January 17, 2021

Local schools bring home a better report card

Most schools considered commendable in latest state ranking

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Almost all Sauk Valley schools are making the grade in academics.

Designations of Illinois public schools – exemplary, commendable, or under- or low-performing – were revealed Wednesday with the release of annual report cards by the State Board of Education.

Of the 56 local schools, 48 were considered commendable and seven were exemplary. Only one was labeled under-performing.

Designations take into account school performance, how well each school serves its students, and a measurement of students’ year-over-year improvement on standardized tests – the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers taken by third-grade students and the Scholastic Aptitude Test for high school juniors.

It’s an improved picture: Last year, 43 schools were commendable, eight under-performing and five were exemplary.

All Dixon School District schools, except the high school, were designated under-performing last year; same for Challand Middle School and Lincoln and Washington elementary schools in Sterling.

Sterling’s Individualized Education Program students last year under-performed at three of its schools, thus giving the entire school under-performing status. Superintendent Tad Everett was elated to get all of his schools at the same level.

The district focused on improving performance at all six schools, and Challand, Lincoln and Washington made “huge strides,” he said. Each showed proficiency growth despite a lack of funding from the state, and Everett was proud of how the district can improve by being fiscally responsible.

“We’ve worked really hard as a district, our administrators, our teachers and our support staff. It kind of rocked our world last year, and maybe it was a good thing in a sense that it restarted our batteries, got us recharged again about the things that were really important, and refocused our work.”

All Sterling schools except Lincoln improved in English and language arts and math proficiency by no more than 2%.

Dixon Superintendent Margo Empen shared the same sentiments about the improvement in her schools.

“It honors the work that is being done by our teachers, paraprofessionals and principals in the district as a whole to analyze areas where we needed improvement,” she said.

Proficiency in ELA increased 4% throughout Dixon schools from last year. Madison School, which houses fourth and fifth grades, increased its ELA proficiency by 10 percent, and Jefferson, which has second and third grades, increased theirs by 2%.

All but Reagan Middle School improved to commendable status.

“We’ve seen growth in our scores, and as happy as we are, our scores are still not where they want them to be, but they’re moving in the right direction,” Empen said.

Reagan remains under-performing based on low performance by children with disabilities.

The statuses aren’t necessarily a whole indicator of performance. Schools can be classified as under-performing by having just one of its student groups perform at the lowest 5% of all schools. Groups consist of 20 or more students who fall under a certain ethnic, educational or financial category.

“We’ll continue to focus on how to improve there,” Empen said. “We hold high expectations for all students.”

Amboy Junior High also escaped the under-performing classification, and now is at commendable.

Southside Elementary in Morrison and Chadwick Elementary improved from commendable to exemplary. Rock Falls Middle School and Prophetstown Middle School maintained exemplary status.

Erie High School also joined the ranks of the exemplary, joining its middle and elementary schools in the same status. Its district joined Dieterich Schools in Effingham County as the only K-through-12 school districts outside of the Chicago Metropolitan Area all with exemplary schools; Metamora High School in Woodford County and its out-of-district feeder schools in Germantown Hills, all were exemplary as well.

Polo High School was the only local school to have gains of more than 10% in ELA, 10%, and math proficiency, 12%. Aplington Middle School in town had the highest increase in ELA proficiency percentage from a year ago, up 24%.

Amboy Junior High and Central Elementary, Bureau Valley High School, Madison Elementary, Fulton High School, and Rock Falls Middle School also had increases of 10% or more in ELA proficiency. Amboy High School was the only other local school to have a 10% increase in math proficiency, at 12%.

West Carroll schools had sharp proficiency decreases from 2018. The high school dipped 25% in ELA and 16% in math, and the middle school was down 24% in ELA and 17% in math.

Amboy, Chadwick-Milledgeville and Rock Falls Elementary were the only districts with overall ELA and math proficiency improvements from 2018, and more than 50% proficiency in science. This year was the first to show science proficiency data.

Chadwick Elementary ranks No. 1 in the area in math, 64.3%, and science, 77.4%. Prophetstown Middle School is first in ELA, 63.8%.

“It’s fantastic for our district,” Prophetstown-Lyndon-Tampico Superintendent Chad Colmone said. “It shows the great work that our staff does to provide a great education for our students.”