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What do you make of the state test score rankings?

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The results are in showing how well students in Illinois fared on standardized tests. When you compare actual scores, as opposed to the percentage of students meeting or exceeding state requirements, Naperville School District 203's Kennedy Junior High in Lisle had the state's highest-ranking middle school outside of Chicago. (No. 7 overall.)

Madison Junior High also cracked the top 50, according to the Sun-Times criteria. Among elementary schools, Highlands in 203 was No. 13 and Clow in Indian Prairie School District 204 was No. 41.

Three Naperville High Schools made the top 50: Central at No. 12, North at No. 18 and Neuqua Valley at No. 24.

Naperville takes pride in all its schools. Did the number of schools ranked in the top 50 meet your expectations? Do you wish more schools were ranked, and ranked higher? Or do these rankings validate the excellence of Naperville schools? Do rankings like this matter much at all, anyway?


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24 Comments

"If you want to see your kids schools test scores go up, turn off the TV's, take the computers out of the bedrooms, be realistic about their future in the sports world, and be home to make sure they're studying!"

Gee thanks for telling me how to raise MY kid. My kids have TV's in their rooms, access to laptops they can take to their rooms if they wish and play travel sports. Guess what. They are also straight A students and constantly score well on the standardized test. Oh yea, they play video games as well.

If you want to see your kids schools test scores go up, turn off the TV's, take the computers out of the bedrooms, be realistic about their future in the sports world, and be home to make sure they're studying! If you're already doing this, you're part of the solution, if you're not, you're part of the problem. Some things in life don't change. The amount of time a student (without special circumstances), puts in, is reflected in the grades and test scores. It's time we stopped blaming the schools and teachers and started to take care of what is within our control - our kids and their study habits. The reason the US spends the most and gets the least in outcome should not be misinterpreted as the fault of not enough funding, poor teachers or outdated curriculum, it's the fault of parents not keeping their eyes on the prize. Get realistic about your kids future in sports. Very few play at the Div. 1 level in college, and that's ok, as long as they have a strong future in academics. Sports and extracurriculars have, and should have a very important place in kids lives, but academics must come first. If you want to see how the schools at the top do it, find out. I think you will see some of the top athletes are also top in academics. It is possible. But you won't likely see those kids sitting online at night chatting, and they will be the ones most likely to NOT have the TV directory memorized. Kids, and some adults, want it all - all at the same time. This is the time in their lives, we, as parents, have the opportunity to teach them the virtues of patience, perseverance and success.

To Anonymous on November 6, 2008 10:09 AM--

Perhaps you're misunderstanding my comments. My "end of story" post was referring to the first post on this tread and the discussions that followed. I don't know if that first anon was you, but it stated that private and parochial schools needed to be added to the mix with public schools when being evaluated. I took that as meaning all lumped together for comparison. Others indicated that "legacy admissions" would help offset the testing admission requirements of schools such as Benet, leveling the playing field for comparison with public institutions. It couldn't possibly. This post stated "Another local school Benet Academy reported their ACT scores last summer and totally blew all area HS's out of the water in comparison, yet no one commented on this." I would EXPECT Benet students to exceed public school students on the ACT, they use admissions testing that does screen for many of the best and brightest, at least this is what many of the parents of its students tell me. So how can a comparison between Benet and a public HS possibly give any useful information? How can comparing test scores between, say, a 203 high school and an alternative school for the handicapped or kids with behavioral problems possibly have any meaning? It doesn't. This just looks like lazy journalism.

I also understand that, while private schools use admission testing, not all schools use these tests simply to screen for the best students. Some don't have that luxury, as they have seats to fill. I learned that first hand when we had our child in private school in Texas prior to moving here. My best friend, a teacher herself, had her child enrolled in a private school with a good local reputation. There was an admission test that her daughter scored highly on, and even tho she was a latecomer and the school claimed full enrollment, she was readily admitted. We were surprised when we found out later that many of her peers were low-performing students; their parents had placed them in private school because they were failing in the public ones and needed the extra structure and discipline a private school setting provided. These students teased my friend's daughter because of her good grades, so she began to dummy down to fit in. You can imagine the problems that caused. My daugher was at a smaller and lesser known private school, and when I discussed this with parents and teachers there, no one claimed to have had any of those problems. Obviously these two schools used the information gleaned from the admission tests in different ways and one had more flexible admission criteria which considered the school's need to fill seats as well. Even what appears to be comparable is not.

Everyone in 204 knows that both its high schools are on academic watch. Many claim the problem is the NCLB criteria. Neuqua is one of those schools that makes extraordinary efforts to mainstream its special ed population; many think this is where the problem lies. I don't know about Waubonsie. NCLB may force 204 schools to change the way they handle their special needs students in the future, just like it has forced other schools to throw more resources into its ESL populations. I wonder how Naperville Central handles these students.

To What Really Matters on November 5, 2008 9:54 PM--

Regarding the ACT, you and Anonymous better let the 2008 school report card website know. They state otherwise, saying private and parochial schools do not take standarized tests. This implies that they don't count ACTs or SATs as standarized performance tests but just as college admissions tests. You're wasting your time arguing it with me; check out the website for yourself.

Thanks for the links, I'll check them out later. However, this doesn't change my basic premise--which is simply it is useless to compare schools with admission requirements to schools without, and to make claims as to which schools are better educators based on student scores. You're drawing comparisons between two different animals. One has to keep this in mind when reviewing these kind of reports; it's unfortunate the authors of these reports don't.

As for colleges evaluating high schools, we're in the thick of all this now as we're in the college admission process. I believe colleges evaluate MANY criteria in accepting applicants. I doubt it often comes down to as simple a process as "this kid is equal to that kid, take the one from the better rated high school". As you said, high school information is just another factor; it is not THE factor. We're not worried about it.

"To debate whether these schools should be lumped together in these rankings is absurd; they have fundamental differences that would make any comparisons meaningless. As I said, end of story."

No, not the end of the story, not by far, not just because you say so and not just because you are flip/flopping on this issue.

Between Cook and the collar counties there are at least 200-250 private and parochial high schools plus an even larger number of elementary and middle schools. Some of these schools have admissions testing, some do not. Some of these schools would love to fill 100% of their available seats, and while it appears at face value that they have admission testing, reality is that they will often admit students who are willing to pay the tuition.

Also included in the listing of "private" high schools are "alternative" high schools operated by many public school districts throughout the metro region. Such "alternative" high schools can and do include high schools specializing in special education as well as other alternative high school formats such as for low performing students, students at risk of dropping out, etc. Many of these alternative schools have the exact opposite of a "cream of the crop" student population. Some school districts like SD 204 take extraordinary measures to mainstream as many of these students as possible while other school districts take deliberate measures to segregate these students in their own facilities. How come there is no outcry that it isn't fair to SD's like 203 and 204 to be compared against the high schools in these other school districts that wipe out the bottom tier(s) of their poorest performing or underperforming students?

"There should be separate rankings for schools with admission requirements and those without." Well, now you've come around to the other side, glad to see your opinion has changed. Welcome!. The original article was misleading and any time rankings have to be clarified with footnotes it generally means all things are not equal.

I just find it intellectually shallow for a major newspaper to allude to analysis of all students in the state, when in the listing of the results of the analysis appears to more correctly include all of the public school students in the state. I also find it intellectually shallow for a major newspaper to include public high schools in such a ranking that operate with 100% admission testing requirements while excluding similar private schools. If the public schools can be identified with a simple asterisk next to their name then so can the private schools. If the newspaper wants to develop separate lists for non-admission testing vs admission based testing, that would also be acceptable.

People these days want truthful, unbiased news and in this regard the article failed miserably.

While we are talking about academic excellence and the data produced by our Illinois State Board of Education let's not forget that Naperville Central is the only local HS that has earned the status of "Academic Excellence" on the Illinois State Board of Education Report Card. Troubling is that it's sister school received the "Academic Early Warning Status" and even more troubling is that both 204 high schools are on the "Academic Watch Status". If 3 out of 4 of our local high schools can not or will not meet the "Adequate Yearly Progress" defined by state and federal law we should all be concerned about the level of quality that both of our school districts are delivering. If the students and staff of Naperville Central are capable of achieving "Academic Excellence" should not all of the other 3 of our local high schools also be capable of earning this same status? Should not a truly "work class" school district be able to receive high marks in every category, not just some?

By the way, here is the link to the Benet profile that accompanies information provided by schools with college admissions.

http://www.benet.org/teachers/awesley/Profile_front_and_back.doc

The following is Central's.

http://schools.naperville203.org/central/about/index.asp

You can compare.

He What The?

For your information, the standardized test for public high schools is the ACT, so I think it is possible to compare schools.

A little reality. Colleges, particularly the highly selective schools, constantly evaluate high schools in their admissions process. If there are two "equal" applicants (I do not know how two people can EVER be equal)and only one can be admitted, then the college will admit the student from the higher rated high school.

The colleges that rate high schools go by more than state test scores. They evaluate the cirriculum, the faculty, and the performance of past students who came from these schools. I know that a major portion of the Benet counseling program is for the college counselers to periodially meet with the top universities on a rotational basis and provide them with details of the school. Since highly selective schools REJECT between 80% and 93% of all applicants, current information on high schools is just another factor. College admissions officers do not have the time to evaluate schools as they pour through thousands of applications.

These ratings do not mean anything, the college ratings are more important. Parents should check to see what their schools are doing to promote opportunity for graduates.

To Anonymous on November 5, 2008 4:23 PM--

"Benet CAN turn low performing students away, public schools CANNOT. Any comparison between the two is meaningless. End of story."

No, correct. I'm perfectly aware that magnet schools have admission requirements as mentioned in other comments above. Any school that screens its student body, whether public, parochial or magnet cannot logically be compared to a public school that must take all comers, whether they be low-performing, ELS or learning disabled. Notice I said "Benet, et al." This referred to all varieties of admission requirement schools. There should be separate rankings for schools with admission requirements and those without. Things like legacy admissions would not level the playing field. To debate whether these schools should be lumped together in these rankings is absurd; they have fundamental differences that would make any comparisons meaningless. As I said, end of story.

And every private and parochial school student that you know also takes standardized tests? I was passing this info from the school report card website; they claim otherwise so take it up with them. And I hope you're not referring to SATs or ACTs, which of course all private and parochial students take. These are college admission tests, not school performance tests.


"Benet CAN turn low performing students away, public schools CANNOT. Any comparison between the two is meaningless. End of story."

Incorrect and not the end of the story. Chicago Public Schools turn students away from their magnet schools who do not meet their admission requirements.

It is illogical to include public schools with admission restrictions and exclude public or parochial schools with similar or lower admission restrictions.

Ant then to top it all of infer from the title and opening paragraphs in the news article that the author analyzed all students in the state.

We all recognize there are differences between private, public, and parochial schools. However the authors either need to include all when they claim all or do a better job of explaining what all means.

And yes, every private and parochial school student that I know also takes standardized tests.

To those of you who are asking what happened to WVHS...well, since the two schools are exactly identical, then they must have just left WVHS out in order to save newsprint. See, that's why a student should be indifferent about which D204 HS they attend. They're all equal. Only an elitist or a racist would think otherwise.

Anonymous,

You're absolutely right. I don't have a problem with making these lists, though, as long as we're very careful about the conclusions we draw from them.

-JQP

To John Q. Public on November 4, 2008 11:21 AM

Do private schools even take the ISAT's or the PSAE's? If so, are their scores a matter of public record?

From the 2008 School Report Card website: "Private and parochial schools do not take standardized achievement tests".

And to all of you rationalizing that Benet, et al., should be included in these rankings, there is simply no way that private and parochial schools which selectively take the cream of the crop through admissions testing can be compared to public schools that must admit all students regardless of ability. All this talk about legacies, etc., is beside the point. Benet CAN turn low performing students away, public schools CANNOT. Any comparison between the two is meaningless. End of story.


With flat to declining enrollment and a doubling of taxes, should the test scores have gone up?

Some comments on the various schools. The college prep HS’s in Chicago are 100% academic testing admissions based. Benet is also a 100% academic testing admissions based HS, but allows legacy children to post a lower grade to be enrolled. Legacies are not guaranteed admission. Kennedy and Highlands are public schools that take each and every student that lives within the schools boundaries however they also have a fairly small population of PI plus students who are the top academic performers from all over in D203.

So along with taking all comers, D203 schools also have special ed and english as a second language students. I will all but guarantee that neither the Chicago college prep schools nor Benet have either.

As far as some of the comments regarding the lack of test reporting on private and parochial schools, public schools are required to take specific tests and report the results to the public. Private and parochial schools are exempt from the NCLB requirements so they are not required to either take the tests or report them. I think that all private and parochial HS’s have their students take the ACT or SAT. I’m unsure what, if any, tests middle and elementary school students take.

Further, the information provided by the Sun is one data point. Qe203.org did a detailed analysis of a number of studies regarding public schools. Link here:

http://www.qe203.org/20080205referendum/costperformance_mediasurvey.shtml

I need to update the Illinois report card information with the 2008 data.

The state report cards have a ton of useful information, this is D203’s:

http://webprod.isbe.net/ereportcard/publicsite/getReport.aspx?year=2008&code=190222030_e.pdf

JQP,

Following your logic all of the chicago public schools that use admission testing should not be ranked and compared with all of the schools like 203 and 204 HS's which do not have admissions testing.

Goes back to the fine point of the headline of the article and who is really being tested and who is really being compared.

Anonymous,

If you want to compare test results at Benet to those from high schools in District 203 and 204 (none of which are magnet schools), then the fact that SOME students from Benet are not admitted on merit IS irrelevant. Merit-based admission is a fact for a very substantial number of students at Benet, but is not a factor in 203 and 204. This makes any comparison between the two an apples to oranges comparison.

-JQP

Anonymous on November 4, 2008 2:41 PM

Anonymous, you miss my point completely - no can of worms necessary. I have no doubt that you can / will produce all of the numbers you mention - graduation rates, % going to college, etc. You will always have a higher number when comparing private schools to public schools - Benet has about 1300 students while each of the aurora / Naperville schools have around 2500 - 3000 (10-12k total for the math challenged). If you take great delight in pointing this out to everyone please go ahead. Remember that the numbers you give will be a macro number for all students attending that particular school.

What I am referring to is that when you apply to a college (U of I, NIU, COD, North Central, Harvard, UCLA, etc.) the admissions office will not ask you anything other than how YOU did on the SAT, ACT, etc. They will NOT ask (Or factor in) the fact that your particular high school averaged a 28 on the ACT, or that the graduation rate is 99%, etc. They only care about the individual students performance. When comparing Benet's 1300 students with 203/204 you will always have a higher score - how's that for a compliment?

I believe that people who constantly discuss entire school averages run the risk of overlooking the individual student. I'm sure you are already compiling the comparisons between Benet and the rest of the 203 and 204 schools which completely misses my point. Why don't you call Benet and ask the administration if their students took this particular test, and what the average was for them. You can then present it to those of us stuck in 203 / 204 and further prove the point how much better your school is.

With the "No Child Left Behind Act" coming into the final stages of testing for "knowledge;" people need to realize that many school systems have become quite "creative" as to what groups of students are tested and whose scores are reported for the "Bragging Rights" as to which schools are truly the best.

JQP,
"It may be fair to point this out, but it is also largely irrelevant. Benet still bases admissions for the majority of it's students on test scores; public high schools (at least, those in the Naperville area) do not."

No this is not irrelevant. What is relevant is that Benet does not know for sure, from year to year, how many applicants will be legacy students nor does Benet limit the number of such legacy students in any given year... it simply varies from year to year. And despite this yearly variation Benet is still able to consistently perform at an extremely high level and outperform any other area schools.

It is a fact that legacy students can gain admission without achieving anything close to the same admission test scores required of non-legacy students. Another fact is that available openings for incoming freshmen are filled by qualified legacy students first, only then are the remaining positions filled based upon test score. In fact there is a greater diversity of student abilities represented at a school like Benet than at any one of the 4 Chicago public schools that landed in the top 10 of this report that actually restrict admissions to 100 percent of incoming students to test score results.

There is an enormous difference between a simple majority and 100 percent.

JT,

Ok, you opened this can of worms. Let's talk about the individual student. Let's talk about graduation rates, drop out rates, percent that go on to college, percent that graduate college, scholarships, national honor society membership, etc, etc., etc. All schools private, public, and parochial track these numbers, but I'm not sure anyone who knows these numbers for 203 or 204 is ready to start bragging about their performance with any of these numbers.

What happened to Waubonsie?

Keep in mind that colleges do not accept students based on the individual schools (or districts) GPA, ACT, SAT, test scores. They accept students based on that particular students individual performance on the test along with other criteria (essays, interviews, community involvement). So while it's nice to talk about school districts, and individual schools, it is really each student we should be focused and concerned with.

There are those, however, like Anonymous above (Anonymous on November 4, 2008 9:29 AM) who wrote, "There are those who like to brag about Naperville schools regardless of performance. I guess it make them feel good and makes it seem like all the money we pay for our schools through our taxes is worthwhile".

It's ironic, anonymous, that you criticize us for "bragging" about our schools and then you spend so much effort pointing out and bragging in your own way that New Trier and Benet are so much better. I know, I know, you'll simply point out that the test does not measure every student etc. But it makes me wonder if you are trying to convince us, or perhaps yourself that the extra money you spend on private schools is worth it?

Again, if you are looking to brag about your schools scores go right ahead, I'll simply focus on the kids individually and try to encourage them to be the best they can.

Anonymous wrote:

"Yes, Benet Academy does have admission testing but before dismissing their results and success in that light it is also fair to point out that like most private schools Benet does have a legacy policy which allows students who do not pass the normal admission testing requirements to attend if a parent or sibling also attended Benet."

It may be fair to point this out, but it is also largely irrelevant. Benet still bases admissions for the majority of it's students on test scores; public high schools (at least, those in the Naperville area) do not.

I agree with your point that we do not get a full picture of school performance unless we include private schools, but I get the impression that you seem to think the failure to report this information is the fault of the Sun-Times. Do private schools even take the ISAT's or the PSAE's? If so, are their scores a matter of public record?

A couple of comments

1. You and the Sun Times need to correct your listing regarding Highlands and Kennedy schools. These schools use testing to enroll a portion of their students. They need an asterisk like the Chicago schools.

2. These test results are inferior to those from ten years ago. Today, they only report the percentage of the students who meet grade average. Previously, the weighted average score was reported. So you might have two schools that have 85% of its students MEETING the grade level. In the old days, one of the schools students ON AVERAGE would be performing two grade levels ahead of the mean, the other one month ahead.

Are both schools equal. Don't think so. It is unfortunate that this measure was dropped. Average is not the goal of 50% of the population.

3. Saying the above, there is too much emphasis on testing and not enough on adapting curriculum to changing demands. Further, all students should be challenged to their ability, not simply settle for AVERAGE. That is why Bob Schieffer stated in the last Presidential debate that US spends the most on education and has one of the worst outcomes of all industrial societies.

"The Sun-Times analyzed the reading and math scores of every third through eighth grader in the state, as well as every public high school junior." Really, every third through eighth grader in the state?

Once again we have a news article that is very slanted and misleading in that it did not truly analyze all students, only public school students. Students who attend private or parochial schools were excluded from this allegedly all encompassing analysis.

Until private and parochial schools are included in the mix none of the public schools will really know with any degree of certainty where they really sit on any of these ranking. At the elementary school and middle school level the vast majority of private and parochial schools do not make admission decisions based upon test scores. However, just like the Chicago Public Schools use tests to select some or all students and the results flag such schools with an asterisk the same can and should be done for private and parochial schools.

There are those who like to brag about Naperville schools regardless of performance. I guess it make them feel good and makes it seem like all the money we pay for our schools through our taxes is worthwhile. Reflecting on some realities though... New Trier has been a powerhouse of good education for over 50 years. In this latest round of test results New Trier hit 84.49 with general admission students just like 203 and 204 and were only beat out by admissions test students at 2 Chicago city schools. In comparison our local test scores were 75.17 at NCHS, 73.24 at NNHS, and 70.54 at NVHS. Not sure what happened to WVHS... too bad to even report? Yet anywhere from 9.32 to 13.95 percentage points lower among these three local HS's. That is a huge percentage difference not made any easier by the fact that some local schools improved while others worsened.

Another local school Benet Academy reported their ACT scores last summer and totally blew all area HS's out of the water in comparison, yet no one commented on this. Benet Academy students, on average, scored 3 points higher than the very best of our local HS's on the ACT. Yes, Benet Academy does have admission testing but before dismissing their results and success in that light it is also fair to point out that like most private schools Benet does have a legacy policy which allows students who do not pass the normal admission testing requirements to attend if a parent or sibling also attended Benet. In that same light, 4 out of the top 10 public high schools have admission testing policies so that hardly is valid or logical reason to exclude private or parochial schools from being included in these rankings.

Students are students. Performance is performance. We are misleading ourselves needlessly when we choose to only look at a certain slice of the data when performing these kinds of comparisons. None of us really knows the total and true nature of the performance of all of our schools and all of our students until we look at all of the data. Every student, every parent, every teacher, every principal, every school board deserves to have access to better, more accurate, and more complete data.

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