When Is School Dist. 64 Going To Raise Its Game?


Today’s Park Ridge Journal reports on the chief goals of the “Student Learning Department” of Park Ridge-Niles School Dist. 64 for the new school year (“Dist. 64 Lays Out Goals For School Year,” Sept. 2).  Thirteen bullet-point goals are identified.  

Most of them sound like the specialized “educator” version of that gobbledy-gook known as bureaucrat-speak, compliments of assistant superintendent for student learning Diane Betts: “Continue to develop common professional knowledge…,” “Develop an improved system of learning supports and extensions…,” “Seek opportunities to provide information to parents…,” and our favorite: “Improve knowledge of how assessment data can be used to drive instructional decisions.”  

Blah, blah, blah.  Or, if you prefer: Yada, yada, yada. 

Nowhere in that Journal article did we find any mention of something as mundane as “improving student performance on standardized tests” or “improving the academic rankings of Dist. 64 among comparable school districts.”  

For years the Dist. 64 school board and administration has explained away its lackluster standardized test scores in a variety of ways, the most dependable being: “We don’t teach to the tests.”  In other words, we can’t win at that game so we’re not really going to play.  That’s a slick politician’s answer, but it doesn’t work nearly as well when your competition isn’t another slick politician but, instead, better-performing school districts in equally-affluent, and even less-affluent, suburbs.  

As we pointed out in “Time For Taxpayers To Start Paying Attention To School Dist. 64? (10.31.08), not one District 64 school currently ranks among the “Top 50” in academic achievement as measured by the annual ISAT tests, a situation that has existed since ISAT (and before that, IGAP) performance rankings started being published several years ago.  

If our property values really are as tied to the quality of our schools as our school bureaucrats and their apologists insist – especially when they’re pushing for voter support of a big tax increase referendum, like they did in 2007 – then we should be very concerned about the perception, based on rankings determined by standardized test scores, that Dist. 64 doesn’t come close to measuring up to Northbrook/Glenview Dist. 30, Wilmette Dist. 39, Deerfield Dist. 109, Libertyville Dist. 70, Northbrook Dist. 27, etc., whose schools consistently rank among the “Top 50” in one or both of the “elementary” [pdf] and “middle” [pdf] school categories.  

With increased airport noise, increasing flooding, and a City government that seems to be in a financial death-spiral already adversely impacting Park Ridge’s desirability among similarly-affluent communities, we can no longer rely on our prime location alone to compete favorably with our peers.  And we surely cannot afford an elementary/middle school district that sucks in approximately 33% of our increasingly hefty property tax bills and produces less than first-class results. 

Instead of hearing a lot of indecipherable bureaucrat-speak, when are we going to start hearing clear and understandable goals like: “Consistently place at least one Dist. 64 school among the Top 50”?

12 comments so far

I AM pleased the Watchdog is focusing on District 64. For far too long, the District has boasted of it’s rankings when, in fact, District 64 is underperforming when compared to other school districts with comparable demographics.

At 1 time I’ve heard people, including the old timers saying how great the PR school system was.

What happened?

I don’t know whether or not all these tests tell you that much about student knowledge or learned abilities, but if that’s the standard that’s used to evaluate and compare school districts then that’s the standard you need to meet if you don’t want to appear substandard.

So if D-64 doesn’t meet that standard, is it because they are foolishly trying to buck the trend, or is it becuase they just aren’t doing that well in educating our kids?

District 64 has been mistaking policy for performance for years. It’s like it exists for the benefit of the PREA (teacher’s union) rather than the students. No surprise that they can’t put even one school in the Top 50 of either middle school or elementary.

District 64 needs to focus more on the basic elements of education – reading, writing, and arithmetic. Enough of the fluff!

What’s the fluff? I’ve been pretty happy with what my kids are learning.

Anonymous on 09.02.09 4:37 pm

Some people are content with getting $12,000/kid/year in education services while probably paying about $3,000-$5,000 in taxes. But some people are easily satisfied.

anonymous on 09.02.09 5:04 pm,

We paid property taxes before we had kids in the district and we will be paying property taxes long after our kids leave the district, so I think it all evens out eventually.

I’m still wondering what’s the fluff?

i don’t know what the “fluff” is, either, but i’m disappointed that the rankings of district 64 schools aren’t much better than they look to be. to not have even one “top 50” school for as long as these rankings have been done is pretty unimpressive.

During the preparation of a 64 stategic plan a number of years ago I saw a draft on a web site or in the local paper.

There was not a single commitment of any kind to providing an environment in which each child could strive to meet the child’s full potential.

I pointed this out to a school board member, who brought the comment forward to the 25 member Committee that included a substantial number of parents. The board member reported back to me that the committee felt it was too far along in its process to consider such a commitment.

The final product was full of the same junk mentioned in your report. Most of it is nonsense or benefits staff not students.

What is wrong with us that we don’t demand better? Some say it is the caucus system which produces incompetent or loyal-to-the-administration board members.

One thing I am sure of is that teachers should be designated as essential employees like firemen and policemen so that they cannot carry out formal work stoppages.

The big cave in by parents during negotiations is always because to parents the teachers are essential employees when they have children in school


As always, you inspired me to do a little research. Certainly, I agree that we need to strive to have our schools in the top 50 or higher. Of course I am concerned about this as my kids ar working their way through the system as we speak.

So I decided to take a look a what is recognized as a great school. New Trier appears to be ranked number 4. I pokea around on their site looking for their goals or strategies. I found the following:

Now I will say up front that I have not yet read it all. As you can see it is quite a few different documents. My initial read is that appears to be the same gobbledy-gook you reference above. I have yet to see any reference to specific improvement on test scores. Of course folks in their district are probably already happy with the school ranking.

Bureaucracy is a symptom. The disease is mediocrity. The cure is competition. The majority sends their children to these schools because they are forced to pay for the schools via property taxes. Things would change if parents could use that money for any school they chose.

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