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District 86 Students Continue to Excel Academically

Administration presents ‘Quality Dashboard Update’ to School Board

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.

John Regan March 26, 2011 at 06:25 PM
If I was a reporter I would want to question the district's assertion that district students continue to excel academically. When one of the two high schools in the district has failed the AYP test, then the assertion merits further scrutiny. When did 68% meeting or exceed MINIMUM STATE standards become acceptable? On the other hand, a reporter can use his megaphone to amplify the self promoting spin coming from the district administration. Its up to you. As a taxpaying disrict resident I would be inclined to support any board member or prospective board member intent on adressing the lack of progress at Hinsdale South because it has become apparent the district administration won't address it.
Dennis Jacobs March 26, 2011 at 11:25 PM
Certainly, everyone would like to see every district student achieving academic success. Obviously, not every student is. However, the statistics presented at the board meeting indicate that students in the district AS A WHOLE are performing very well academically. Many of the statistics you cite relative to South's performance specifically were presented at an earlier board meeting and reported by Patch. Thank you for your comments Mr. Regan. I appreciate your interest in this topic.
Cynthia Hanson March 27, 2011 at 03:23 PM
I am relatively new to The Patch and in following local news. My interest was peaked by this article and the thread, so I decided to review the 2010 South Report Card. Was there some huge event that took place last year at the school that is related to the 15% decrease of female graduates from 2009 to 2010? And the less than 50% graduation rate for multiethnic students? If so, can you please provide me a link to the story? If there has been no previous discussion, I would love to hear what our district candidates plan on doing about the issue, especially with the election coming so soon. Are you aware of any debates in the area next week that ALL candidates will be at? I attended one last week where only one slate was able to be present.
John Regan March 27, 2011 at 03:46 PM
It appears that the school board is not interested in the plight of Hinsdale South. I would wager none of the candidates are either. I can't understand why more parents and taxpayers haven't expressed enough concern to put it on their radar.
Dennis Jacobs March 27, 2011 at 07:10 PM
Hi Cynthia and welcome to Patch! I'm not aware of any more candidate forums. It's unfortunate that all of the candidates could not be present at either forum. However, four of the six (two from each slate) did attend the first forum and here's a link to a series of videos in which the candidates responded to various questions from the audience: http://darien-il.patch.com/articles/video-candidates-speak-out-at-district-86-forum Also, if you click on the Elections 2011 tab at the top of the Darien homepage, you can scroll through and find a number of stories related to the upcoming school board election and the other elections that will be contested on April 5. With respect to your questions on Hinsdale South's 2010 Report Card, I'm afraid I don't have the answers. The question on the female graduation rate is a good one. From a statistical standpoint, the multi-ethnic pool is very small (about 47 students), so even a drop of a few students failing to graduate could produce a large percentage decline. I haven't found a link to a specific article that would answer these questions, but some aspects of the report card (like AYP in this story) have cropped up in various articles. You could type in Hinsdale South or District 86 in the search box at the top of the page to find some of these.

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