AM News: Achievement Gaps Remain At Top IL Schools

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Even top schools struggle under 'No Child' law Tribune:  New
Trier, among the state's best schools by virtually any measure, posted
some of its highest scores ever on the college-entrance ACT test, which
comprises half of the Prairie State Achievement Exam given to juniors.
But the performance of a small group of students, those with learning
disabilities, fell short of the testing target... Dart Would Have Been A Formidable Mayoral Candidate Progress Illinois:As
the presumed mayoral front-runner, Rahm Emanuel appears to be the
biggest beneficiary of today's news... Sit-In at Chicago School Nears End WSJ:  Chicago
Public Schools Chief Executive Ron Huberman sent a letter formalizing a
settlement that would halt destruction of the building. Instead, he
expects to turn the building over to the parents for $1 a year, evaluate
what needs to be fixed to bring it up to code, help find sources of
money for the repairs and build a library for students inside Whittier
Elementary...

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  • I have never met the Tribune reporter Tara Malone and free lance reporter Darnell Little who wrote the article titled "Even top schools struggle under federal law." But I found their article to be completely unbalanced in relation to holding schools, yes even New Trier high school accountable for ineffective instruction of students with disabilities.

    The authors of this story write on New Trier's failure to make AYP for the subgroup of student with disabilities:: " the performance of a small group of students, those with learning disabilities, fell short of the testing target."

    This is totally incorrect these authors have absolutely no way of knowing that the subgroup students with disabilities scores were driven down by a further subgroup of students with learning disabilities. The authors make their first mistake, not all students with disabilities are learning disabled. But I can see New Trier Township H S Winnetka scores for 2009. The 2010 data will be out next week.

    But here is what I saw and it was shocking, New Trier in 2009 was only able to get 34.2% of its students with IEPs to read at state standards. Compare New Trier with Hinsdale Central where in 2009 44.8% of students with disabilities are reading at state standards, or Lake Forest High School where in 2009 47.1% of disabled students were reading at state standards, or Carl Sandburg High School in Orland Park where in 2009 77% of students with disabilities were reading at state standards.

    The Tribune reporters completely missed a big part of the story, because they were so enchanted with the mystic of New Trier. The story they missed is New Trier has not historically been all that great of a high school for students with disabilities relative to other higher income high schools in the Chicago area. If these reporters had bothered to interview even a few advocates for students with disabilities they would have heard this loud and clear.

    The reference to Urban Prep in the article is equally poorly done. The authors write: "When Urban Prep Academy for Young Men, Chicago's only all-male, all African-American public charter high school, opened its doors four years ago, just 4 percent of its students read at grade level. This year, 25 percent of the juniors scored proficiently on the state reading exam, officials said. The growth was not enough. Urban Prep failed to hit the federal testing targets, even as the school, in one of the city's toughest neighborhoods, sent all 107 graduates to college, school founder and CEO Tim King said. King said the school does not chart its success by test scores alone."

    In 2007, Urban Prep's Englewood school's 9th graders took the Explore test in reading at that time the school's mean score was 12.1. the city average mean score was 13.2. A score of around 16 by ninth grade is considered to be on track. So this gives us some comparative background on the claim made by Mr. King. Urban Prep's starting situation is not very different than many CPS high school in terms of the reading skills of freshmen.

    We can look at what is called the EPAS gains report for Urban Prep which gives expected gains in reading based on the students starting point. EPAS gains are created by comparing a student's actual score to the score predicted for the student. A student has made expected gains if his or her actual score is greater than or equal to his or her predicted score. A student's predicted score is based on his or her performance in the previous year. The EPAS expected reading gains for Urban Prep Englewood for 2009 indicated that only 39.1% of these students were making expected gains in reading.

    Tara Malone and Darnell Little are effectively allowing themselves to be used in this article as voice of apologists for poor performance, both at a high end school like New Trier and a low end school like Urban Prep. Simply pathetic I would say.

    Rod Estvan

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