Some Austin school test scores on the rise

November 7, 2011
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Not one Austin school hit the federal Annual Yearly Progress mark, but overall test scores have risen, according to the 2011 Illinois Report Cards the state released last week.

Austin is not the only neighborhood that missed AYP, however.

This year, 98.5 percent of high schools statewide along with six of every 10 elementary and middle schools fell short of the federal requirements for reading and math, the Chicago Tribune reported.

To make this year’s AYP, as part of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, 85 percent of students at a school had to demonstrate on either the Illinois Standards Achievement Test —  taken by third through eighth graders — or the Prairie State Achievement Examination — taken by  11th graders — to be reading and doing math at grade level.

More than half of the Austin-area’s 29 schools with available data had at least 50 percent of students meeting or exceeding grade-level requirements.

Two schools, Sayre Elementary Language Academy, 1850 N. Newland Ave., and George Rogers Clark Elementary, 1045 S. Monitor Ave., were about 5 percentage points shy of AYP.

“The scores are not where we want them to be, but the schools are making improvements,” said Dwayne Truss, a member of the South Austin Community Coalition.

Overall, “the scores are going up,” Truss said.

Five Austin elementary schools — Brunson Math and Science Specialty, Emmet, Howe, May Elementary Community Academy and Spencer Elementary Math and Science Academy – received Illinois’ Academic Improvement Award.

The schools received the award for having an upward trend in test scores for at least three years. They also had a 7.5 point increase this year or a 15-point increase in test scores over the past two years, according to the Illinois Interactive Report Card’s web site.

May Principal Roger Lewis said the school is proud of its efforts to increase test scores. But, he added, there is “much further to go to make sure the needs of all students are met.”

Last year, May had about 51 percent of students meeting or exceeding state standards on the ISAT. This year, the percentage rose to 57.8 percent.

Lewis said teachers and administrators spent “quite a bit of time” talking with students, so they know where they stand academically and what they need to do to improve.

“It becomes a partnership,” Lewis said.

Despite rising test scores, Austin schools are not in the clear.

The high schools were among the lowest performers in the area.

Only 5 percent of students at Marshall and Austin Business and Entrepreneurship Academy were performing at grade-level, according to the schools’ PSAE results.

The highest-performing high school was Prosser Career Academy, just outside the Austin neighborhood, with 34 percent of students reading and doing math at grade level.

Nine of the 29 schools received an “Academic Early Warning Status” from the state. The status means the schools did not make AYP for two consecutive years and are eligible for state sanctions.

More than 70 percent of Austin’s schools are on a more severe “Academic Watch Status”. This status means the schools failed to make AYP for two additional years after being placed on Academic Early Warning, or four annual calculations of missing AYP, and are eligible for additional state sanctions.

Truss said the state’s academic status system is a “paper tiger” that has “no teeth.”

“Chicago schools have their own rules,” Truss said.

Chicago is responsible for actions against the school, not the state, Truss said.

Donald Moore, executive director at Design for Change, an organization that studies urban educational reforms, said one key reason more improvement is not happening in Austin is that many schools in the area as well as other West Side and South Side neighborhoods are under probation by Chicago’s Board of Education.

“Their local school councils and principals don’t have the flexibility to improve the schools if a school is on probation,” Moore said.

Under probation, schools are not permitted to develop their own academic plans and budget, and may lose the right to choose their own principal, Moore said.

There are currently about 300 Chicago schools on probation, Moore said.

School Name School Type Enrollment % Low-Income 2010 meets or exceeds (%) 2011 meets or exceeds (%)
Armstrong, L Elementary Math & Science Elementary 112 100 46 55
Austin Bus & Entrepreneurship High School High 393 96 10 5
Austin Polytechnical Academy High School High 362 83 7 9
Brunson Math & Science Specialty Elementary Elementary 650 98 54 59
Catalyst Circle Rock Elementary School Elementary 491 92 N/A 71
Clark Academy Prep Magnet High School High 969 88 15 15
Clark G R Elementary School Elementary 294 91.7 74 81
Douglass Academy High School High 485 92 3 11
Emmet Elementary School Elementary 492 99 70 74
Ford Power House Charter High 373 94 N/A 10
Hay Elementary Community Academy Elementary 573 97 59 65
Howe Elementary School Elementary 587 98 67 72
Key Elementary School Elementary 329 99 44 63
KIPP Ascend Elementary Charter School Elementary 430 91 69 71
Leland Elementary School Elementary 181 97 71 77
Lewis Elementary School Elementary 647 99 47 54
Locke, J Elementary School Elementary 1291 87 72 76
Lovett Elementary School Elementary 475 93 66 72
May Elementary Community Academy Elementary 508 98 51 58
Marine Military High School High 380 92 28 35
Marshall Metropolitan High School High 921 78 3 5
McNair Elementary School Elementary 490 98 55 61
Nash Elementary School Elementary 450 98 51 62
Orr Academy High School High 1238 85 7 10
Prosser Career Academy High School High 1405 88 28 34
Raby High School High 560 95 14 10
Sayre Elementary Language Academy Elementary 611 71 80 81
Spencer Elementary Math & Science Academy Elementary 791 99 58 62
Young Elementary School Elementary 1217 97 59 68

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