Despite increasing its average ACT score for the third straight year, Riverside-Brookfield High School did not make adequate yearly progress under the federal No Child Left Behind Law (NCLB) in the 2010-11 school year.

Members of the class of 2011 posted an average composite ACT score of 23.3, up by one-tenth of a point from last year. RBHS easily exceeded the state average score of 20.9. In 2007 and 2008, the average RBHS composite ACT score was 22.5.

“We were very pleased that we had improved performance,” said RBHS Principal Pamela Bylsma as she presented test results to the District 208 school board on Sept, 27. “We are inching up. We do grow our kids significantly.”

RBHS students take multiple practice ACT tests, and their familiarity with the test improves their performance, Bylsma said.

“We give them several opportunities to test during the year, so they don’t have the anxiety,” Bylsma said.

More RBHS students are going to college. In 2005, 82 percent of RBHS graduates went on to two or four year colleges while 95 percent of the class of 2011 went to such schools, according to Bylsma’s report to the board.

However, because of the ever-increasing standards of NCLB, the school did not make adequate yearly progress (AYP) this year. In 2011, 85 percent of students had to meet or exceed state standards for a school to make AYP, judged by their performance on the ACT and the rest of the Prairie State Achievement Exam which is taken by all Illinois public school juniors in April.

According to Bylsma, only two non-selective enrollment high schools, Stevenson and Glenbrook North, made adequate yearly progress under the stringent standards of NCLB this year. She added that three selective-enrollment high school in the Chicago Public Schools system made AYP. A spokesman for the Illinois State Board of Education said that he could not release information on specific schools until Oct. 31.

Despite not making AYP, students at RBHS still scored well above state averages.

In both reading and math, 75.1 percent of RBHS students met or exceeded state standards. In science 77.7 percent of RBHS students met or exceeded state standards, while 80 percent did so in writing.

The percentage of RBHS students meeting or exceeding state standards in reading increased by 6.6 percent this year, while the state average went down by 3.1 percent.  RBHS made reading a central focus across the curriculum last year after disappointing test results in 2010.

“It’s truly impressive, the growth we have here,” Bylsma told the board. “We’re very pleased with the growth because of the effort we put in.”

In science, RBHS’ meets-or-exceeded percentage increased by 5.3 percent, while statewide the number decreased by 3.2 percent.

Statewide only 51.1 of students met or exceeded standards in reading last year and 51.3 percent did so in math.

Certain demographic subgroups at RBHS also performed better than state averages, but fell well short of the school’s performance as a whole.

A total of 65.6 percent of Hispanic students at RBHS made the grade in reading, a substantial 12-point increase from 2010. Statewide only 33.1 of Hispanic students met or exceeded state standards in reading.

In science, 64.5 percent of RBHS Hispanic students met or exceeded state standards, compared to just 29.9  percent statewide.

Black students at RBHS fared worse than their Hispanic counterparts. In reading, only 43.8 percent of black RBHS students met or exceeded state standards. Still that is better than the 24.8 percent of black students statewide who made the grade in reading.

In math, half of RBHS’ black students met or exceeded state standards while only 28.8 percent did so statewide.

Many low-income students at RBHS also struggled but did far better than low-income students across the state, with 53.9 percent of low-income RBHS students making the grade in reading. Statewide only 29.9 percent did.

In math, 51.6 percent of low-income RBHS students made the grade, compared to 28.8 percent statewide.

“We struggled significantly,” Bylsma said of the performance of the low-income sub group.

“These are clearly our most vulnerable learners, who need more interventions on their behalf.”

Bylsma said that 30 students transferred to RBHS for their junior year, so teachers had less than one year to work with those students.

Bylsma cautioned against making too much of comparing one year’s results to another year, because every year a different group of juniors is being tested.

“You have to remember that year to year, it’s a different group of learners,” Bylsma said.

This could well be the last year that RBHS officials have to worry about NCLB and adequate yearly progress. The United States Department of Education recently announced that states will be allowed to apply for waivers from the NCLB law and Illinois, like many states, is expected to apply for and be granted a waiver.

“We are confident that we would be granted a waiver,” said Matt Vanover, a spokesman for the Illinois State Board of Education.

Educators have long argued that the requirement in NCLB that 100 percent of students meet or exceed state standards by 2014 was unrealistic and eventually all schools would be labeled failing schools.

States are expected to move to a model that measures student growth and does not set arbitrary standards.