O'Fallon Progress

O’Fallon schools score among top in county on last year’s state tests

Brandi Kombrink goes through a reading lesson Tuesday with fellow 5th-grade classmates at J.E. Hinchcliffe Sr. Elementary School in O’Fallon.
Brandi Kombrink goes through a reading lesson Tuesday with fellow 5th-grade classmates at J.E. Hinchcliffe Sr. Elementary School in O’Fallon. snagy@bnd.com

The test scores from last year are in, and O’Fallon schools have some of the highest in St. Clair County.

Across the metro-east, school leaders have been evaluating the new standardized test scores released by the Illinois State Board of Education. The data is included in school report cards made public at www.illinoisreportcard.com and on district websites Monday, as required by state statute.

In addition to the results of the 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 test — called the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers — 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.

33.4Percent of students who met or exceeded Illinois State Learning Standards statewide

83 Schools in St. Clair, Madison, Monroe and Clinton counties that scored at or above the state average

93 Schools in the four-county area that scored below the average

Elementary education

O’Fallon District 90’s PARCC scores in all seven of its schools ranked above the state average again this year. Superintendent Carrie Hruby said that’s due in part to the district’s teachers “working very hard to collaborate.”

“What’s important is that they work together to dig into the standards and determine what students need,” she said.

St. Clair County’s highest-scoring school this year is Hinchcliffe Elementary School in District 90. A majority, or 59.6 percent, of students met or exceeded standards there. But Hruby knows teachers can’t take credit for the scores alone. She also compliments the parents who are working with students outside the classroom to help them improve.

“It’s not only important that we study (the assessment results) but that we share that information with parents,” Hruby said.

The second-highest scoring school in St. Clair County is Shiloh Elementary School, with 57.3 percent of students meeting or exceeding standards. Shiloh Middle School, which is in the same district — Shiloh District 85 — is among the top five schools with a score of 53.4.

District 85 Superintendent Dale Sauer said in a statement to the News-Democrat that the scores can be attributed to “excellent staff.”

“We map our curriculum at all levels and all content areas, we develop the resources needed and stay focused on aiding students where and when they have need,” Sauer stated.

Like Hruby, Sauer said a partnership with parents “who work hard with us to make sure we are all on the same page” helps students succeed.

Central District 104 in O’Fallon didn’t see the growth that it expected over last year’s scores, according to Superintendent John Bute. In 2015, the results showed 20 percent of students met or exceeded standards. The percentage this year was 19.1 across the district.

“I would say, overall, the scores were not as we had hoped,” he said. “We had hoped our scores would be higher.”

Bute said staff has begun the process of evaluating the data from its report cards and will be making modifications to bring the scores up next time. Teachers didn’t make significant changes after the first round of testing, Bute said, because the district wanted to see what its trend would be over both years.

“Without seeing big improvements, we need to go back to our drawing boards,” Bute said.

Schools in District 104 already evaluate teaching and curriculum regularly, according to Bute, and measure student growth through other assessments, like NWEA and aimswebPlus, which both test based on Common Core standards like PARCC.

“We follow a kind of rule of continuous improvement,” he said.

Hruby said O’Fallon District 90 also uses more assessments than just PARCC to test performance. “It’s just one piece of the entire picture of achievement,” Hruby said.

Though Sauer is “exceedingly proud” of how Shiloh students performed, he agreed that a single test is “not the best evaluation of any school.”

The other assessments show that District 104 students are growing, Bute said, but PARCC doesn’t reflect that.

“We really expected to see some growth on the PARCC test, and it wasn’t there,” Bute said, so the district is “going to come up with a plan.”

It’s just one piece of the entire picture of achievement.

Carrie Hruby, O’Fallon District 90 superintendent

High school

The highest-scoring high school in St. Clair County, O’Fallon Township High School, saw an increase in scores this year. The results show 50.5 percent of students met or exceeded standards, up from 45.8 percent.

Martha Weld, O’Fallon Township District 203’s assistant superintendent, said the district is pleased with the scores but that they’re more valuable for self-reflection than comparison to all schools. Weld oversees curriculum and assessment.

She said it’s important to remember that schools could be taking different exams because they had the options of testing English language arts 1 and algebra 1, or English language arts 3 and algebra 2.

District 203 chose algebra 1 and English language arts 1, and it administered the exam on paper rather than online, a switch some other schools decided to make.

“Every school could have had a different experience,” Weld said.

Among the estimated 297 schools in the state that tested algebra 1, Weld said O’Fallon Township High School ranked 14th, placing it in the top 5 percent of schools.

O’Fallon teachers’ approach is to focus on students’ need for the next level rather than preparing them for a specific assessment, like PARCC, Weld said.

“The PARCC assessment did not receive a high priority of attention in our school district — curriculum did,” she said. In the spring, 17 teams of District 203 educators visited colleges and universities that the greatest number of O’Fallon students historically attend, and what they learned informed curriculum and teaching changes, according to Weld.

They sat in on classes and spoke with professors in both 2014 and 2016. The educators also visited career sites and other high schools.

“I don’t think it’s common, but I think it’s incredibly valuable,” Weld said of that research.

Weld said she is glad to see PARCC going away for high schoolers; It will be replaced by the SAT college entrance exam this spring.

The PARCC assessment wasn’t connected to the next level of schooling for high school students, according to Weld. But the SAT has a direct connection to college as a requirement to be accepted to some schools, so Weld thinks it will be “more meaningful” for students, as well as families and teachers.

To help students prepare, Weld said the district will be giving practices tests in January and SAT-sponsored tests in April.

Lexi Cortes: 618-239-2528, @lexicortes

Elizabeth Donald contributed to this report.







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Shiloh Village SD 185





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