District 64 Again Blowing Smoke On State Exams


It’s no secret that we have been critical of Park Ridge-Niles District 64’s performance on standardized tests.  We continually question why students from an affluent community like ours seem to underperform comparable districts when it comes to the ISATs, which – like it or not – appear to be the standard by which school districts are judged.

So the article in this week’s Park Ridge Herald-Advocate (“District 64 students perform well on state exams,” November 3) gives us yet another reason to question what’s going on with ISAT scores, and why the District continues to blow smoke up the taxpayers’ collective skirts on this issue.

Can any of our readers confirm whether spin-meister Larry Sorenson giggled or smirked when he said how “exciting” it is that the majority of our District 64 students “continue to meet or exceed state standards on the ISAT”?  Shouldn’t exceeding state standards be expected from District 64 schools on a regular basis, not a cause of excitement?

If the article is an accurate presentation of Sorenson’s test score dog-and-pony show, we see a lot of cherry-picking of results, perhaps because only those excite the District’s administrators.  And he doesn’t disappoint when he reminds us, as the District administrators and teachers seem to do every year – that “it’s important to share with the [school] board that ISAT is just one assessment that we give to the students.”

Okay, Larry, can you tell us which specific assessment is considered more important than the ISATs…and why?

According to the H-A article, the District’s ISAT report claims the District doesn’t have the information to rank itself against other school districts in terms of ISAT scores.  May we suggest that the bureaucrats at the ESC check out the Chicago Tribune’s and the Chicago Sun-Times’ rankings, which have been out for over a week now and which provide two different methods of ranking?   

We’re not educators, but we are taxpayers and homeowners.  So when our kids aren’t regularly scoring among the top fifty schools and are being outperformed by kids from less affluent communities and/or districts that spend less per pupil, something needs to be done – starting with some honest explanations from the District’s educators, administrators, and its school board members. 

Let’s start with stopping this nonsense about “We don’t teach to the test.”  If the test is how the districts are measured and compared to each other, then it’s just plain foolish not to “teach to the test.” 

It might also help to get a little intergovernmental cooperation going between District 64, Maine South and Maine East.  Since those high schools end up educating the vast majority of District 64 grads, maybe their educators can identify if, where and how District 64 students are coming up short.  How about a detailed “white paper” on the subject, backed up with hard, irrefutable data rather than anecdotes?

Given that District 64 consumes approximately one-third of our annual property tax payments, and in view of the fact that every time the District wants more money it tells us how important good schools are to maintaining our property values, the taxpayers deserve some serious and specific answers now – not months from now when these scores are just a dim memory – that include a specific, nuts-and-bolts plan for how they will do better next year and the years thereafter.

2 comments so far

I find it interesting that Maine South can be ranked so high yet the “feeder” schools from District 64 are not even ranked. Did these kids just wake-up when they joined Maine South, drink the kool aid and perform better on standardized tests? They are obviously being taught well – I agree that it would be nice to see those results in better rankings.

I would submit that we could swap teachers from any Chicago public school with the teachers at one of our grade schools, and the performance of the students would be as good or better.

Our teachers are blessed with kids who for the most part, have a head start on eduction when they first arrive. Educated families, affluence, a safe community, two parents, parents who are engaged in their children’s education are huge contributors to the student’s overall success.

We have many fine teachers but we also have many just gliding towards their guaranteed and generous pensions.

Principals allow virtually all teachers merit raises regardless of objective evaluation because they do not want to rock the boat during their years in the big office. Until there is a process to objectively and rigorously evaluate teachers as well as the ability to terminate and replace them regardless of their length of service (like in the private sector), no real progress will be made.

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