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District 218 Sees Slight Bump in Placement Test Scores

Highlights from the District 218 Board of Education meeting on Monday.

District 218 administrators say they're pleased with the modest gains in freshman placement and reading test scores, but are aware that the district and its elementary  “feeder” schools can do better.

During Monday night’s board of education meeting, reports prepared by assistant superintendent Kevin McCaffrey and others were handed to board members.

Most notabe were the results of a 10-year analysis of the EXPLORE test, which compiles scores in four subjects—math, science, English and reading—and collects information about students’ interests, needs and backgrounds to identify their readiness for college and appropriately place them for freshman year.

The results are not homogenous, though an upward trend—however incremental—can be seen. This year’s scores improved in every subject except math and remained stagnant in reading.

“We’ll use it to see who is high risk,” superintendent John Byrne said not just about students but feeder schools, noting that the results need further review to see “if our small learning communities are comparable, or (whether) they’re going down” because kids from certain schools scored better here or there.

Prairie Junior High School in District 126 showed the most improvement in reading over a six-year span. In the same amount of time, Worth Junior High School’s math scores fell furthest.

A midyear progress report that compared reading scores of all the area’s schools between just this fall and spring also was issued. It shows limited improvements among older students with an occasional drop in the scores of younger ones.

For years, board members have been suggesting that District 218 build a larger tutoring network, in which high school students coach younger students and in the process form bonds and set positive examples. In one of the prepared reports, McCaffrey called the request a “noble idea,” but put the responsibility for better tutoring and instruction on elementary schools.

“High school tutors have neither the time nor the expertise to turn around profound reading deficiencies of elementary students,” McCaffrey said. “Teenage tutors are not the answer to the learning difficulties of younger children,” whose inadequacies may stem back even further than elementary school.

Nonetheless, it is a challenge the district and its feeder schools must face together. The assistant superintendent pointed to District 218’s own success with during-school tutoring centers—staffed with licensed math and English teachers, not students—implying that elementary schools might consider the same.

McCaffrey also advocated setting up after-school programs in libraries or recreation centers. He said he’s looking into Crestwood Public Library, Chicago Ridge Public Library and Worth Public Library, and has spoken with the Blue Island Salvation Army with the aid of a retired teacher. The goal is to have something set up by the upcoming fall semester.

“We’re slowly finding out that we get better attendance at libraries in the evening,” Byrne said. “I don’t know if it’s a (time) conflict because most elementary schools get out an hour before us and it’s logistical … so we’ve changed our focus here a little bit.”

Commendations

varsity and junior varsity cheerleading teams and speech team were honored with an official resolution for their recent achievements in state and sectionals. As were Eisenhower High School's varsity speech team and concert band, and Richards High School's varsity speech team and chess team.

Shepard varsity cheerleaders placed third at the Illinois Cheerleading Coaches Association state finals, while junior varsity placed fifth. Shepard's Leah Ellis won the state title for special occasion speaking, and Samm Hilger qualified for the final round in humorous interpretation. This year, the school's speech team won first at the Huntley tournament, first at Fremd and first at Santaburg Oaklaus.

Richards' varsity speech took fifth in state, and the chess team won its 11th consecutive conference championship.

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