Rockridge Junior High makes AYP

Cathy Decker/Staff reporter
Rockridge Juniors last spring took tests to measure academic progress, with the Rockridge average topping the state average.

Rockridge CUSD #300 Board of Education held its meeting Monday night, Nov. 14, 2011, in the Reynolds Grade School gymnasium. The board is making the rounds within the district and has future meetings starting at 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 12 at Andalusia Grade School and Jan. 9. 2012 at Taylor Ridge Grade School.

The board received good news about student achievement from Junior High School principal Mike Ruff with both seventh and eighth grades making adequate yearly progress (AYP) on the ISAT  administered last spring. "We're averaging a 2.9 percent growth (in test scores) per year," said Ruff. He said math scores had grown 24.7 percent since 2003. The junior high has also seen a significant growth in science scores -- 22.8 percent over time. The district uses the ISAT tests for grades 3 - 8 and juniors take the Prairie State Achievement Exam.

High School Principal Katie Hasson's report on the high school PSAE results were not as positive. This is the district's second year of the high school not making AYP, which puts the district on academic watch status for the 2011-2012. Hasson told the board that of the 667 public high schools that administered the PSAE in Illinois, only eight made AYP. This year's benchmark for AYP was 85 percent, with the stakes rising next year to 92.5 percent of students taking achievement tests expected to make AYP. "The test we use is a college prep test," said Hasson.

By comparison with other area schools Hasson said, "We're doing very well."

The district, along with most all school districts have been steering through testing and improved or unimproved scores based on No Child Left Behind (NCLB) federal legislation that went into effect in 2003. The goal of NCLB is for all students to progressively improve until the end of the act's timeframe, which is 2014. The act ties federal funding to measurable standards in reading and math.

"Between now and 2014 things could change," said Dr. Chester Lien, superintendent.

Hasson pointed out that one good thing happening at Rockridge is scores are rising each year, and so far Rockridge's scores are better than the state average. For reading the high school's scores were 61.8 percent of students who met or exceeded the standards. The state average for reading is 51.1 percent. In math Rockridge's percentage for meets and exceeds was 65.4 percent, with the state average at 51.3 percent.

Hasson listed some of the testing techniques used in the district included changing the testing environment, giving authentic practice tests to sophomores in preparation for the junior test, using early dismissal days to offer test preparation sessions and introducing common test vocabulary. She said that during early dismissal "teachers get together and talk about the curriculum."

Another strategy is giving students incentives to do well on the tests. Last year she said students earned 91 exemptions from taking finals, based on their individual test scores.