ROCK ISLAND -- Test scores in the Rock Island/Milan School District fell last year as did the district's graduation rate but in his annual state of the schools speech Tuesday, Superintendent Mike Oberhaus said the district is making progress.
Speaking at a joint Kiwanis-Rotary Club meeting Mr. Oberhaus said the district is expecting to face a $1.8 million operating deficit for the 2013/2014 school year but he doesn't expect the shortfall will result in cutbacks.
"We do not anticipate future cuts at this time but we have to wait and see what the great state does to us next Spring when they determine their funding for schools," he said.
The Rock Island/Milan School District spends around $1,600 less per pupil than the state average, Mr. Oberhaus said. He told the audience at the Quad City Botanical Center that closing that gap would mean the district spending $9 million more on its students.
The percentage of students meeting or exceeding state standards on all state tests fell from 63 to 41 percent for the 2012-13 school year compared to the year before and the graduation rate dipped slightly from 82 to 81 percent, according to Mr. Oberhaus's presentation.
"We have students that aren't performing at the level we'd like them to and we are continuing to evolve the way we do our business to help every child, every day" he said.
District enrollment has now increased for five consecutive school years from 5,289 in 2008 to 6,279 this year. Around 70 percent of the district's students qualify for free or reduced school meals, Mr. Oberhaus said.
The district's property tax rate also has risen for each of the last four years and Mr. Oberhaus said the rate was increased last year to compensate in part for falling assessed property values in Rock Island.
Mr. Oberhaus said the district has a new three-year strategic plan with priorities that include demonstrating individual student improvement in all subject years.
The district also is participating in programs like the Iowa Jobs for America's Graduates, which provides counselling and mentoring for up to 35 students selected as at risk for dropping out.
Students develop career plans and pursue learning opportunities through the program, which is funded by the John Deere Foundation.
The Deere Foundation also is funding the Leader in Me program at four elementary schools that works to turn students into leaders at their schools. Other programs like "career cruising" are being used by the district to prepare students for employment.
Mr. Oberhaus said the programs were evidence the district was continuing to evolve meet new challenges.
"We remain frugal with the dollars we are given and we do the best program we can to help make every child successful," he said.
Rock Island/Milan School District test scores
2010-11 2011-12 2012-13 Illinois Standard Achievement Test 70% 68% 42% Prairie State Achievement Examination 28% 34% 33% All state tests 63% 63% 41% Graduation rate 80.9% 82% 81% Numbers show the percentage of students meeting or exceeding state standards. Source: Rock Island Milan/School District
Today is Wednesday, Dec. 11, the 345th day of 2013. There are 20 days left in the year. 1863 — 150 years ago: The message of Abraham Lincoln, read in congress yesterday, is published in full in our paper today, with a new proclamation relating the terms upon which states can return to the union. 1888 — 125 years ago: An appropriation has been made by congress for the improvement of the upper Mississippi River with $200,000 set aside for the portion of the river between Keokuk and the mouth of the Illinois River. 1913 — 100 years ago: Work of remodeling First Swedish Lutheran Church at 4th Avenue and 14th Street was nearly completed. 1938 — 75 years ago: An unexplained outbreak of tularemia (rabbit fever) in the state has Illinois public health officials puzzled. Ten persons have died, and 243 are officially reported ill with the infection. 1963 — 50 years ago: A dramatic, multi-million dollar riverfront improvement project for the downtown area of Rock Island was unveiled at a meeting of 200 civic leaders at noon today. 1988 — 25 years ago: For several supporters of the Dispatch Goodfellow/Argus Santa program their donation is a year long project. Emma Pugh and Anne Persinger spent a good part of their spare time this year knitting forty pairs of mittens and slippers.