By Bob Skolnik
The school board and administration at Riverside-Brookfield High School is aiming high. Last week the District 208 school board adopted some lofty goals for the district, the culmination of a long process to identify measurable goals to track district performance.
One goal that may be difficult to reach is for students to achieve an average ACT composite score of 26. Last year the average ACT score at RBHS was 23.6.
"There is nothing wrong with setting high expectations," said District 208 Superintendent Kevin Skinkis. "Setting high expectations, showing growth is still a success even if we miss our mark."
Skinkis said that the goal of a 26 average ACT composite score was set by looking at the top non-selective enrollment public high schools in the Chicago area.
"We took the 10 best [non-selective enrollment] public high schools according to the Sun Times and the Tribune rankings, and we did the average ACT score, and that was 26," Skinkis said.
By way of comparison, New Trier High School had an average ACT composite score of 27.7 in 2012. Hinsdale Central and Stevenson High Schools had average ACT scores of 26.2.
Oak Park High School had an average ACT of 24.5 and Lyons Township High School had an average ACT score of 24.
The average ACT score in the state of Illinois is 20.6. All juniors in public high schools in Illinois take the ACT as part of the Prairie State Achievement Exam.
The new goals for RBHS also include having a 100-percent graduation rate and making sure that every graduate of the school either goes on to some sort of further education or training or joins the military.
Goals call for all graduates to be what the ACT considers college-ready, which is defined as receiving a score of at least 21 on the ACT composite, at least 18 in English, 22 in math, 21 in reading and 24 in science.
"I think we would be doing the community and the students a disservice if weren't shooting to make every kid college- and career-ready," Skinkis said. "Is it a lofty goal? Yes, but as long as we continue to work towards it and continue to show growth I think that shows a commitment to the community and to the students."
Last year, 75.2 percent of RBHS students scored 21 or higher on the ACT composite. Eighty-five percent met the ACT college-readiness benchmark in English, while 66 percent did so in math, 68 percent in reading and 47 percent in science.
The goals also call for every student who takes an Advanced Placement test to receive a score of 3 or above. The school board also set a goal of having 75 percent of the graduating class pass at least one AP test. In 2012, 51.4 percent of the graduating class passed at least one AP test.
"The goal behind that is trying to get students somewhere in their high school career to take at least one AP course," Skinkis said. "Studies have shown that if a student takes at least one AP course or multiple honors courses in their high school career, these courses are rigorous enough to be comparable to the workload and the rigor they are going to see in college."
The school board also wants 100 percent of those taking AP tests to receive a passing score, which is a 3 or above. In 2012, the percentage of AP test takers achieving a passing score was 72.4 percent.
Although the academic goals are daunting they provide a focus and a target for Skinkis to focus on as the superintendent hopes to concentrate more on academic concerns.
"Although I still have some issues in regards to facilities and finance that I have to work on at the district level, this will make me dedicate more time to working with the teachers and the building staff to make sure we're providing the services that students need to be successful," Skinkis said.
"It's very easy in my job to get caught up in the operational and the financial aspects of running a district, and it's important that we don't lose sight of why we're here — and that's the 1,500 14- to 18-year-old adolescents that are counting on us to prepare them for life after RB."
Other goals established by the school board include negotiating a new contract with the teachers union, developing a capital outlay plan for repair and maintenance of school facilities, developing a technology plan and continuing to identify means to increase community feedback and dialogue.
One other goal is to research and identify revenue enhancement for the district.