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”?