The just-released Illinois school report card shows that performance on the Prairie State Achievement Exam (PSAE), which is used annually to determine high schools’ adequate yearly progress, dropped last year at Riverside-Brookfield High School while performance held pretty steady at Lyons Township High School.

Overall, RBHS dropped 23 places to tie for 49th with Oak Park and River Forest High School among public high schools in the Chicago area in the percentage of students meeting or exceeding state standards in reading and math, according to a list published last week by the Chicago Tribune.

LTHS ranked 36th, a drop of one place from last year, with 73.4 percent of LTHS students meeting or exceeding state standards. In 2011, 73.0 percent of LTHS students met or exceeded state standards on the PSAE.

In 2011, RBHS finished 26th among Chicago area high schools. But, this year 69.4 of RBHS juniors met or exceeded state standards on the test, compared to 76 percent a year ago.

RBHS Principal Pamela Bylsma said that the drop was not surprising, since the class of 2012 was a very strong class academically and school officials had long known that the academic profile of the class of 2013 was weaker.

“Last year’s [senior] class was quite strong,” Bylsma said. “This year’s class came in with more at-risk students. We knew they came in with more vulnerable scores.”

Bylsma preferred to look on the bright side, and said that this year’s senior class has improved more than expected from where they were as incoming freshmen. According to a series of tests first given to eighth graders and freshmen, the average growth until the junior year PSAE is 5 points, Bylsma said. The class of 2013’s scores rose 6.17 points on average, she added.

“While they didn’t do as well as last year’s learners, they’ve done very well in terms of growing from where they came to us,” Bylsma said. “That’s a real celebration of our program and our teachers and our students. That’s the story behind the data.”

Bylsma said that she didn’t believe that recent budget cuts played any significant role in the school’s declining performance.

“I don’t think we’re seeing that yet,” Bylsma said. “This is the year when most of our class sizes went up significantly. They did inch up a little bit last year, but that wouldn’t have affected these kids much.”

Bylsma said each class is different and people should not get too caught up in comparing results of one year to the next, because a different junior class is being tested every year.

“It is important that we concentrate on the learners in front of us and not try and measure ourselves from one group to another,” Bylsma said.

The class of 2014 has a stronger academic profile than the class of 2013, although not as strong as that of last year’s graduating class Bylsma said.

Sixty-seven percent of RBHS juniors last March met or exceeded state standards in reading compared to 75.1 percent in 2011.

“The reading is a real concern here and nationally,” Bylsma said. “Some of our students are coming in with huge gaps in reading.”

In math, 70 percent of RBHS juniors met or exceeded state standards, compared to 75.1 percent a year ago. In science, 72.2 percent met or exceeded state standards in 2012, while 77.7 percent did so one year ago.

At LTHS performance improved a couple points in math and declined a bit in reading.

“I think you’ve got some random variation going on, and we’ve implemented some math changes that we believe have yielded some positive results,” said LTHS District 204 Superintendent Tim Kilrea.

The performance of minority students at both schools continues to be a concern.

At Riverside-Brookfield High School, 71.4 percent of black students scored below state standards in both reading and math, and 50 percent of black students scored below state standards in science.

At Lyons Township High School, the performance of black students was even worse. Some 82.2 percent of black students scored below state standards in reading, while 88.9 percent did so in math and 82.2 percent did so in science.

“Obviously, it’s an area we need to focus on,” Kilrea said. “That is an area that we identified as needing attention.”

Hispanic students did somewhat better, but not as well as white and Asian students. At RBHS, 57 percent of Hispanic students met or exceeded state standards in reading, while 63 percent did so in math and 59 percent in science.

LTHS Hispanic students’ performance was weaker than at RBHS. Only 44.8 percent of Hispanic students at LTHS met or exceeded state standards in reading, while 44.1 percent did so in math and 42.7 percent did so in science.

Approximately 100 students have transferred into RBHS annually in recent years, and those students often come with inadequate preparation, Bylsma said. The school works intensively with students who have academic weaknesses.

“These kids are coming to us as vulnerable learners,” Bylsma said. “We’re a desirable school for kids to go to because they do get those interventions. We know every single student and what they need and put them into classes that are going to benefit them with the assistance they need.”

Prairie State Achievement Exam scores

Click the links below to see the test scores.