School Report Cards: Most in McHenry County deemed ‘commendable,’ some still aiming for pre-COVID-19 ratings

Math proficiency down across many McHenry County school districts from 2022

Children listen to Principal Beth Klinsky speak during the first day of school at West Elementary School in Crystal Lake on Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2023.

Illinois School Report Cards came out Monday, showing most schools in McHenry County received the grade of “commendable,” the second-highest designation offered.

The annual report cards, put out by the Illinois State Board of Education, offer a look at how well individual schools, districts and the state as a whole are performing across a wide range of indicators.

In addition to student performance on standardized tests, the report also includes information about factors such as student demographics, graduation rates, college readiness, career and technical education, and school faculty.

Much of the public’s attention, however, focuses on standardized test scores, which often are seen as an indicator of how effectively schools are teaching the basics of reading, writing and math, and what kind of achievement gaps exist among different demographic groups.

As part of the report card, each school receives an overall designation of exemplary, commendable, targeted, comprehensive or intensive.

Intensive is a new designation, with a slide deck presented as part of a webinar last week defining it as “a school that has completed a full comprehensive support school improvement cycle but remains in the lowest-performing 5% or is a high school with a graduation rate of 67% or below at the end of the four-year improvement cycle.”

ISBE said in a news release Monday that the report “showed strong progress in students’ recovery from the pandemic” but also noted “proficiency rates remain below pre-pandemic levels.”

ISBE touted overall growth in English language arts and math proficiency, career and technical education, advanced coursework participation and in eighth graders passing Algebra 1.

The state education agency also reported a decline in chronic absenteeism, among other metrics.

ISBE noted that proficiency “can be measured in a variety of ways,” but that within the context of the report cards, it refers to “students’ success ... within standardized testing” that indicate they’re proficient in language arts, math or science.

In a media briefing last week, state Superintendent Tony Sanders said that overall, state language arts and math proficiency rates still are lower than pre-COVID-19 levels.

“I’m so happy to see a second year of strong recovery post-pandemic,” Sanders said. “We’re moving fast toward recovery, although we still have quite a distance to travel.”

Here’s a look at some of the larger districts in McHenry County. Parents and others who want to learn more can check the report card of an individual school or district at illinoisreportcard.com.

Woodstock School District 200

Last year, all 10 schools in the district were listed as “commendable.” This year, Mary Endres and Prairiewood elementary schools were designated as “targeted,” while Creekside Middle School was deemed “exemplary.”

“Targeted,” according to ISBE, means that one or more student groups is performing at or below the overall level of the lowest-performing 5% of schools. Such a designation “initiates targeted school improvement status, and the school begins a four-year cycle of school improvement,” according to report card documents.

Superintendent Michael Moan noted in a statement that District 200 “saw a more than 7% increase in students meeting or exceeding expectations in [ELA] scores since last year, which are even higher than they were pre-pandemic.”

Moan said the district “also stayed steady in math scores and is in the process of implementing new curricula and strategies to improve them in the near future.”

ELA proficiency jumped in the school district since last year, from 40.8% to 46.8%, and the math score was effectively unchanged, going from 26.7% to 26.4%.

Just over 29% of the school district’s eighth graders passed Algebra 1, compared with 31% of all Illinois eighth graders. Science proficiency climbed 1 percentage point from 54% to 55%.

Huntley School District 158

District 158 had one school ranked “underperforming” in the 2022 report card. This year, all eight of the district’s schools were listed as commendable.

Proficiency in ELA jumped 4.7 percentage points, from 44.4 to 49.1, between 2022 and 2023 in District 158, but proficiency in math dropped from 40.8% to 38.7%.

Statewide, math proficiency rose from 25.8% to 26.9%.

The percentage of eighth graders passing Algebra 1 in District 158 lagged slightly below the state average, with 21.9% of eighth graders passing in District 158. Statewide, 31% of eighth graders passed Algebra 1.

Science proficiency stayed constant at 73%.

A District 158 spokesperson could not be reached for comment Monday.

Crystal Lake Elementary School District 47

District 47 had all 12 schools listed as “commendable” in 2022. In 2023, 11 schools were listed as “commendable,” and Coventry Elementary was listed as “targeted.”

Hannah Beardsley “exited school improvement status,” District 47 noted in a news release.

Coventry has been “identified for targeted support, signifying that one or more student demographic groups are not meeting performance standards,” according to the release. “Coventry’s designation should not be a source of apprehension.”

The District 47 release said ISBE based its designation on the “subgroups” of English language learners, students formerly in EL programs and students with disabilities.

“This targeted support designation initiates a four-year cycle for school improvement efforts. Coventry will also be eligible for supplementary funding and assistance aimed at addressing the unique needs of these students,” according to the release.

ELA proficiency climbed in District 47 from 30.8% in 2022 to 35% in 2023, a similar improvement to the state of Illinois, which went from 29.9% to 34.6%.

Math proficiency in District 47 dropped from 29.1% to 26.9%, and science proficiency climbed from 62% in 2022 to 65% in 2023.

Almost 55% of the district’s eighth graders had passed Algebra 1, well above the state percentage of 31%.

Cary School District 26

All four elementary schools in District 26 are rated “commendable.” Proficiency in ELA increased from 36.1% last year to almost 41.6%. Math proficiency increased very slightly, from 30.4% in 2022 to 30.7% in 2023, and science was flat at a 65% proficiency between the two years.

One goal looking ahead to next year’s report card is to continue to support teachers in core classroom instruction, District 26 Superintendent Brandon White said.

“We believe our work is never done,” he said. “We want to make sure our students are illustrating growth regardless [of] where they are on the continuum.”

Community High School District 155

District 155 had all four high schools listed as “commendable” this year. ELA proficiency increased slightly from 39% in 2022 to 40% this year, but math and science proficiency dropped notably.

Math proficiency fell from 40.6% in 2022 to 34.2% in 2023, and science proficiency had a 4 percentage-point drop from 66% to 62%.

The SAT paints a different picture, with slight increases in ELA and math. In 2023, 41.1% were approaching ELA and 35.4% partially met math, compared with 40.9% approaching ELA and 35% partially meeting math in 2022.

“We are proud of the designations each of our schools earned, which is a testament to our staff who recognize the importance of connecting with our students and supporting their learning,” Superintendent Neil Lesinski said. “We are encouraged by several data points, including the growing number of ninth graders on track, our highest teacher retention rate in five years [at] 95% and the services we’re providing to support our growing number of English learners in District 155.”

McHenry High School District 156

In District 156, McHenry High School received a “commendable” designation. Its ELA proficiency increased from 24.1% to 29%, while math proficiency was effectively unchanged, decreasing from 24% to 23.8%, and science proficiency decreased from 54% to 51%.

In the SAT, 36% partially meets ELA and 50.4% partially meets math in 2023, compared with 43.7% approaching ELA and 46.2% partially meeting math in 2022.

“District 156 is committed to providing our students with a competitive and comprehensive educational experience that will allow them multiple options, opportunities and, ultimately, success upon graduation from high school,” the district said in a news release. “We will continue to align our curriculum, programs and course offerings with the new accountability system to ensure our students are making progress toward college and career readiness.”

McHenry School District 15

District 15 has eight schools, six of which were designated “commendable.” Landmark Elementary was designated “exemplary,” and Valley View Elementary was designated “targeted.”

ELA proficiency in the school district climbed from 26.2% in 2022 to 31.8% in 2023, while math proficiency climbed from 21.1% to 22% and science proficiency climbed from 52% to 56%.

A District 15 spokesperson could not be reached for comment.

Capitol News Illinois contributed to this report.