Ron Shoger teaches an 11th-grade pre-calculus class at St. Charles East High School last week.
Rick West | Staff Photographer
St. Charles East and Geneva high schools can empathize with each other after falling short of federal education standards for the first time in years.
According to state report card data made public today, learning-disabled students at both schools were unable to meet increasingly rigorous testing standards under the No Child Left Behind law this year, while other students continued to achieve above and beyond the government's expectations.
Because of the difficulties of the disabled students, the Geneva school failed to make required "adequate yearly progress" for the first time since 2003; East received a failing grade for the first time.
Administrators said they will try to reverse the trend, but won't be surprised if it continues as long as special-education students are expected to meet the same standards as their regular education classmates.
"You're giving them a goal they can't achieve. I don't know how that helps them," said Jane Gazdziak, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction in the Geneva school district. "These tests make the brightest students perspire."
St. Charles school district Superintendent Donald Schlomann echoed Gazdziak's sentiments, adding he worries about how the public will perceive the grade.
"My worry is that after a school fails -- which now East has failed under a subgroup of 45 students -- what we're trying to accomplish might become less meaningful," he said. "I don't want to lose sight of the good things to the viewpoint of everybody saying, 'Well, it doesn't really matter. My school is already failing.'"
Special education students have legally mandated, individualized education plans that include alternative assessments for advancement, based on their individual abilities. They may be working on life skills, for example, but are forced to take the standardized tests for No Child Left Behind, which test academic skills.
This was the first year there were enough students to qualify for a disabled subgroup at Geneva since 2003, and the first year at East. There were no other subgroups -- defined as 45 or more students in specific race, ability, language and income brackets -- at either school large enough to be drawn out for scrutiny under No Child.
Neither Geneva nor St. Charles East high schools face federal sanctions, such as being forced to offer tutoring, because they have not failed for two consecutive years or more and neither receives federal Title I funds for low-income students.
Outside of those classrooms, students across the Tri-Cities area continued to perform well above the state average, data shows.
Batavia, Kaneland and St. Charles North high schools each made adequate progress with more than this year's required 55 percent of students meeting or exceeding standards. All grade and middle schools in Batavia, Geneva, Kaneland and St. Charles districts succeeded as well, with many classes having 90 percent or more of students making the grade.
"What that tells me is that the district has done a really good job of delivering on the education that the state is looking for," Schlomann said. "But I guess the question for me still is, what is the community looking for? What are the benchmarks they're going to judge success for the school district by?"