ISAT scores dip at Brookfield's Congress Park School

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By BOB UPHUES

Test scores at Congress Park School in Brookfield dropped in four of five categories in 2005, according to the School Report Card issued by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) earlier this month. While the school maintained "adequate yearly progress" according to the provisions laid out in the federal No Child Left Behind Act, seven percent fewer students overall met or exceeded state standards on the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) given last spring to the schools third-, fourth- and fifth-graders.

In 2005, 68.2 percent of Congress Park students met state standards, down from 75.7 in 2004. Since 2002, the school's scores have seesawed, going from 73.4 that year to 67.1 in 2003 and back up again over 70 percent in 2004.

At the same time, ISAT scores in District 102 as a whole have remained steady, even rising slightly since 2003. In 2003, 79.7 percent of District 102 students met or exceeded state standards on the ISAT test. That rose to 82.7 on 2004 and 83.6 in 2005. District 102 serves students in LaGrange, LaGrange Park and Brookfield.

Congress Park School is the only one of District 102's five schools located in Brookfield. It, along with Park Junior High in LaGrange Park, serves Brookfield residents.

Congress Park School saw its biggest test score drops in fifth grade, where the number of students meeting or exceeding state standards in math and reading fell 15.4 percent and 10 percent respectively. In 2005, 69.2 percent of fifth-graders met state marks in math, while 55.4 percent met them in reading. In 2004, 84.6 percent of fifth-graders met state standards in math, while 65.4 met state marks in reading.

In third grade, Congress Park ISAT scores also saw drops in reading and math. The number of third-grade students meeting state standards in reading fell 10 percent to 71.7 percent, while the number meeting state standards in math fell eight percent to 79.2 percent.

The area where Congress Park saw scores rise was in fourth-grade science, where the number of students meeting or exceeding state standards increased eight percent to 68.3 percent.

"District-wide we're developing benchmarks at all grade levels," said Congress Park Principal Maura Stockmann. "We stated last year with math and are doing it with reading this year. It's a good step toward aligning our curriculum with what's being tested."

At Park Junior High, as in District 102 as a whole, ISAT scores rose slightly overall, with 82.7 percent meeting state standards, up from 77.7 in 2004. Eighth-grade reading and math scores jumped sharply, with the number of students meeting state marks in reading increasing 11 points to 85.6 percent. In math, the number of students meeting state standards rose seven percent to 78.7.

Scores low among black students

Yet, while District 102 test scores are up, the district is not making adequate yearly progress under NCLB and has been placed on the state's Academic Early Warning list, according to the State Report Card. The reason? The percentage of black students meeting or exceeding state standards in reading was just 32.7 percent in 2005.

In order to make adequate yearly progress, schools not only must meet state standards for the overall student body but for individual subgroups. Any group of at least 45 students?"whether ethnic/racial groups, students with disabilities and low-income students?"must meet state goals individually.

District 102 had to meet goals in four subgroups, including black and Hispanic students. While Hispanic students met state standards in both reading and math (with 67.8 and 66.7 percent meeting standards in reading and math respectively), black students fell short in reading, but met the state benchmark in math.

"We're looking at achievement gap concepts, which is very critical for our group of students," Stockmann said. "The bottom line is instruction. We can't let kids flounder and fall between the cracks. All kids can learn. It's a matter of how to get to those that are struggling."

A good number of both the district's Hispanic and black students attend or attended Congress Park School. While black students make up just 7.8 percent of the district's enrollment, they make up nearly 22 percent of Congress Park's enrollment. Forest Road School in LaGrange Park has the next highest percentage of black student enrollment at 7.4 percent. Black student enrollment at Cossitt and Ogden schools in LaGrange was 4.2 percent and 0.5 percent respectively.

At Park Junior High, which draws students from all of the elementary schools in the district, black enrollment was not high enough to reach the level of a subgroup under NCLB. Yet, the School Report Card shows black students achieving at a much lower rate than their white counterparts.

While 90.4 percent of white eighth-graders met or exceeded state goals in reading and 85.1 percent met them in math, just 43.8 percent of black students met state goals in reading and 35.3 met them in math.

District 102 Superintendent Mark Van Clay did not return phone calls seeking comment.

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