District 86 Board members were told Monday night that students in the district continue to perform well academically in comparison with other Illinois high school scholars.
Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Dr. Bruce Law said the performance of district students on advanced placement (AP) exams was particularly noteworthy. He told board members meeting at Hinsdale Central High School that the percentage of district students earning a passing score on AP exams had risen from 85 percent in the 2004-05 school year to 87 percent in the 2009-10 school year. Nearly half (48.8%) of 2010 district graduates earned a passing grade on at least one AP exam during their high school career.
Law said that since the 2005-06 school year, enrollment in AP courses is up 15 percent and the number of AP exams taken by students has increased 30 percent.
“When you consider those two metrics … these academic results are very impressive indeed,” he said.
Superintendent Dr. Nicholas Wahl noted that the school board had established a goal five years ago of increasing participation in AP programs and the percentage of students earning a passing grade on AP exams.
“That is really an impressive reflection on our student population, as well as our faculty and staff,” Wahl said.
Staying ahead of state standards
The percentage of District 86 students meeting or exceeding Illinois standards on state tests was 78 percent in the 2009-10 school year, down from 83 percent the previous year.
Board Member George Kumis asked Law if there was an explanation for the drop off. Law said one possible reason was that the state standards continue to increase. He noted that other measures of academic performance for District 86 students, such as ACT scores, continue to increase.
The average ACT score for district students participating in the state testing program last year was 25.2. That’s up from 23.9 in the 2006-07 academic year.
Wahl said the 78 percent performance on meeting or exceeding state standards was “still very strong, considering they continue to raise that bar of what ‘meeting or exceeding’ is.”
Last summer, Law told the school board that Hinsdale South had failed to meet adequate yearly progress (AYP) standards established by the No Child Left Behind Act for the 2009-10 school year because less than 77.5 percent of students did not meet or exceed state standards in three sub-groups: Blacks, Hispanics, and Students With Disabilities. However, the district's overall score of 78 percent is still well above the state average.
The district continues to have a higher graduation rate (95.6%) than the state average, although that number is down slightly from a six-year high of 98.1 percent in 2008. Nearly four in five (78%) 2010 graduates said they planned to attend a four-year college or university immediately after high school. That figure is down from a six-year high of 82 percent in 2006, but could reflect economic factors, rather than academic.
Cost of educating students continues to rise
The board also received data on operating expenses per student, which showed an increase from $14,800 per student in the 2008-09 school year to $15,500 last year. That number remained in line with other high schools in the DuPage County area.
Trying to hold the line on that number while continuing to try to improve the quality of education students receive is one of the challenges faced by the school board. One aspect of improving educational quality is hiring and retaining the most qualified teachers possible. The board received data showing the percentage of teachers with master’s degree in the district rose from just under 80 percent in 2005-06 to 87.4 percent last year. The number of non-retiring teachers returning to the district from year to year reached 98.6 percent last year, up from 94 percent in 2005-06.