Both Riverside-Brookfield High School and Lyons Township High School received “commendable” ratings on the school report cards issued by the Illinois State Board of Education on Oct. 31. 

“Commendable” is the second highest of the four ratings the state issues and about 70 percent of all schools in Illinois received the rating. Only the top 10 percent of schools in the state received the highest rank of “exemplary.”

The school report card this year grades high schools on a number of factors. Graduation rates count for 50 percent of a school’s score, performance on the state mandated SAT exam counts for 20 percent, and a school’s chronic absenteeism rate counts of 7.5 percent, the percent of freshmen on track to graduate counts for 6.25 percent, and the percent of nonnative English speakers on track to attain proficiency in English counts for 5 percent. 

Two other factors that will count in future years, a school climate survey and a college and career readiness indicator, were not ready this year. School administrators are still getting used the complex scoring system.

“I think the state has some more work to do when it comes to calculating the overall gradings of the schools, pulling particular information and being more transparent as to how they’re collecting that information as well as how they’re using it to calculate the overall score,” said RBHS Principal Kristin Smetana.

LTHS had, as it has in the past, higher average test scores than RBHS. 

In 2018 LTHS juniors compiled an average score of 562 in English language arts (ELA) and 572 in math while RBHS students achieved an average score of 538 in ELA and 535 in math. 

This year was the second in which all public high school juniors were required to take the SAT instead of the ACT.

For the last time, both RBHS and LTHS also gave all juniors the ACT. The average ACT composite score at LTHS was 24.3 compared to 22.4 at RBHS.

The report card also showed that the demographic makeup of the two local high schools is somewhat different.

The student population at RBHS is 52.8 percent white, 36.4 percent Hispanic, 5.6 percent black, 2.4 percent Asian, and 2.5 percent mixed race.

LTHS is 72.9 percent white, 19.3 percent Hispanic, 3.7 percent black, 2.1 percent Asian, and 1.9 percent mixed race. 

At RBHS, 14.4 percent of students are classified as low-income, compared to 12.2 percent at LTHS. RBHS also has more students (5 percent) who are not native English speakers than LTHS (1.9 percent).

LTHS is also in much stronger financial shape than RBHS. According to the state’s new estimate of adequate funding for schools, LTHS is currently funded at 122 percent of what the state considers necessary to meet expectations while RBHS is currently funded at 80 percent of the capacity to meet expectations.

When test scores are broken down by demographic groups, the differences can be stark. There is noticeable achievement gaps between white and minority students.

While 66 percent of white students at RBHS met or exceeded state expectations on the ELA portion of the SAT last year, only 33 percent of Hispanic students and just 5 percent of black students did so.

At LTHS, the differences were equally stark, with 69 percent of white students meeting or exceeded expectations in ELA, while just 36 percent of Hispanic students and only 22 percent of black students did so.

In math, there were similar achievement gaps. At RBHS, 62 percent of white students met expectations in math, but 31 percent of Hispanic students and just 9 percent of black students did so. 

At LTHS, 70 percent of white students met the state benchmark in math compared to 33 percent of Hispanic students and 17 percent of black students.

Low-income students scored much lower than their better-off peers at both schools. At RBHS, only 28 percent of low-income students met or exceeded expectations in ELA, while at LTHS even fewer low-income students (25 percent) met expectations.