Posted Online: Dec. 01, 2012, 11:04 pm

RI-Milan Schools work to meet benchmarks

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By Anthony Watt

The Rock Island-Milan School District is working to meet federal benchmarks for student performance in the coming year after all but one of its schools failed to make the grade last school year.

The district is among the 82 percent of Illinois school districts statewide who did not meet federal reading and math standards in the 2011-2012 school year, according to the Illinois State Board of Education and reports filed under the federal No Child Left Behind law. Of Rock Island County's 10 public districts, only Hampton School District met both of the federal requirements as a district.

"We'd rather be in the (percentage) that made it," Jeff Zoul, new assistant superintendent for teaching and learning for the district, said.

Eugene Field Elementary School was the only Rock Island-Milan school whose students met or exceeded federal reading and math benchmarks. Denkmann Elementary's students did so with the math requirement, but not with reading. None of the district's other schools met either federal requirement.

Mr. Zoul and other local and state education officials cited the ever-tougher benchmarks under No Child Left Behind as one of the reasons schools have not been able to meet them.

For the 2011-2012 school year, the benchmark called for 85 percent of students to meet or exceed reading and math requirements. During 2010-2011 it was also 85 percent, while in 2009-2010 it was 77.5.

But, for 2012-2013, it will be 92.5 percent.

The other main reason is that the district's students have diversity of skill levels and their performance must be improved from the point each individual is at, he said.

Schools and districts that do not meet NCLB benchmarks must then meet other requirements to get their scores up, according to the ISBE. These include offering the option of transferring students from a school that did not meet requirements to one that did, tutoring options, and creating an improvement plan.

These remedies are implemented in increments over a period of a few years, and if, by the end of that time, improvement still is not apparent, then further action must be taken, the ISBE states. This can include new curriculum and professional development options, extension of the school year or day, and replacement of school staff.

Rock Island-Milan's schools are all along the scale in regards to compliance with AYP and followup requirements for noncompliance, according to NCLB reports.

The district is working to improve its scores — the schools have been formulating improvement plans and have been presenting them to the district's school board. The reports list goals for the number of students each school hopes to have meet NCLB requirements in the coming year. The last batch of reports will be presented this month.

District-wide, officials are working on a number of ways of improving performance, Mr. Zoul said.

Those include implementing a required new teacher evaluation system meant to improve instruction, Mr. Zoul said.

"It really raises the level of awareness of what good teaching looks like," he said.

Another focus is improving how students, parents, staff and faculty interact with each other, he said.

But the district also is preparing to leave NCLB behind and embrace a new standard, something happening across Illinois as the state works to get a federal waiver that will allow it use a new standard called Common Core Curriculum, which was designed by the states as an alternative to the federal system, district and state officials said.

"The state has filed a waiver to get itself out of the AYP because the bar is so high," Rock Island-Milan Superintendent Mike Oberhaus said.

Among the other criticisms of NCLB is what has been described as a "disconnect" between the scores of elementary students and high school students, ISBE spokeswoman Mary Fergus said. High school scores tend to be worse, and officials believe that reflects a difference in the standards to which the two groups are held.

Another is that the student body is divided into various subgroups when their scores are measured, and when one group does not do well, then the whole school or district does not do well, regardless of other scores, she said.

"Most districts don't make AYP," Ms. Fergus said. "Even some of the best schools in the state do not make AYP."

Creation of the new standard was led by National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers, according to the Common Core website. Common Core is meant to ensure students are more work- and college-ready and meant to be clearer and more consistent.

U.S. Department of Education is still reviewing Illinois' waiver request, according to the ISBE.

Rock Island scores

The 2011-2012 benchmark was 85 percent of students meeting or exceeding standards for reading and math on state tests. Only Eugene Field met both requirements for the Rock Island-Milan School District.  Denkmann met the math requirement, but not the reading. The other schools in the district did not meet either benchmark.

Rock Island-Milan School District:       Reading    Math    

Denkmann Elementary:                            80.7            88.8

Earl Hanson Elementary:                         48.6             59.3

Eugene Field Elementary:                        86.1             93.5

Frances Willard Elementary:                    41.6             51.1

Longfellow Liberal Arts Elementary:       67.1             73.2

Rock Island Academy:                                43.8            49

Rock Island Center for Math & Science:  76.9             80.2

Ridgewood Elementary:                              64                  71.6

Thomas Jefferson Elementary:                 72.8                77.7

Edison Junior High:                                     65.7               72

Washington Junior High:                             69.5               76.3

Rock Island High School:                             41.5               33.4

Information provided by the Illinois State Board of Education. More can be found at the ISBE website at

School district scores
    Rock Island County's school districts had to meet federal reading and math requirements just like individual schools did. In each district, 85 percent of students in 2011-2012 had to meet or exceed standards. Hampton School District met both. Rockridge, Sherrard and Riverdale met the math standard. The other districts did not meet either standard.

    Rock Island County Districtwide Scores      Reading          Math

    Rock Island-Milan School District:                    63                     68

    Moline School District:                                         72.7                  81.6

    United Township High School District:             38.5                  38.1

    Hampton Elementary School District:                                     92.4                 93.8

    Silvis Elementary School District:                                             71.3                 73       

    Carbon Cliff-Barstow Elementary School District:                 57.9                 69

    East Moline Elementary School District:             73                    77.4

    Riverdale School District:                                     80.8         86.7

    Sherrard School District:                                       81.4        86.8

    Rockridge School District:                                 82.8       88.6

    Information provided by the Illinois State Board of Education. More can be found at the ISBE website at

High School scores

United Township High School District consists only of the high school. In the 2011-2012 school year, it had the lowest scores among the districts when it came to the number of students who met or exceeded federal requirements for reading and math. But its scores are comparable to those of the other high schools in Rock Island County. None of the high schools met the federal benchmark of 85 percent of students meeting or exceeding the reading and math requirements.

2011-2012 NCLB Scores by high school:                   Reading           Math

United Township High School:                                      38.5                  38.1

Rock Island High School:                                                41.5               33.4

Moline High School:                                                           55.3                61

Sherrard High School:                                                        61.6                56.3

Rockridge High School                                                      57.6                 63

Riverdale High School                                                       58.2                 57