PEORIA -- Student test scores in Peoria School District 150 have been released and went down, perhaps reflecting the turmoil created last year when Supt. Grenita Lathan shuffled the principals and staff.
The scores were released at the School Board's so-called 'committee of the whole' meeting on Aug. 27, an excuse to move the public comments to the end of a long meeting and cut them back to two minutes. They are posted below.
But first the scores: The entire district went down a total of three points in reading and 2.9 points in math. It did not made Adequate Yearly Progress, which required average scores of 85 percent or more on the state standards.
Five individual schools made AYP: Washington Gifted, Charter Oak, Hines, Kellar and Lindbergh. Though district officials insist that "poverty is no excuse," these schools are not poverty schools.
None of the high schools made AYP.
The district has a 74 percent poverty rate, as defined by those children eligible for free or reduced cost lunches.
Manual Academy had the worst score in reading, at 26.9 percent. Yet its principal was praised and made a presentation because the school went up 6.7 percent from last year. The math score, at 33.6 percent was up 7.5 percent.
Now here's a math problem to solve: if a school must make 85 percent to qualify for AYP, how many years with an average yearly increase of 7 percent will it take to make that score? Oops, that's higher math.
The two new elaborate buildings, Harrison and Glen Oak, didn't produce higher scores. Glen Oak went down 5.7 percent in reading from last year and up only .4 percent in math, while Harrison declined 9.6 percent in reading and 13.5 percent in math.
That's been the experience elsewhere, namely that new buildings do not lead to improved test scores, despite official promises to the contrary.
A better analysis would be to look at which schools lost their leadership and how they faired compared with those that did not. Experts say leadership is crucial, but must be built over years, and not shuffled as if children and teachers are robots in a factory.
Yet that was the impression I got from several of the presentations from principals whose school scores went up, though not enough to make AYP. They talked endlessly about '"data" as if churning out hammers or nails instead of children.
And of course one can argue that the AYP dog and pony show is terribly flawed, and at bottom is a smoke screen to enable corporations to take over the schools and the tax money they generate, on the grounds that they are 'failing' under public leadership.
Back when I was in school, there were no tests like those the students are subjected to now, and yet most children learned and built the current civilization. Well, it could be better, but...
In fact study after study shows middle class children learn just fine in today's public schools. It's the children of poverty with the horrible stresses in their lives and lack of experiences from reading at home to summer camp that bring down the scores.
The public comments are posted here. Activist Terry Knapp's comments included a slap at Lathan, who at the last meeting said she would bring in black teachers from North Carolina.
Knapp said Illinois colleges also turn out black teachers, and added that tenured teachers must be given remediation before being dismissed, as he quoted a Sunday Journal Star story. Several in District 150 were fired without being offered remediation, and some are sueing, and more will, he said.
-- Elaine Hopkins