Starting this year, students’ test scores will bring more money to their school

Here’s what it takes to improve on the state PARCC assessment

New Athens Elementary School principal Jim Marlow talks about how they are preparing students to excel on state testing.
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New Athens Elementary School principal Jim Marlow talks about how they are preparing students to excel on state testing.

Local schools where the academic performance is among the lowest in the state and where test scores haven’t improved over time can now get federal funding to help change that.

The state announced Wednesday that schools across the metro-east are eligible for more than $2.5 million altogether.

The funding is part of Illinois’ new school accountability system, which will rank schools from now on and send resources to the areas of the state where data show students are struggling.

New funding

This year, the metro-east school districts that are eligible for federal money include:

Alton 11: $90,000

Belleville 118: $15,000

Bethalto 8: $45,000

Brooklyn 188: $150,000

Cahokia 187: $1,160,000

Central 104: $30,000

Collinsville 10: $60,000

Columbia 4: $15,000

East Alton 13: $30,000

East Alton-Wood River 14: $15,000

East St. Louis 189: $365,000

Granite City 9: $290,000

Harmony 175: $15,000

High Mount 116: $15,000

Lebanon 9: $15,000

Madison 12: $115,000

Pontiac 105: $30,000

Roxana 1: $30,000

Signal Hill 181: $30,000

Sparta 140: $15,000

Steeleville 138: $30,000

Wood River-Hartford 15: $30,000

Officials in Belleville District 118 and Sparta District 140 decided to use their money to improve special education instruction at West Junior High and Sparta Lincoln School. East Alton District 13’s funding might also help students who have special needs, according to Superintendent Emily Warnecke.

Central District 104 Superintendent Dawn Elser said leaders there want to start an after-school program to help students study. In Brooklyn District 188, Superintendent Ronald Ferrell said he planned to propose a weekend writing clinic.

Eligible schools have to submit an application to the state for approval first. Several local officials said they were still working on it.

Measures that matter

State education officials decided to move away from math and English proficiency as the sole measure of how well schools are doing in its new accountability system.

Each student’s improvements from third to eighth grade accounts for half of a school’s ranking.

The results of the math and English assessment are still a factor. They account for one-fifth of the ranking this year, but it will be even less in 2019.

Schools are also judged by student attendance, and graduation rates at the high school level.

Tracy Gray, assistant superintendent in Belleville District 118, said the state listened to districts’ feedback about better ways to assess schools than test scores.

“To me, growth is the most important piece,” she said.

State Superintendent Tony Smith said in a media call last week that the problem with proficiency is that it was largely based on socioeconomic status before students even entered school. He described the new system as a move toward fairness.

Brad Snow, principal at Collinsville’s Webster Elementary School, said the staff there try to reach out to families who need support such as social services before their students start school. The school also offers an early childhood education program that helps prepare students for kindergarten.

Under the new rankings, Webster is one of the state’s top-performing schools, along with 18 others in the area.

The rest of the metro-east’s schools received the second-highest ranking, which means they were just outside the top 10 percent of schools statewide.

Although standardized test scores have been de-emphasized, Smith said Illinois students will continue taking the exams. He said the state is mandated by federal law to give an assessment test to students in third grade through high school.

For elementary and middle school students, the test has been the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, known as PARCC, since 2015. High school students take the SAT, a college entrance exam.

For more information about a school’s rank and data, visit

Lexi Cortes: 618-239-2528, @lexicortes