Seventh-grade language arts and reading teacher Kristin Browne watches over her students as they take a test Monday at Carpentersville Middle School.
Christopher Hankins | Staff Photographer
From Carpentersville to Huntley, elementary schools exceeded state standards this year while high schools and, to a lesser extent, middle schools struggled to keep up.
All elementary schools in Community Unit District 300 and Huntley Unit District 158 received passing grades on this year's state report cards.
Many elementary schools didn't just pass but exceeded the passing threshold by double digits.
In 14 of the 20 elementary schools in the two districts, at least 75 percent of students met or exceeded state benchmarks for reading and math, well above the required 55 percent to be considered passing.
But at the high schools and middle schools, it was a different story this year.
Hampshire High School was the only high school of the four high schools in the two districts to pass this year.
Middle schools did better, although two of them, Heineman in District 158 and Lakewood in District 300, didn't pass this year.
Almost all of the schools that failed this year did so because they could not get every demographic subgroup to meet state standards.
At Jacobs High School, only 28.6 percent of disabled students met reading standards, while just 27.3 percent met math benchmarks.
At Huntley High School, 36.5 percent of Hispanic students met reading standards, while 38.5 percent met math standards.
Dundee-Crown High School was the only high school where the student population as a whole failed to meet state standards.
Only 45 percent of Dundee-Crown students scored at grade level in reading this year, while just 47.6 percent scored at grade level in math.
The middle schools that failed were unable to get their subgroups to meet reading standards.
At Lakewood School, only 41 percent of black students scored at grade level for reading, while just 22.6 percent of disabled students met standards for reading.
At Heineman Middle School, one of two middle schools in District 158, just 36.5 percent of disabled students scored at grade level for reading.
Carole Cooper, director of accountability and assessment in District 300, said the district's overall results are encouraging.
"We're very pleased," Cooper said. "Each year, as the requirements go up, we've been able to meet those requirements."
Cooper credited literacy and math programs at the elementary and middle schools for the high scores at lower grade levels.
"It's our high schools that we need to be putting a lot more emphasis on," Cooper said.
District 300 will launch freshman academies at each of its three high schools next year to help students transition from middle school, Cooper said.
The administration will propose adding department chairs at the high schools to plan curriculum and evaluate staff, Cooper said.
The district as a whole and individual schools will also have to come up with plans to get a higher percentage of students in underperforming subgroups scoring at grade level, Cooper said.
"We have to reduce those achievement gaps with the subgroups," Cooper said. "If we don't target those groups and just do the same thing for everybody, they won't grow."
Mary Olson, director of curriculum and instruction in District 158, said the district needs to build on its successes to meet higher state standards in coming years.
"Those areas where we have very high percentages of kids meeting, we're going to try to focus on not just getting kids meeting but exceeding," Olson said.
While overall improvement must remain a priority, District 158 must focus on improving test scores in its underperforming subgroups, Olson said.
"Yes, we have to always be improving for all students, but we're going to be realistic about what it is we have to do," Olson said.