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River Forest District 90 Academics Rank Top 50% Among Comparable High Performing Districts

Read D90’s Spring Community Update below and then answer these questions:

  1. What is a Summative Designation?

  2. When and why did the elementary schools lose their Exemplary rating?

  3. How do River Forest schools compare to other public alternatives?

  4. Did the superintendent really re-use the exact same congratulatory message?

As a compliment to D90's Community Update, E3 offers this simple comparison of district(s) data found in the ISBE report cards.  It uses % of students performing at or above grade level as a measure of school quality; specifically, third grade reading and writing (English language arts or ELA), and math pooling grades 3rd through 8th.  This is what ISBE calls student Proficiency.  The weight or influence of Proficiency on ISBE Summative Designations is about 5% each for ELA and math. 

These two measures of Proficiency are useful indicators of quality because 1) reading proficiency by third grade is critical to future learning, and 2) confidence in education quality is higher using a pooled measure (3rd through 8th) compared to any single-grade proficiency result.  The analysis spans 2019 to 2023; before and after the period of remote teaching.  

Measures of student proficiency in third grade ELA and 3rd - 8th math from 2019 to 2023 show River Forest losing some ground among what District 90 calls 22 comparable high performing districts.  The ranking for 3rd graders proficient in ELA went from 4th to 6th in the period from 2019 to 2023.  The ranking in 3rd – 8th math went from 9th to 10th over the same period. 

ISBE data for River Forest show 5.5% fewer 3rd graders are performing at or above grade level in ELA from 2019 to 2023, while 3.4% fewer 3rd - 8th graders are performing at or above grade level in math. 

Eleven of 22 districts posted better results than River Forest, where better is ELA and math proficiency rates closer to or higher than 2019 levels.

Table 1. Twenty-two districts River Forest calls comparable and high performing with 2019 and 2023 rankings for ELA and math, along with the difference in proficiency between years.  See table 2 for raw proficiency data.

Northbrook / Glenview District 30 held onto its number one ranking in math between 2019 and 2023 even though 1.5% fewer 3rd through 8th grade students were performing at grade level.

Butler District 53 fell from first to third in English language arts, with 9% fewer 3rd graders performing at or above grade level.  Northbrook District 28 moved from 9th in 2019 to the top spot in 2023 with 6% more third graders reading at or above grade level.

Hinsdale District 181 saw little variation over the period and ranked second in both ELA and math measures in 2023.  Eight districts have 3rd grade ELA proficiency higher in 2023 than 2019.  Five districts have pooled 3rd-8th grade math proficiency higher in 2023 than 2019.

Western Springs District 101 was the only district to see double digit declines in proficiency for both ELA and math measures.Hillside District 93, a single K-8 school with 62% low-income students and 26% chronic absenteeism, saw the steepest decline (-33%) in 3rd grade ELA proficiency.  Rosemont District 78 and Franklin Park District 84 saw the steepest declines in math, 14.2% and 13.7%, respectively.

Table 2. Proficiency results across years for twenty-two public school districts, where proficiency is the percentage of students meeting or exceeding grade level standards.

Some of this may come as a surprise since D90 (post PILL) has resorted to benchmarking itself against itself, or benchmarking academics against paltry state averages, or in this case nebulous designations.  In 2023, the IL State averages were 35% and 27% proficiency for ELA and Math, respectively.

There is no perfect school of course, but D90 has failed students and families in many ways since the 2016 PILL (policy-induced learning loss) that would “lower the ceiling” on students and families in preparation for a de-tracked freshman year at OPRF HS.  And truly, it was just a few radical board members that took advantage of a trusting community. 

One failure that persists - residents no longer can count on clear and meaningful communication on academics, much less a district holding itself accountable with comparisons to other districts, the central question families face in determining where to raise children.  A woefully hollow spring update is the latest evidence, and these ISBE proficiency results should help increase understanding of district performance.

Here is background on summative designations and yes, that message from the superintendent was 100% recycled.

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