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ETHS test scores show more gains

Students at Evanston Township High School have continued the upward trend of high scores on the ACT college-entrance exam, outperforming their peers at the state and national levels last school year.

In addition, ETHS scores on the 2008 state-required Prairie State Achievement Exam (PSAE), which takes a snapshot of the junior class, improved significantly in all subject areas.

ETHS’s Class of 2008 earned a composite score of 23.1 on the ACT, the highest ACT composite score for ETHS, but for one year, in 36 years.

It is also the highest earned by ETHS students since 2002 when all Illinois juniors began taking the ACT as part of the PSAE.

In 1998, ETHS’s composite was 23.3, when only 67.7% of its senior class took the ACT. Since Illinois students can also take the ACT again their senior year to earn a higher score, the annual school composite is averaged from the highest scores the students post.

ETHS’s 2008 composite score is higher than both the state (20.7) and national (21.1) averages. Since Illinois is one of only three states (plus Colorado and Michigan) requiring all students to take the ACT, Illinois’ results are not comparable with most states.

Despite the larger pool of ETHS students taking the ACT, the 2008 scores in each subject area were the highest since 2002, when all students began taking the test, and significantly higher than the previous year. ETHS average scores in both English (23.2) and reading (23.0) rose .7 over 2007, science rose .4 (22.3), and math rose .2 (23.5).

ETHS has also received encouraging results on another important test—the Prairie State, which serves as the state’s indicator for the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) mandate. NCLB requires schools to have 100% of their students, as well as 24 student subgroups (for example, racial, low income, disabled, and limited-English-proficient subgroups), meeting state standards in reading and math by 2013-14.

In 2008, 62.5% of the students (up from 55% in 2007), including all subgroups, had to make adequate yearly progress (AYP/Safe Harbor) in meeting state standards.

While Illinois has yet to release 2008 state-level results, ETHS showed its strongest PSAE performance since the test’s inception.

Despite the ever-rising minimum target that students must meet, ETHS juniors in 22 of the 24 subgroups, an all-time high, met their AYP targets.

For the first time, ETHS, as a school, made AYP in math for every subgroup; Black students made AYP in reading; and White, Black, and Hispanic all made AYP in both reading and math.

In addition, Hispanic students made strong gains in math and reading over the previous year’s students despite having to take the regular ACT rather than an English-language proficiency test that had been given since 2003 to students with limited English skills.

The Hispanic math score jumped from 35.8% (in 2007) to 47.3%; the reading score rose from 35.2% to 38.2%. White students’ scores improved in math (91.6 in 2008 vs. 90.7 in 2007) and remained stable at 90.4 in reading.

Overall, ETHS’s strongest gains were in math with 73.1% of the juniors meeting or exceeding state standards (up 6 points from 67.1% over the previous year). Reading scores also rose to 69.9% in 2008, up from 67.3% in 2007.

While ETHS students overall met the standards in 2008, not all subgroups did. Students in two subgroups—economically disadvantaged students and students with disabilities—did not meet AYP/Safe Harbor in reading.

Since every subgroup must meet standards for a school to be considered making AYP/Safe Harbor, ETHS remains under sanctions of No Child Left Behind, in spite of showing strong academic improvement across most subgroups.

Last spring, following five years of not making overall AYP/Safe Harbor, ETHS submitted a comprehensive restructuring plan to the state that spelled out the fundamental reforms in its curriculum, structure, and academic support systems the school would implement this school year to improve student achievement.

Some of the planned changes are new, and many of these initiatives were already underway or in the planning stages before the school learned last fall that it would be in restructuring for 2008-09.

A number of initiatives are in place this year to change ETHS’s school culture to one that focuses on school as a collaborative learning community where all students achieve.

Some of these include strengthening the access to honors-level work in Freshman Humanities by dropping the regular track; expanding the school’s literacy program now in place in English, history, and special education classes to include math, science, and applied arts; ratcheting up the use of Test Prep strategies embedded across the curriculum, particularly with 11th graders who would most likely benefit when they take the PSAE; and expanding the proven learning strategies of the three support programs (AVID, STAE, and Project Excel) to support Freshman Humanities courses.

Another major initiative—System of Supports (SOS)—was started last fall after a year in the planning by more than 100 faculty members.

SOS is a comprehensive program that helps all students improve academically and become responsible, self-directed learners, especially those who are at risk of failure.

ETHS restructured its school day to build in the mandatory, personalized time faltering students need to succeed. Other SOS innovations include staffing department study centers throughout the day with teachers to provide drop-in help for all students.

SOS’s long-term goal is to promote a school culture that empowers students and teachers to find new ways to collaborate in the learning process. 

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