Highland High School had the highest number of students — 52 percent, higher than O’Fallon, Belleville or Edwardsville — who met or exceeded goals in the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test, making it the highest scoring school in the metro-east.
Principal Karen Gauen said Highland is “blessed with a supportive community,” with involved parents and motivated students as well as “some of the best educators I have ever seen.”
Gauen said that like Edwardsville, Highland has initiated a teacher-led process to encourage teachers to collaborate on lessons engaging students in “higher-order thinking.” The process has been in place since 2010, and the teachers share results with the rest of the faculty and collaborate on new ways to improve learning.
“For the last five years our school-wide goals have incorporated (Instructional Practices Inventory), reading across the content areas and writing across the content areas,” Gauen said. “The entire school community has worked together to help HHS achieve at a high level.”
“I attribute our success first and foremost to the dedication of our staff to ensure the curriculum is meeting the needs of our students. Our staff work outside the school day and during summers to ensure their material aligns to the standards being assessed as well as preparing our students for work and college,” said Highland Superintendent Mike Sutton. “We have an amazing staff and great student body along with a very supportive community. It is great to see recognition for these efforts.”
The new standardized test scores were released on Monday by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE). The data included in the school report cards is available at illinoisreportcard.com as well as on district websites.
In addition to the results of the PARCC test, each school’s online report card also includes detailed data on finances and demographics of students and teachers. Information is also available on the test performance of specific groups of children, like those living in poverty and those with special needs. It includes information on ACT scores, the high school dropout rates and how many of the students graduating from a particular school are prepared for higher education.
The PARCC test set new standards for K-12 students, replacing the ISAT and PSAE tests last year. PARCC differs from previous tests because it asks students to apply what they learn and provide evidence. It puts a new emphasis on critical thinking and writing.
While it was common for as many as 90 percent or more of elementary students to meet or exceed standards on the old ISATs, the current highest percentage in the four-county area of St. Clair, Madison, Monroe and Clinton was in Damiansville with 71 percent — up from 69 percent last year.
The PARCC test reviewed English language arts and math and provided five levels of success compared to state standards and expectations: exceeds standards, meets, approaching, partially meets and did not meet standards. Composite scores measured the percentage of students who met or exceeded standards on the test, and those benchmarks did not change after last year, according to ISBE.
Across the state, an average of 33.4 percent of students met or exceeded the Illinois State Learning Standards that PARCC tests. Approximately 83 schools in St. Clair, Madison, Monroe and Clinton counties scored at or above that average, while about 93 scored below the average.
State leaders said this year’s test comes at a time of change, as high schoolers will no longer take the state exam and new plans are being drawn up to abide by the new federal Every Student Succeeds Act, which replaced No Child Left Behind.
“While some students are achieving at remarkable levels, the majority of the generation of students entrusted to us are unprepared for the world of work and for meaningful participation in our communities,” said State Superintendent Tony Smith. “If we hope to make Illinois a state where whole, healthy children are nested in whole, healthy systems, and where all citizens are socially and economically secure, we must make major changes to the way we fund our public schools and fundamentally shift our approach to education.”
Statewide, student attendance increased slightly to 94.4 percent; math scores increased from 28.2 percent to 30.5 percent meeting or exceeding standards; and the high school dropout rate dropped to 2 percent.
Highland School District results
The Highland School District’s test results are above state average. The average district in Illinois had 34 percent of students meeting or exceeding standards, while the Highland district had 44 percent meet or exceed goals.
“Data from around the state suggests testing mode (computer-based or paper/pencil) has a significant impact on testing outcomes,” said Sutton. “Our district has a blend of both modes, creating more difficulty in analysis. Overall, we’re encouraged by results and motivated to continue to improve.”
The district saw an overall decrease in its English language arts (ELA) scores. Last year, 53 percent of Highland students met or exceeded expectations, but this year only 50 percent did.
In Math, Highland had 37 percent of students meet or exceed standards, up from 36 percent last year.
“It is very difficult to draw conclusions after only two years’ data. Our teachers and administrators are still growing in familiarity with the assessments and adapting curriculum and instruction to the skills measured,” Sutton said.
Highland High School
Overall, 52 percent of Highland High School students met or exceeded expectations, compared to 45 percent last year.
Sixty-four percent of HHS students met or exceeded standards in ELA, while students in 2015 scored only 53 percent.
This year, 38 percent of HHS students met or exceeded in PARCC math scores compared to 34 percent in 2015.
Highland Middle School
Overall, 50 percent of Highland Middle School students met or exceeded expectations, compared to last year’s score of 49 percent.
Fifty-two percent of HMS students met or exceeded standards in ELA, while students in 2015 scored 57 percent.
This year, 47 percent of HMS students met or exceeded in PARCC math scores compared to 43 percent in 2015.
Highland Elementary School
Overall, the scores at Highland Elementary decreased by 2 percent, dropping from 40 percent in 2015 to 38 percent this year meeting or exceeding standards.
There was a 2 percent decrease in ELA scores. In 2015, 50 percent of students met or exceeded expectations while in 2016, only 48 percent have met or exceeded average standards.
This year, 27 percent of elementary students have met or exceeded mathematical standards compared to last year’s score of 30 percent.
Grantfork Upper Elementary
Overall, the scores at Grantfork Upper Elementary were lower than last year. In 2015, 38 percent of students met or exceeded expectations while only 21 percent did this year.
There was a 23 percent decrease in ELA scores from the 2015 to the 2016 school year. In 2015, 46 percent of students met or exceeded ELA standards while only 23 percent did in 2016.
Math scores also saw a decrease of about 9 percent. Students in 2015 scored 28 percent on the PARCC math test, while only 19 percent did this past year.
Alhambra Primary School
At Alhambra Primary School, the overall scores were unchanged from 2015 to 2016. Both years, the students met or exceeded expectations scoring 36 percent.
The ELA scores dropped by 1 percentage point from 33 percent in 2015 to 32 percent in 2016.
Mathematics were unchanged as well, scoring 40 percent of students who met or exceeded expectations in 2015 and 2016.
Reporters Elizabeth Donald and Lexi Cortes contributed to this story.