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19 Peoria Schools Decline in Performance

Ohanian Comment: Does anyone actually believe that teaching and learning were worse this year than last?

By Clare Jellick

Peoria-- More than half of District 150's schools saw declines in overall student performance this past year, according to school report cards released Monday.

Student test results show 19 of the district's 32 schools performed worse overall than they did the previous year. Twelve schools did better overall, and Washington Gifted School's overall performance stayed the same. Some gains and declines were minimal.

Trouble spots include third grade reading and math, seventh grade science, eighth grade math and eleventh grade math, according to report cards released by the district.

"Of course, I wish our schools that had slipped had improved, but it is an opportunity for us to get better," Superintendent Ken Hinton said. The test results are from school year 2004-05.

Both districts and schools are required by federal law to release report cards, which detail student performance and other educational data. Student performance is gauged through "adequate yearly progress" in reading and math. Schools and districts make AYP if a certain percentage of students meet testing standards. A school or district that doesn't make AYP eventually faces sanctions.

The district as a whole failed to make AYP for the third year in a row. The scores of African-American students, students with disabilities and economically disadvantaged students fell below federal standards.

"We're working diligently to identify the appropriate programs and policies to provide all students the opportunity to perform at their highest level," said district research director Bryan Chumbley.

Nineteen schools made AYP this year and 13 schools did not, the same number as last year. Six middle schools also may have to go through mandated restructuring next year because this is the fifth year they haven't made AYP.

Low blows

Loucks Edison Junior Academy showed the largest decline in overall performance. The percentage of all students meeting or exceeding testing standards dropped from 59 percent in 2004 to about 41 percent this year.

The biggest problem area is math. Students had been making steady gains in the area until scores plummeted this year.

Hinton said leadership and staff changes there have impacted student performance. The school has had three different principals in three years and a number of new teachers. He believes stability will be restored this year.

"Loucks is getting a lot of support, not only from the district but from Edison (Schools)," Hinton said. Edison runs Loucks and three other district schools.

New Loucks principal Gloria Cox said she didn't feel comfortable talking about the scores.

Loucks is one of the six middle schools that will have to restructure next year if its scores don't improve. The others are Blaine-Sumner, Lincoln, Trewyn, White and Sterling middle schools.

Other schools that also saw significant declines overall are Glen Oak Primary School, Hines Primary School, Harrison Primary School, Von Steuben Middle School and Lincoln.

The decline at Von Steuben is surprising, considering its status as one of the best performing district middle schools.

The percentage of all students meeting or exceeding standards dropped about seven percentage points from 2004 to 2005. The biggest decline was in third grade reading.

Von Steuben Principal David Obergfel said he's not too concerned. He said "a slip" in one year doesn't mean the school is doomed. Long-term results are more important.

"There was a dip, but there's always next year to improve that," Obergfel said.

He said the staff will look for ways to improve scores, but they aren't going to ditch tactics that have worked in the past.

Moving on up

Roosevelt Magnet School showed the greatest overall improvement in students' scores. The percentage of all students meeting or exceeding standards increased by nearly 10 percentage points.

As a result, Roosevelt was able to make AYP this year. This is a huge victory for the school because it previously hadn't made AYP for at least two years.

"They did a wonderful job. Roosevelt is a great school, great staff and parents. Roosevelt is doing fine," Hinton said.

The school, however, still faces sanctions for its past performance. A school must make AYP for two years to be in good standing with the federal government. Roosevelt is one of 10 schools in the district that must offer students tutoring and the option to transfer schools.

Rolling Acres Edison Junior Academy also showed significant gains in student achievement this year. The percentage of all students meeting or exceeding standards increased by about 9 percent.

This is the first time reading scores have improved since Rolling Acres became an Edison school in 2001.

"We've celebrated. The teachers here have celebrated our scores," Principal Deloris Turner said.

Other schools that also showed significant improvement overall are Rolling Acres Edison Junior Academy, Charles Lindberg Middle School, Blaine-Sumner Middle School, Whittier Primary School, Kingman Primary School and Woodrow Wilson Primary School.

None of the four high schools made AYP this year, which is the same scenario as last year. Manual and Richwoods showed small decreases in overall performance, while Peoria High showed a small increase and Woodruff stayed about the same.

Peoria Journal Star


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