Riverside Elementary School District 96 has once again achieved high pass rates on the 2006 Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT), with score increases that made last year one of the highest-scoring years since 2000. The 2006 ISAT scores also helped nudge Blythe Park School to the top of the Chicago Sun-Times’ list of the top 50 suburban elementary schools.

The Sun-Times, which ranks schools according to their actual ISAT scores and not pass rates, listed Blythe Park, with a composite score of 89.3, first among suburban elementary schools and fourth among elementary schools state-wide.

Last year the school ranked 15th among suburban schools, with a score of 83.2 percent.

“We’re quite honored to have that opportunity to be recognized,” Blythe Park Principal Robert Chleboun said. “It’s just one piece of what we do here, but it is a piece we’re really proud of.”

The score computed by the Sun-Times translates into 96.8 percent of students at Blythe Park meeting or exceeding state standards. According to Northern Illinois University’s Interactive Illinois Report Card, that’s is just a small increase over last year’s 95 percent. Breaking this year’s composite score down by grade, 100 percent of third graders met or exceeded standards in both math and reading. In fourth grade, 100 percent and 88.9 percent of students met or exceeded standards for math and reading, respectively.In fifth grade, 93.8 percent met or exceeded standards for both subjects.

While Chleboun praised his teaching staff and students for their achievements on the test, both he and Superintendent Jonathan Lamberson also noted that Blythe Park benefits from a low mobility rate, the percentage of students that enter or leave the school after kindergarten. Blythe Park is one of the smaller schools in the district, with only one section per grade level except for a two-section first grade. Chleboun estimated their current rate mobility rate at about 5 percent.

“Blythe Park is an exceptionally stable school,” Lamberson said, “and the longer a student is with us, the higher their score will be.”

Like Blythe Park, most of the other schools in the district maintained similar scores from last year, although some schools experienced larger increases or decreases.

At Hauser Junior High School, 89.3 percent of students met or exceeded standards, an increase over 2005’s 84 percent, according to the Interactive Report Card. In sixth grade, 85.3 and 92.6 percent of students met or exceeded standards in reading and math, respectively. Those numbers were 83.5 and 91.7 percent for seventh grade, and 91 and 89 percent for eighth grade.

The composite score for Ames School was 89.1 percent of all students meeting or exceeding state standards, a small increase over last year’s 88 percent. That breaks down into 80 and 97.4 percent of third-graders meeting or exceeding state standards in reading and math, respectively. In fourth grade, 82.9 and 88.6 percent of students met standards in reading and math, respectively. In fifth grade, the pass rates were 88.9 percent for reading and 94.4 percent for math.

Central School also enjoyed a slight increase, with 92.3 percent of students meeting or exceeding state standards versus last year’s 91 percent. Third grade pass rates for reading and math were 91.7 and 97.2, respectively. In fourth grade these numbers were 93.8 and 95.4, and in fifth grade they were 89.4 and 88.1.

Hollywood School experienced a drop in its overall composite score, from 95 percent of students meeting or exceeding standards in 2005 to 89.2 percent in 2006. A similar score was seen in 2003, when 90 percent of students met or exceeded standards. Pass rates for this year’s third graders were 84.2 percent in reading and 89.5 percent in math. In fourth grade these numbers were 81.8 and 90.9, respectively, and in fifth grade 95.5 percent of students met or exceeded standards in both subjects.

Despite the variation among schools, Lamberson said that on a district level, 2006’s scores exceeded averages from the past seven years. The average math score during that time was 73 percent. This year, it’s 93 percent, with all grade levels exceeding 90 percent except for eighth grade, which had a pass rate of 89 percent.

He attributed those increases to changes in the curriculum, explaining recently adopted a new math program and has been working on coordinating the math curriculum throughout all grade levels.

“We’ve really focused in on aligning math along all grades,” he said. “The teachers have done an excellent job of implementing the curriculum.”

The district’s scores in reading have also increased, although to a lesser degree than math. Lamberson said their average score over the past seven years has been 86 percent, but this year the pass rate in the eighth grade was 91 percent, and the other grades were in the higher 80th percentile.

He said those changes were due to the district’s recent adoption of reading improvement teachers, who not only work with smaller groups of students in improving their reading skills, but also help train teachers in new methods of reading instruction.