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.

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...

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  1. ISAT results by school?

    Lots of slicing and dicing of district-wide statisitics, but no analysis by school. At the Central Street Neighbors Association forum, Dr. Murphy stated that it didn't matter where low income students attended, e.g. Oakton vs. Willard, they scored the same. He implied that it didn't matter if D65 created another school that was over-whelmingly low income and minority.

    Do the ISAT statistics support his point?

    1. This is a little off topic

      This is a little off topic from the news story, but the Illinois Interactive Report Card easily answers your questions:

      Answer: no, of course not all schools are equal.

      In fact, Oakton is on "warning" status for not making successive improvement. And it lags behind the state-wide averages:

      Still, the percentages aren't that drastic, and I don't personally think it's something that careful parenting can't equalize. But please don't argue me on this point — I'm not interested in that.

  2. Students at Oakton are on par with other D65 schools

    If you are going to reference Illinois’ Report Card statistics, you should have a better understanding of what they really mean.  I’d  like to correct a common misconception about how students at Oakton school actually perform on state testing.

    For AYP(adequate yearly progress) purposes, the scores reported for each school represent a whole school AVERAGE.  As a group, both minority and low-income students score lower than their white and higher- income counterparts. If a school has a larger percentage of low-income and minority students, their total school average is going to skew lower. 

    Oakton has the highest percentage of minority (72.7 %) and low-income (65%) students in the district. Therefore their total school score is going to be lower than other schools in the district.  However, if you examine test performance of minority and low-income students at Oakton, they do as well as or better than most other District 65 schools. 

    In fact, let’s compare scores of Hispanics and low-income students at Willard vs. Oakton.  We can’t actually compare Black students, because the number of Black students at Willard is so low (less than 10 students per grade level), that test scores are not even reported for them, and scores for Hispanic students at Willard are exempt from AYP requirements because that subgroup is fewer than 45 total students. 

    In Reading, for Hispanic students, the results show 3rd grade- 57.1% met or exceeded standards at Oakton,46.2% at Willard; 4th grade-80% at Oakton, 60% at Willard; there were not enough 5th grade Hispanic students at Willard to report scores. 

    For low-income students , in 3rd grade- 65% met/exceeded standards at Oakton, 55% at Willard; 4th grade- 77% at Oakton, 55.6% at Willard; 5th grade- 71.2% at Oakton, 75% at Willard. In four out of five of these groups, Oakton actually outperformed Willard.  These students also performed ABOVE state averages. 

    Why did I bother to look up and report all these figures?  Because what the data shows is that when you stop averaging scores, and separate Oakton’s students into the various subgroups, Oakton’s performance is on par with other District 65 schools. 

    By the way, it’s not all that “easy” to find accurate and meaningful answers when you look at the school report cards- you have to wade through rows and columns of numbers to see the real deal. Let's stop making sweeping statements about Oakton School that misrepresent the truth, and start giving the students and staff at Oakton the credit they deserve.

  3. Rigor is the answer, not test scores

    The bottom line is that ALL D65 schools need to continue to improve. We need to get the number of kids meeting at 100%.  When kids do not meet standards, they continue to fall behind and when they get to the middle school, they are a few years below grade level and catching up is hard. There are some kids in middle school that are reading at the 1st and 2nd grade levels. This is simply unacceptable. For middle school teachers, no matter how much they differentiatie, how can they help move these kids to where they should be when they are so far behind? And if they lose support systems in the class and if class sizes get larger? How are we going to be able to make this change and help these struggling learners??

    The answer is a more rigorous curriculum in the K-5 grades. And I don't mean more reading and math. I mean more everything…social studies, science, art, music,  everything integrated in a way that it is engaging and challening for all kids. The curriculum needs to be re-vamped and that might possiblly only happen with some new leadership. Something has to change if we want all of our students to succeed.  Looking at ISAT's and splicing and dicing them up like they did in the report only paints us a small picture.  Let's look beyond the test scores and look at the whole child.  It should not matter if they go to Oakton or Willard, it is the SAME district and that means that they should be learning the SAME curriculum.  Perhaps they need to mix up teachers from all of the schools and instead of re-districting kids, they should re-district the teachers! – I know a crazy thought, but why not??

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