Lockport, Plainfield high schools exceed state academic standards

Plainfield High School-Central Campus students stream into the building on the first day of school on Thursday, August 18, 2022.

Will County — The Illinois State Board of Education released the 2023 School Report Card on Monday, which showed overall improvement for schools over 2022.

According to a statement from ISBE, the results show “strong progress in students’ recovery from the pandemic, with increased proficiency rates and the highest graduation rate in 13 years,” although proficiency rates in both English language arts and math still are below pre-pandemic levels.

Locally, Lockport Township High School District 205 and Plainfield School District 202 both showed improvement over 2022 and exceeded state standards at the high school level.

LTHS students showed proficiency rates of 35.1%, 34.2% and 65% in ELA, math and science, respectively, compared with the state average rates of 34.6%, 24.9% and 51%. Both the state and the district showed improvement over the proficiency rates for 2022, with growth in the state outpacing growth in the district.

Additionally, LTHS juniors taking the SAT earned an average score of 502.8 in ELA and 500.7 in math, far exceeding the state average scores of 487.5 in ELA and 473.4 in math.

LTHS had a 92.5% graduation rate in 2023, and 97.5% of last year’s ninth graders were deemed on track for graduation. Overall, 68% of students who graduated went on to post-secondary education within a year.

District 202′s high school students were in line with state standards in all three tracked fields, with 32% showing proficiency in ELA, 28.6% testing proficient in math and 50% proficiency in science. Plainfield North High School led the district in ELA (44.7%) and math (38.8%), while Plainfield East and Plainfield South scored highest in science, with both schools showing 57% proficiency.

These scores showed slight decreases for the district from 2022 in all three subjects, which last year averaged 32.6% proficient in ELA, 24.9% proficient in math and 62.5% proficient in science.

SAT scores for Plainfield students also exceeded the state averages, with Plainfield’s average scores at 492.9 in ELA and 487 in math.

District 202 had a 92.1% high school graduation rate in 2023, with 91.5% of its ninth graders rated as being on track to graduate.

Joliet Township High School District 204 did not fare as well as its neighboring districts against state standards. District 204′s student scores showed 15.9% proficiency in ELA, 11.9% in math and 41% in science.

These numbers are not only behind the state average numbers, but they also showed a decrease in all three subject areas from the district’s scores in 2022, which were 17.6%, 15.1% and 48%, respectively.

Although both schools performed under the state average in all three subject areas, there was a significant performance difference between Joliet Central and Joliet West test numbers, with Joliet West students testing about 10 points higher than Joliet Central students in all subject areas.

SAT scores for District 204 juniors averaged 445.5 in ELA and 430.8 in math, with Joliet West students once again scoring higher than students at their sister school.

District 204′s high school graduation rate also was below the state average in 2023, with 81.9% of students graduating, compared with the state average of 87.6%. After the spring semester, 78.7% of last year’s freshmen were on track to graduate.

Joliet’s District 204 has significantly more students, at 6,775, than Lockport’s District 205, at 3,834, but has fewer high school-level students than Plainfield’s District 202, which has 8.548 students across its four schools.

Joliet also is the middle of the three districts in spending per student. Lockport tops the spending list with about $17,000 annually per student, while Joliet spends about $16,000 annually per student, and Plainfield’s high schools reported spending about $12,000 per student. District 202 is a K-12 district.

One issue that all three districts – and the state as a whole – still are contending with post-pandemic is the issue of chronic student absence, which became common while students were limited to online learning.

Although the ISBE reported that Illinois saw a statewide decrease in chronic absenteeism, which is defined as a student missing 10% or more school days, even if they are excused or have a valid reason for their absence, it still was noted as “alarmingly high” at a rate of 28.3% (down from 29.8% in 2022).

District 205 once again showed the largest improvement over the state average with only 21.2% of students chronically absent, while District 202 saw an average of 32.1% of students across its four high schools chronically absent, with Plainfield North having the best individual attendance rate by almost 6%.

District 204 exceeded state absentee rates, with 49.7% of students chronically absent throughout the year.

ISBE reported in its statement that it has dedicated $12 million to the Illinois Regional Offices of Education to combat chronic absenteeism and more than $100 million for Community Partnership Grants that are designed to improve mental health, regional social-emotional learning hubs, and programming to support trauma-responsive practices in schools, which all can lead to extended absences.