D65 scores keep climbing

Students in Evanston/Skokie District 65 schools are continuing to make progress in meeting or exceeding state standards as measured by the Illinois Standard Achievement Test (ISAT), school board members were told at their regular monthly meeting Monday night, but they needed to rev up the momentum.

The administration, led by interim chief information officer Lara Taira, presented the results of the District 65 2011 Achievement Report in a PowerPoint presentation that accompanied a 113-page handout that sliced and diced the numbers in a myriad of ways.

The upshot was that the percentage of all students meeting or exceeding standards in reading and mathematics has improved every year from 2006 to 2011, with the exception of a slight decrease in math scores in 2008.

In 2011, more than 87 percent of the district’s students in grades three through eight met or exceeded standards in reading and more than 92 percent in math.

The scores were broken out to reflect the progress of eight subgroups: white, black, Hispanic, Asian, multi-racial, limited English proficient (LEP), free and reduced lunch (FRL), and students with disabilities that were enrolled in individualized education programs (IEP).

The percentage of students who met or exceeded standards increased from 2006 to 2011 for each subgroup except LEP students in reading, according to the report.

Nevertheless, the largest increases from 2010 to 2011 were for LEP students in reading (+3.2) and low income (FRL) and students with IEPs in mathematics (+2.8).

Superintendent Hardy Murphy said that although the trend is positive, he was concerned that the momentum had slowed.

“To increase the rate of improvement and create momentum for accelerating student growth,” he said, the administration was recommending “a reallocation of central office supports, alignment of the appraisal system with board goals, and the revision of hiring standards.”

In other action, the board approved, by a 6-0 vote, the superintendent’s recommendation that the district withdraw from a pilot program, inspired by a federal “Race to the Top” grant to the state government, that would speed up the implementation of a revision in the system of evaluating teaching performance. (See related story.)

The board also heard an informational presentation about the Evanston School Children’s Clothing Association (ESSCA).

During the public comment portion of the meeting, a number of leaders of the Committee for a Better Evanston mourned the failure of the $48 million referendum last week that would have provided funding for a new school in the 5th Ward and capital improvements to the district’s middle schools, declaring it “a dream deferred, not a dream denied.”

Board member Richard Rykhus said it was incumbent on the board to reconsider its need for additional classroom space and to come up with a new plan by the end of this school year, focusing on the “points of agreement” among board members in their discussions that led to the new-school referendum.

School board secretary Pat Markham reported the final election results on the referendum as 6,619, or 45.21 percent, in favor and 8,020, or 54.79 percent, against. Some 23 percent of the district’s registered voters participated in the balloting, she said.

Charles Bartling

A resident of Evanston since 1975, Chuck Bartling holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and has extensive experience as a reporter and editor for daily newspapers, radio stations and business-oriented magazines.

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