District 153 gets commendable ranking on state report card

The Illinois State Board of Education has given Homewood District 153 a commendable ranking in the annual state report card.

The status is developed through the state’s annual Illinois Assessment of Readiness testing scores for student achievement and growth. The numbers show how Homewood students are doing compared to other schools across Illinois.

Kathy Schaeflein, director of curriculum, told board members Nov. 13 that Willow, Churchill and James Hart Schools each received the recommended designation.

“It is very easy to fall below commendable and it is very difficult to get above commendable,” she explained. “To maintain commendable status is very good.”

The commendable ranking means no groups of students are underperforming. A group, whether it be by racial makeup, low income, etc., could be as small as 20 students, Schaeflein said. “If a group falls below, the school loses its commendable status.”

She told board members that she considers District 153’s student growth percentile numbers are “the most important.” 

While proficiency statistics show whether students have mastered the highest standards, growth recognizes “their progress beyond the standards,” she noted.

In English/Language Arts, District 153 was at 50th percentile, or on par with the state. In math, the district was at 55thpercentile, so slightly above the state’s 50 mark. 

Superintendent Scott McAlister said 50% may seem low, but students aren’t being judged on a 100% scale. 

“Here 50th percentile means you grew as expected. You exceed it (in math) means the kids are growing faster, so we are on par with ELA and a little bit faster on math,” he told board members.

Schaeflein said it take at least two years of data to draw comparisons. Because of the COVID pandemic, District 153 didn’t test in 2020 or 2021, so the comparisons are only for two years, but she was happy to see students continue to grow in their knowledge.

The state report card “still comes down to one test … This one testing assessment can’t measure everything. We can’t attribute our growth to just one thing. It’s all the things that our staff and families do. We’re making progress, so that’s good,” Schaeflein said.

Board member Ronald Zinnerman said the commendable ranking “just speaks to the value of this district.” He applauded the work of faculty for handling the catch-up work necessary after COVID and working with students’ ongoing social-emotional issues.

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