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Schools Might Have to Offer Transfers State Tells Some Northwest Suburban Districts They Failed to Meet Standards

By Holmes, Erin | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), August 18, 2004 | Go to article overview

Schools Might Have to Offer Transfers State Tells Some Northwest Suburban Districts They Failed to Meet Standards


Holmes, Erin, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


Byline: Erin Holmes Daily Herald Staff Writer

John Hersey High School last fall earned statewide acclaim for its test scores, figures that showed double-digit improvements in some subjects and put the Arlington Heights teens among the state's top performers.

This year, Hersey is on an early list of state schools that twice have fallen short of state standards in math and reading - a situation that means it may have to offer students the choice of switching to another school that's performing better.

The Illinois State Board of Education released that data Tuesday, naming 694 Illinois schools, or about 17 percent statewide, that must take new action this year to improve student performance as part of the No Child Left Behind law.

Besides Hersey, a smattering of other Northwest suburban schools, including Elk Grove, Maine West and Wheeling high schools, two schools in Palatine Township Elementary District 15 and three in Wheeling Township Elementary District 21, also may have to offer kids the choice of transferring - the apparent victims, some officials say, of a skewed rating system.

Under No Child Left Behind, the performance of students in various sub-groups, like special education or Hispanic children, is a large part of a school's ranking. If just one of those groups falls short of standards, the entire school can earn a failing grade.

Hersey, for instance, made last year's list of failing schools despite high overall scores, because its disabled students fell short of hitting math standards.

"Talk about a really fractured and tilted rating scheme," said Bill Dussling, board president in Northwest Suburban High School District 214, noting that some of the "top districts in the state" now might have to offer students a choice of switching schools. "It's wonderful to be able to look at those various categories and say, 'How are we doing?' But when you're going to rate a whole school on not doing one thing, that's goofy.

"That gives the wrong message to the community and ... causes you to do all kinds of things that are disruptive, expensive and just really are not going to solve the issue."

Schools should be rewarded for steps they've taken to better all student learning, not "banged on the head" for "small areas that need work."

Tuesday's list still is preliminary, because it only reflects schools that failed in some capacity in reading and math. Schools also can "fail" for not testing enough students or if attendance and graduation rates aren't satisfactory. Some districts also are still correcting test result data, which could affect placement on the list.

The state was forced to release the partial list Tuesday because federal law mandates it be out before school starts.

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