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H-F administrators say Illinois Report Card numbers can be misleading

The statistics from a standardized test administered once a year don’t provide a full picture of the successes of Homewood-Flossmoor High School students, according to information presented by Principal Jerry Lee Anderson and Assessments Department Chair David Kush.

The Illinois Report Card is the state’s official source for information about public schools across Illinois. Information includes academic progress, district environment and data on students, teachers and administrators.

In a presentation for the H-F school board assessing the Illinois Report Card numbers, Anderson and Kush reported that 92 percent of freshmen are on track to graduate on time; 759 students are taking one or more Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) courses or are in dual enrollment courses; and 70 current students are Illinois State Scholars.
But they acknowledge there can be improvements to get numbers up, and the administration and faculty are instituting several steps that can help student scores on the standardized tests used for the report card.
Illinois has switched from the ACT exam to the SAT exam as the state measurement of school and student success. Some of the numbers H-F had available were from the ACT exam.
“SAT is a more rigorous benchmark, and we’re excited about that.  We’re really just getting started on some of the planning” for student improvement, Kush said. Currently, 36 percent of the 2,760 H-F students meet or exceed the Illinois SAT Performance Standards, compared to the 38 percent statewide number. 
Kush believes interventions can help raise the success rates. For example, math teachers are working on problem solving and data analysis techniques for H-F juniors. Statistics show if students taking the SAT can answer an additional four questions correctly, it could significantly increase H-F’s SAT math scores and boost the Illinois Report Card number.
The faculty meets every couple weeks using data to review student progress that can pinpoint where adjustments need to be made in instruction, Kush explained.  
Anderson said in addition to testing and assessments, H-F also offers students a number of support programs, including academic support, academic intervention and social-emotional awareness and support.
“What we are going to engage in is a continuous cycle of improvement when it comes to teaching and learning. We’re going to recognize that we’re doing well and we’re going to continue to look at (data) as we do throughout the year,” the principal told board members.
“Do we keep this (change)? Take it off the plate? Put something on the plate that’s going to make things more effective?” she said.  The ultimate goal is to “have our students prepared and have them demonstrate what they know through all these assessments.”
The state reports 51 percent of the state’s student population meets college readiness standards. H-F’s statistic on the Illinois Report Card is 46 percent college readiness. The score is from ACT scores in April 2016 and isn’t reflective of H-F’s 97 percent graduation rate and 76 percent graduating class enrollment in two- or four-year colleges.  
The 76 percent relates to 2015 graduates enrolled in college within 12 to 16 months of graduation. The number, released by the Illinois State Board of Education in 2017, is from the National Student Clearinghouse, a database used by public colleges and universities, but not all private schools. Many H-F students attend private colleges and universities and may not be included in the statistic, said Jodi Bryant, H-F’s director of human resources and public relations. 
H-F Guidance Office statistics show 87 percent of the Class of 2016 enrolled in a two- or four-year college. The attendance for the class of 2017 has not yet been determined.
“It’s important to note that our college enrollment numbers are strong and our students are being successful when they get there,” Kush said. “We say about 75 percent of our students (2015 class) are entering college. That’s a lot different from what you see on the report card that says 46 percent” are ready for college. 
H-F continues to monitor alumni success. In a five-year study, H-F graduates are very successful at college and 85 percent continue from freshman into sophomore year.
It was also pointed out that H-F students are going into military service or the trades.  Anderson said they are successful in these roles, but they don’t get counted in the national database of college enrollment.

This story was edited from its original version to include clarifying information.

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