OLCHS Students Get Left Behind

Oak Lawn Community High School fails to meet the 'No Child Left Behind' law but so has 656 of the state's 666 public high schools.

For a second consecutive year, has failed to meet the requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind law, but so have 656 of Illinois’ 666 public high schools.

As part of the state’s accountability requirements Dist. 229 released its report card last week for its sole school that is available for viewing on the OCLHS website. (Patch has also uploaded the report.) Included in the report card are test scores, finance data and other information that detail the district’s performance.

Grade 11 students are required take the Prairie State Achievement Examination, the standardized test that is used to measure students’ performance. Under NCLB guidelines, 85 percent of students must be proficient in reading, math and science.

Overall, OLCHS saw in students’ test scores dip. A D229 press release stated that information in its most recent report card “represents a small fraction of the total evaluation process for our students in regular and special education, and it is within this context that the results should be viewed.”

This past year, about half of Illinois’ 11th-graders, who took the PSAE, scored at or above the 85 percent benchmark; only 46.6 percent of Oak Lawn students met this benchmark in 2010-11 standardized PSAE.

PSAE Test Scores

OLCHS 2009-10

State 2009-10

OCLHS 2010-11

State Avg. 2010-11





Dr. Michael Riordan, the D229 superintendent and principal, said the dips in test scores were expected because of procedural changes in the test’s administration.

In previous years students that had not passed required courses or didn’t have enough credits to advance to grade 11 were withheld from testing until they achieved grade 11-status.

 “Those students in the past used to be tested in a makeup test in the fall,” Riordan said. “Now the state requires all those students to be taking the test during the spring. It caused us to test some kids that otherwise would not have been part of that calculation.”

Oak Lawn’s graduation rate also decreased from 93 percent in 2009-2010 to 85 percent in 2010-11. The state average is 83 percent.

Riordan said this wasn’t unique to Oak Lawn Community High School because the state used to make exceptions for students that didn’t make credit requirements in four years or transferred to the high school already behind in credits.

“The state got much more strict with this,” he said. “Hopefully this is a one-year dip in the percentage of graduates. Things didn’t change but the calculation changed for us.”

Because the high school has failed to meet AYP or academic yearly progress, Oak Lawn is in its second year of “correction action planning status.”

Riordan also assumed the role of principal in addition to being the D229 superintendent.

“We have a very comprehensive and aggressive school improvement plan that was developed over the course of the last year using resources provided by the state,” Riordan said. “We are implementing that plan this year and will continue to do so next year.”

D229 also spent more money per student in the 2009-2010 school year than the state average.

Spending per student


District 229


Operational Spending



Instructional Spending



In February, the Illinois State Board of Education plans to seek a waiver from some of the law’s provisions now that President Obama has authorized states to seek exemptions if they commit to reform efforts.

Specifically, the state wants an exemption from the requirement that all students must pass standardized reading and math tests by 2014.

At the end of the day, Riordan said there are a lot of different ways that students demonstrate academic growth. While the NLCB law is well-intentioned, it doesn’t take into account students’ different learning styles or special needs.

“What’s more important is looking at how kids are doing year to year,” he said. “The issue for our high school and most schools is that everything comes down to just one test on one day and everything is based just on that. I’m not saying it isn’t valuable it’s just one piece of the puzzle.

“My concern is more about the growth of different kids as opposed to meeting some arbitrary line in the sand.”

Jim Vondracek November 11, 2011 at 06:35 PM
My oldest son graduated from Richards and received a great education and preparation for college, where he is thriving with a 4.0 grade point average.
OakLawnGuy November 11, 2011 at 07:50 PM
"No Child Left Behind" was borne of a standard established in Texas by then-Gov. (W) Bush. It was controversial in that state due to "tailoring" standards, and that continues now. The formulas were changed before last school year. Many of the standards are "no-win", and that's the oponion of some of the country's best educational minds. Richards and OLCHS are like hundreds of other schools in the area: they have the staff and resources available so that if any kid wants to succeed, he/she can. You get out of it what you put into it.
Frank March November 11, 2011 at 08:14 PM
Desire and accomplishment come from within the soul of the student .My son graduated from Oak Lawn HS and is now attending Ivy League Brown University ( ranked 15 in the nation ) . He had offers and scholrships from Notre Dame , U of Chicago , Rice , and Georgetown . So , I can say that the quality of education at OLCHS is there for the taking . It was top notch in his case. The teachers in Honors program are excellent . Mr. Riordan and Mr. McCurdy are the most conscientious educators. With proper family support , it comes down to the students Desire to excel .
CJM November 13, 2011 at 06:14 PM
Education is a team sport. Of course the student has to have desire and ability to begin with, but the parents and teachers have a very important motivational role. AYP is one of those pretzel logic concepts to me, and by the fact that 656 of 666 schools fail, it shows what a ridiculous measuring standard that has become. While true this is "one day" as the admin tries to spin, all the other schools had the same "one day". I agree that opportunity for the GT student population resides within the walls of OLCHS, Test scores on the standardized tests don't lie. If the downward spiral continues, we are going to see the parents and students with that desire spoken of previously leave District 229 behind.
nursing student November 13, 2011 at 06:20 PM
I have to agree with Mr. March. I went to school and was friends with his son, although a year older than him, I too valued my education and OLCHS. I loved that school, and the teachers that I had personally were great. I was ranked in the top of my class, and received numerous scholarship opportunities. After having a 4.0 for 2 1/2 years at MVCC, I now attend one of the top nursing schools in the country and am grateful for the education I received in high school. If people actually did research into standardized testing, they would see that they are such shams. They are barely reliable, and aren't even academically reliable enough to be used in college research papers. How much effort you put towards your education will determine how much you get back from it. I went to school with a lot of slackers, and it's because of those people that our overall average as a school was low, not because of the students who actually try were not intelectual. My brother's girlfriend is a teacher and Argo, and because of the no child left behind act she can't fail students who can't even read or right at their high school level. No I am not making things up, I have seen some of the homework her students have turned in. It's unbelievable to me that there are students being passed who have the academic equivalency of a toddler. This is our future we are talking about. What is going to happen when these students can't get into college or have a career? Thanks government they are screwed.


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