After a year of remote and hybrid learning, standardized test scores dropped last year at both Riverside-Brookfield High School and Lyons Township High School. The Class of 2022 took the state-mandated SAT test in person last April with average scores dropping a little more than 3 percent at both schools.

The average SAT score at RBHS fell by 34 points while the average SAT score at LTHS fell by 38 points. The average composite SAT score for the RBHS Class of 2022 was 1051, compared to 1085 for both the Class of 2020 and 2021. 

At LTHS the average SAT score for the Class of 2022 was 1093, compared to 1131 for the Class of 2020. The SAT was optional in 2021 due to the pandemic.

Administrators at both schools said the drop in test scores is not surprising considering the impact of the pandemic and remote learning.

“That brought unique challenges,” said RBHS Principal Hector Freytas. “Scores are a little lower, but we’re excited for this year, for the full year back to school, and I know we’re going to be better, going to do better.”

Kylie Lindquist, the assistant principal for curriculum and instruction at RBHS, also pointed to the challenges of the last year and said that test scores were only slightly lower.

“SAT scores for the class of 2022 are slightly (very slightly) lower than previous years; however, these students lived and learned through a pandemic and still came in well above the state and national average and came very close to the average scores of the classes that preceded them,” Lindquist wrote in an email to the Landmark. “We have identified gaps and continue to work to dispatch interventions and adjust instruction in order to help students meet benchmarks on the SAT. “   

Katie Smith, the coordinator of assessment and research at LTHS, who presented a detailed report on test scores to the District 204 Board of Education on Oct. 18, also pointed to unique challenges presented by remote and hybrid learning. 

“Because educational and environmental conditions were so drastically different for the Class of 2022, it is unwise to compare their performances to previous classes,” Smith told the school board.  

But Smith said that the test data should not be ignored.

“It is true that we need to be careful with comparing assessment data from the last two years to prior years, but that is not to say that the data should be discounted completely,” Smith said.

At both RBHS and LTHS there were larger drops in scores in the math section of the SAT than the reading section. Math scores dropped by 25 points at RBHS compared to two years ago and math scores at LTHS dropped by 29 points.

“This is likely due to last year’s scheduling 525 less instructional minutes than previous years, also likely due to remote learning for the last portion of their sophomore year, which was geometry being remote, because 40 percent of the SAT is geometry in the math section,” Smith said.

Smith said another factor in the drop in math scores could have been that calculators are not allowed during the SAT and students were used to working with calculators at home.

Fifty-three percent of the Class of 2022 at LTHS was deemed college-ready by their performance on the SAT, a decline of 13 percent. In the state as a whole, 45 percent of the Class of 2022 was deemed college-ready by their performance on the SAT.

AP performance drops in D204

Performance on Advanced Placement exams also fell at LTHS, with the school recording its lowest AP pass rate in school history at 72 percent, eight points lower than one year ago. LTHS students also took 150 fewer AP Exams last year compared to 2020.

There was again a wide achievement gap between white students and students of color at LTHS.

The average SAT composite score for white students in the LTHS Class of 2022 was 1134 compared to an average score of only 864 for the 24 Black students in the Class of 2022 who took the SAT, a gap of 270 points. Hispanic students at LTHS had an average score of 972.

“That data shows there is an achievement gap that has continued with the Class of 2022,” Smith said. 

The highest-performing demographic subgroups at LTHS were multiracial and Asian students, with multiracial students having an average SAT composite score of 1147 and Asian students having an average score of 1143.

Economically disadvantaged students, as determined by eligibility for the free or reduced lunch program, also scored lower. Economically disadvantaged students had an average SAT score of 914 compared to an average score of 1112 for their economically better off classmates.

RBHS did not provide subgroup breakdowns prior to the Landmark’s print deadline.

The racial disparity was also wide in Advanced Placement exam results at LTHS and in AP class enrollment.

In all, 54.5 percent of white students at LTHS passed an AP exam compared to 37.7 percent of Hispanic students and 28.6 percent of Black students. Students enrolled in AP classes at LTHS were disproportionally white and Asian.

“White students are five times more likely than Black students and two times more likely than Hispanic students to be enrolled in Advanced Placements,” Smith said.

Smith said the school is developing new strategies to address the achievement gap, including focusing on the subject during faculty professional development.

“We take this very seriously at LT,” Smith said. “We have tried many past efforts at addressing this achievement gap and we have taken some efforts recently to do some things different, because things haven’t been working in the past.”

School board member Michael Thomas, the only Black member of the District 204 school board and a graduate of LTHS, said culture could be a factor in the achievement gap.

“It could be the culture too,” Thomas said. “While we do have a college prep and college-going culture, I mean that doesn’t necessarily translate over to students of color in the culture that we have here.”