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D. 202 closes achievement gap more than four similar districts — Well positioned for new national/state accountability system

District 202 has made more progress closing the “achievement gap” between its white and minority students than four nearby districts with similar demographics.

What’s more, the district’s emphasis on serving the needs of its increasingly diverse population has also resulted in higher academic achievement for all of its racial and socioeconomic subgroups.

Dr. Carmen Ayala, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction presented updated student achievement data highlighting the results of work since 2004 to improve student academic achievement at the Board of Education’s June 11, 2012 regular meeting.

The data also suggest District 202 is already well poised for the expected changes to the national and state academic accountability system, Ayala said.

However, the news isn’t all good: the economic recession, which has forced the district to cut about 360 full-time teaching, support staff and administrative positions since 2009 appears to have impacted student achievement – and may not bode well for the near future.

The presentation included overviews of academic achievement in both reading and math – the two areas measured by the national No Child Left Behind Act — for white; black; Hispanic; Limited English Proficient; special education and low income students; and for all students, between 2004 and 2011. (Results from this past spring’s standardized assessments will be available later this summer.)

It also shows how District 202 students fared compared to students from Naperville District 203, Indian Prairie District 204, Valley View District 365 (Romeoville and Bolingbrook) and Oswego District 308. All have similar demographics, and/or experienced relatively-significant enrollment growth since 2004.

OVERALL ACHIEVEMENT UP SIGNIFICANTLY

Overall, District 202 reading scores increased by 18.2 percentage points, and its math scores jump by 20.3 percentage points between 2004 and 2011 – by far the largest increase among the comparison districts.

Across the board, the data show significant improvement in standardized test scores for all of the identified subgroups.

“This is important to note, because there has been some concern in our community that our focus on better serving all students would somehow negatively impact other students, and the data clearly show that is not the case,” Ayala said.

In several cases, District 202 students had the lowest scores in 2004, and saw those scores rise to be the highest, or among the highest during this seven-year period.

For example, only 43.1 percent of black students met state reading standards in 2004 – the lowest among the five comparison districts. However, in 2010, 74.4 percent of black students met reading standards, the highest among the five districts. The 74.4 percent dropped to 70.4 percent in 2011, but even that score was second only to Indian Prairie’s 71.5 percent.

District 202 had the most overall growth in percent of students meeting reading standards in four of the six racial and socioeconomic subgroups indicated among the comparison districts – black, Hispanic, white, Limited English Proficient and special education.

In math, District 202 had the most overall growth in percent of students meeting standards in five of the six subgroups – black, Hispanic, white, special education and low income.

“The data show what we’ve been saying for years – that District 202 is a progressive, visionary learning community and educational leader,” Ayala said.

ACHIEVEMENT GAP CLOSING

Likewise, District 202 did a better job closing the “achievement gap” between its white and black students, and black and Hispanic students than its comparison districts.

Eight years ago, white students in District 202 outscored black students in reading by about 23 percentage points. In 2011, the “gap” between white and black student reading scores had closed to about 15 percentage points – the lowest among the comparison districts.

The gap between whites and Hispanics in reading in 2004 was about 15 percentage points, and dropped by 2011 to 13.2 percentage points.

The greatest decrease in the achievement gap for reading, however, was seen between blacks and Hispanics – from 8.2 percentage points in 2004 (the largest among the comparison districts at that time) to 1.5 percentage points in 2011, which is the smallest among the comparison districts.

District 202 students had similar success in math. White students’ math scores in 2004 outpaced those of black students by 25.1 percentage points. That gap closed to 13.4 percentage points in 2011 – the lowest among the comparison districts.

The achievement gap in math between whites and Hispanics in 2004 was 15.3 percentage points, the lowest among the comparison districts. It shrunk even further in 2011 to 9.7 percentage points.

Finally, the difference between black and Hispanic students’ math scores in 2004 was 9.8 percentage points, and fell to only 3.7 percentage points in 2011, the lowest among the comparison districts.

MORE “BANG FOR THE BUCK”

Ayala emphasized that this academic improvement happened during the height of District 202’s growth and community change. From 2004 to 2011, District 202 grew by 10,387 students – 56 percent. Only Oswego came close, growing by 67 percent, adding 6,520 students.

At the same time, District 202’s white population dropped from 76 percent to 59 percent – a 17 percentage point shift, equal only to Valley View District 365.

What’s more, District 202 spent less per student in both 2004 and 2011 than any of the comparison districts except for Oswego.

During that same time, the difference between the lowest per-student expenditure (Oswego) and the highest (Naperville), was $1,668. Seven years later, that “spending gap” increased to $2,620 (also between Oswego and Naperville).

Both the radical increase in total enrollment and the significant shift in community demographics and resources brought unique academic challenges that most school districts are only now starting to face, Ayala said.

Yet, even as District 202 was building new schools and hiring hundreds of new staff to accommodate thousands of new students, it was also creating an educational system that gave more and better access to a rigorous curriculum to more students, and better supports for learning.

“We are getting more ‘bang for our buck’ because of the systems and supports we have created that challenge and support all of our students to do their best in the classroom, and because of the tremendous work and dedication of our teachers and staff,” Ayala said.

THE FUTURE

Thanks to the work done since 2004 on the district’s teaching and learning system, District 202 already seems well positioned for the changes coming to the national academic measurement and accountability system, Ayala said.

The NCLB act is expected to be replaced by a more flexible tool that better reflects student growth, while still demanding academic rigor. The NCLB act is a more rigid accountability system requiring an arbitrary 7.5 percentage points of growth annually.
However, the data also show another picture that is not as encouraging – that of the impact of the weakened economy on District 202.

For the most part, District 202 student achievement has declined slightly, but measurably since about 2009 – when the district began cutting staff and programs to address operating fund deficits.

District 202’s reading test scores improved by 19.7 percentage points from 2004-2009, but by 18.2 percentage points from 2004-2011. Likewise, math scores grew by 22.3 percentage points between 2004-2010, but by 20.3 percentage points from 2004-2011.

The operating deficits were caused by both the ongoing costs of the district’s growth, the weak economy and unstable state funding.

Since 2009, District 202 has cut about 360 full-time equivalent teaching, support and administrative positions and several educational programs to save about $45 million.

For several years district administrators have warned that the budget cuts may adversely affect teaching and learning, and the data presented seem to support that point.

District 202 stands at a difficult point, trying to balance its commitment to helping all children learn and grow to their fullest potential, with the harsh realities of solving the budget crisis – which usually means cutting staff and programs.

Still, Ayala remained optimistic about the future.

“We have created a strong system of rigorous academics, student supports and professional excellence, and we have some of the most talented, dedicated teachers, support staff and administrators in the state,” Ayala said.

“I believe that District 202 will withstand these financial difficulties and continue to be an educational leader,” she said.

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