• Megann Horstead

Summit Hill School District 161 reviews student assessment data


The Summit Hill District 161 Board of Education examined preliminary reports on Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers exams made available to them in July at its Sept. 13 regular meeting.

The assessment, known as PARCC, is administered for English language arts and mathematics to students in grades 3-8.

Superintendent Barb Rains said it is important to compare the data for meets and exceeds based on the Common Core State Standards “from the 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 school years, which it looks like we’re holding steady for [English language arts] and for math, because we always like to take a look at where we are in comparison to the State.”

The preliminary results in English language arts show that 44 percent of D161 students meet or exceed Common Core State Standards, which is 7 percent higher than the State average, whereas 36 percent meet or exceed those standards in mathematics, which is five percent higher than the State average. That data remained steady for D161 and the State moving from the 2015-2016 academic year to 2016-2017.

District 161 uses composite scores generated based on each of the levels against the State preliminary numbers.

“We use this data in terms of our school improvement planning because the PARCC is an indicator of student success,” Rains said. “We also use our STAR Benchmark Assessments to address immediate academic needs and monitor student progress in real time.”

PARCC exams were administered to students in March. The information comparing D161 students to others in local area feeder schools is not yet publicly available.

“This is our frustration as administrators what we’re hearing from the board table, in terms of how do you utilize this test, and [make sure] that it holds water, [and] that it’s going to be part of your data points to do whatever you need to do to help support a child,” Rains said.

In mathematics, student scores were lower in grades 5-8 than grades K-4.

Board Secretary David Faber questioned why the data levels in mathematics fall for students in their middle and junior high school years.

“[Is there] any preliminary indication of why that might be, or is that something that might need to be looked into?” he asked.

Director of Curriculum John Snipes said he is looking into curricular consistency to ensure that all students have access to the same resources.

The curriculum department intends to finish the topic checklists they started developing recently to help the district understand the levels at which students start and end the year.

Board Vice President Stacey Borgens questioned if the problem could be intersected with the introduction of Go Math! as the district’s new mathematics program.

Snipes said that is a theory, but it hasn’t been backed up.

“Other than back up three years ago when we started Go Math!, it was so challenging for all of our students—particularly our third-graders—but now those students are entering Hilda Walker Intermediate School,] and even that [is] much more complicated by those Common Core State Standards,” he said.

During the 2013-2014 academic year, District 161 adopted a new Common Core State Standards-aligned math resource. As such, students in grades K-4 only know Common Core State Standards, while those in grades 5-8 have transitioned from the previous standards.

“Students in grades 5-8 may not have had as much exposure to Common Core State Standards as students in grades K-4,” Rains said.

Individual student scores will go home with students on Friday, Sept. 22.

Moving forward, District 161 intends to utilize STAR assessments instead of PARCC.

Board Member George Leonard wanted to know if Snipes intends to use the district’s PARCC scores to determine if the results correlate to STAR.

Snipes refuted the idea.

“I don’t know if you’ve seen our PARCC scores recently, but they do not match PARCC,” he said. “Our STAR scores are very high. Our students are very high achieving on STAR. This does not represent our STAR scores.”

District 161 will bring another report on PARCC to the board in November.

Also at the meeting, the Summit Hill school board took a moment to examine the potential impact of the newly signed into law education funding formula, also known as the evidence-based funding formula.

“The base minimum funding formula is what is being disbursed now, and there [are] other distributions based on the evidence-based piece of the formula that are going to come later so that it’s coming in little by little as the formulas are developed and allocated to the districts,” Rains said. “That will be probably a standing item as we find out more about what the allocations are and how we can utilize them in our budgets.”

In August, District 161 received two categorical payments from the State of Illinois for the 2016-2017 academic year. That provided $237,837 to account for a portion of the funds owed.

The State is behind in payment by approximately $730,000, to date. That amount is to be accounted for in the district’s fourth-quarter installment for categoricals.

“I think we’ll eventually get it, it’s just a matter of when,” said Doug Wiley, director of business and transportation.

Wiley referenced a recent news article he read and said as a provision of the new budget bill, Gov. Bruce Rauner had until Dec. 31 to issue some debt. The action later taken by Rauner is mostly believed to help pay off the backlog of bills, Wiley said.

Borgens questioned if the checks cleared.

Wiley said payment was directly deposited to the district without issue.

In a related development, the district’s first September payment for General State Aid came in.

“They’re actually caught up with their General State Aid the best they can right now,” Wiley said.

Wiley noted that General State Aid payments in years past are generally paid on time and said the issue continues with the categoricals.

“More on the funding formula as it unfolds,” Rains said.

Round it up

A brief recap of action and discussion from the Sept. 13 regular meeting of the Summit Hill District 161 Board of Education:

  • District 161 tentatively set the time and date for a special meeting for board planning for the 2018-2019 academic year. That session will take place at 8:30 a.m., Saturday, Jan. 27.

  • The school board awarded a one-year contract to Eternally Green Lawn Care for snow removal services occurring during the 2017-2018 winter season. According to the agreement, the district is to pay $1,295 per event. Officials will review its decision to pay for snow removal services in the event the amount exceeds $50,030. At that point, additional board approval will be necessary.

  • Officials amended a board policy setting a minimum of notification of 24 hours for special meetings. The district decided to make the amendment after reviewing a 2011 legal opinion. Board action corrects a mismatch in board policy.

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