade periods who are showing signs of struggling,” Trybus said. “It gives them the opportunity … to get one-on-one help with things like homework completion. Our honors students and teachers work with the students and there are very stringent attendance requirements, and it’s helped. But will it translate to improvement as juniors on the [PSAE] test? That remains to be seen.”
With respect to students with disabilities, Trybus said the school has increased efforts to help those students prepare for the test and will continue “to try to show improvement.” She also hoped that the state might follow through on a proposal to change the testing for special education students.
“The degree to which the State of Illinois feels the PSAE is a fair measure of achievement is under discussion,” Trybus said. “For many students, this is an extremely challenging test, and we’re certainly looking at our special education curriculum. But by the nature of the disabilities, its hard to close the achievement gap. We’re hopeful that the state will look at another examination for these students.”
Meanwhile, LT’s 2005 school report card shows not only that the school has maintained its scores on the state achievement test, but has improved on them. In 2003, 73 percent of all students met or exceeded state standards in reading and 72 percent met them in math. Those numbers in 2004 dipped slightly to 71.8 and 71.3 percent respectively.
In 2005, reading scores for all jumped up, with 75.8 percent in reading and 74.1 percent in math meeting state standards.
“Our reading gains in 2005 are significant,” Trybus said. “For 75.8 percent to meet or exceed is wonderful. It shows things are working, and we’re going to continue working in this venue.”
Latino students, who comprise the district’s largest ethnic subgroup according to NCLB, also fared above state benchmarks in both reading and math, though success there was lower than the general student population. In reading and math respectively, 53.7 percent and 42 percent of Hispanic students met or exceeded state standards.
LT’s Hispanic population is about 8 percent of the school’s total enrollment, with 71 in the 2004-05 junior class which was tested last spring.
The district’s black students, which comprise just over 3 percent of the school’s enrollment, did not fare as well. Of the 38 black students in last year’s junior class, 37.8 percent met or exceeded state standards in reading and 21.6 percent met standards in math.
But because there were fewer than 45 black students taking last year’s test at LT, those scores were not counted against the school in terms of compliance with No Child Left Behind. Since there were fewer than 10 Asian students taking the test, their scores were not even tabulated as a subgroup on the school report card.
Lyons Township High School District 204 ftp://ftpirptcard.isbe.net/ReportCard2005/1401620400001_e.pdf
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ACT Assessment (Class of ’05)
Percent of students taking ACT