Both Riverside-Brookfield High School and Lyons Township High School failed to make adequate yearly progress (AYP) on the 2013 Prairie State Achievement Exam (PSAE), which was administered to all high school juniors last March.

RBHS failed to make AYP in math for the fourth consecutive year, with fewer than 72.4 percent of all students proficient in math. At RBHS, 68 percent of students taking the test last March met or exceeded standards in math.

Because of this, RBHS had to send a letter to all parents and guardians informing them of this failure and outlining corrective steps. Those measures included offering parents and guardians an essentially meaningless option to transfer to other public schools. The offer was meaningless because no other neighboring public school district agreed to accept RBHS’ students and RBHS District 208 itself is a one-school campus.

The letter sent home outlined a number of corrective steps that have been taken to improve results, including the creation of a new position of college admissions preparation and literacy coach.

RBHS also has an intensive extended period freshman algebra class for students needing extra work to bring them up to speed. A third additional academic support person was hired this year.

Academic support positions, a hallmark of RBHS under former Superintendent/Principal Jack Baldermann, had been cut in the wake of the referendum defeat.

Average ACT scores dropped at full point at RBHS last year while remaining constant at Lyons Township. Meanwhile, RBHS ranked 47th among high schools in the Chicago area with an average ACT composite score of 22.6 for the Class of 2013 while LT’s average score of 23.6 placed it in a four-way tie for 29th place.

Most RBHS and LTHS students scored well above state averages on the on the two-day Prairie State Achievement Exam taken by all public high school juniors in Illinois.

The ACT is one component of PSAE. Statewide, 53 percent of high school juniors met or exceeded the state standards on the PSAE while 69 percent of RBHS students and 75 percent of LTHS students did so.

RBHS’ results were a one-point improvement over 2012, but a six-point drop from 2011 when 75 percent of RB students met or exceeded state standards.

RBHS Principal Pamela Bylsma said the school’s administration viewed the results positively based on the history of last year’s junior class. She said the class of 2013 came in to RBHS as a weaker class academically than the class of 2012 based on eighth-grade test results.

“They came in as a more vulnerable class, and we grew them significantly,” Bylsma said.

Bylsma added that 2013 was the first time the state included the scores of students given an extended time to take the ACT. If those students had been included in 2012, the average composite score for 2012 would have been 22.3. This year the average was 22.6

“We would have gone up if you compare apples to apples,” Bylsma said. “Any time they switch something midstream, all your other data looks a little odd.”

Minority students struggled at both schools. At RBHS, where 30.1 percent of students are Hispanic, 57 percent of Hispanic students met or exceeded standards in reading compared to the 66 percent of Hispanic students who did so in 2011. In both math and science, 53 percent of Hispanic students at RBHS made the grade, down 11 and 12 percentage points respectively from 2011.

Black students, who make up only 3.6 percent of students at RBHS, struggled even more, with 40 percent meeting or exceeding standards in reading and just 20 percent in math, down from 44 percent and 50 percent respectively in 2011.

Minority students at LTHS also struggled. Fifty-five percent of LTHS’ Hispanic students and 36 percent of black students met or exceeded standards in reading. In math, 52 percent of Hispanic students and 44 percent of black students made the grade.

White students at both schools did much better. At RBHS, 78 percent of white students met or exceeded standards in reading while 82 percent of white LTHS students did so. In math 77 percent of white RBHS students met or exceeded standards while at 80 percent of white students at LTHS did so.

Class sizes were larger at RBHS than at LTHS. The average class at RBHS had 24 students in it while the average class size at LTHS was 22. Class sizes at RBHS have increased in recent years as the school district cut teachers in the face of budget constraints after the defeat of a tax referendum in 2011.