Maine East Up, Maine South MIA In Latest U.S. News Rankings


A year ago the 2016 U.S. News & World Reports rankings of Illinois high schools had Maine South at 45th, Maine East at 63rd, and Maine West MIA. In our 4.22.16 post we bemoaned the fact that Maine South’s 45th place ranking was down 16 places from 2012, and that the “college readiness” rating was an unimpressive 40.8%.

But that was then, this is now. But once again we now have good news and bad news.

First, the good news: Maine East leaped from 63rd place to 37th!

Now the bad: Maine South fell out of the rankings entirely – meaning it didn’t even come in among the top 100.

According to the article in last week’s Park Ridge Herald-Advocate (“Maine East ranks 37th in state on new ‘Best Schools’ list,” May 2), U.S. News ranks schools based on: (a) reading and math results on high school proficiency tests; (b) whether “disadvantaged” student groups — identified as black, Hispanic and low-income — “performed at or better than the state average for the least-advantaged students; (c) graduation rates; and (d) how the schools prepare students for college-level work using data from Advanced Placement exams.

Maine Twp. High School District 207 Supt. Ken Wallace, not surprisingly, offered explanations that don’t seem internally consistent.

According to the H-A article, Wallace blames “flawed” state PARCC testing, unequal comparisons between schools, and Maine South’s failure to meet the performance threshold for black, Hispanic and low-income students. He also claimed that while District 207 gave the PARCC math and language arts exams to its freshman, other districts tested older students; and other districts may have selectively tested only their better students.

That might explain South’s plummet, but how does that explain East’s simultaneous rise?

We don’t know but, not surprisingly, Wallace’s explanation didn’t wash with Robert Morse, chief data strategist at U.S. News. As reported by the H-A, Morse claimed the test score comparisons across schools “are generally reliable” and that “[t]o the extent that any comparisons are unfair, in this particular case, Maine South and Maine West would have both been advantaged by the fact that they tested their students in ELA I, the easier ELA assessment.”

Morse went on to explain that because South and West didn’t pass step one of the U.S. News methodology because their performance was no better than might be expected, “given their proportion of students identified as economically disadvantaged.”

Wallace remained defiant, claiming that once D-207 schools start using the SAT the comparisons with other schools will be “apples to apples.”

Let’s hope so.

Wallace was quick to point out that typically high performers like Barrington, Deerfield and Highland Park high schools also didn’t make the rankings cut, and that the “metrics that matter the most is [sic] really the CRI [College Readiness Index],” But South’s CRI – according to U.S. News – is a disappointing 44.6, although up almost 4 points from last year.

Compare that to not only the three top suburban schools — Stevenson (71.6), Hinsdale Central (62.8) and Prospect (61.5) – but also to less prestigious schools like Hersey (58.9), Buffalo Grove (52.9) and York (50.8).

Even the three also-unranked schools that Wallace noted did better than South: Barrington’s CRI was 46.8, Deerfield’s was 58.6 and Highland Park’s was 58.3. Even our out-of-the-money neighbor to the north, Glenbrook South, clocked in with a 55.6.

What does all of this mean?

We don’t know, because we’re not willing or able to figure out how many U.S. News testing metrics – or Supt. Wallace’s metrics, for that matter – can dance on the head of a pin.

But one thing we are pretty sure of is that when parents from the City of Chicago or outside the Chicago area are looking at relocating to suburbs with the highest-quality schools, Park Ridge takes a big hit – justified or not – when its flagship high school gets beaten out by so many schools from other communities where the taxes are so much lower, especially when 70% of our property tax bills are attributed to our local public schools.

And irrespective of how Maine South compares to schools in those other north, northwest and west suburbs, we didn’t hear Wallace trying to justify South’s 44.6 CRI number.

Think about that for a minute: An affluent suburb like Park Ridge, taxing and spending near the top of the pack (at approx. $18,000 per student per year), appears incapable of educating even half of its students to the level of “college readiness.” And all we get from Wallace and the D-207 School Board is…crickets.

Are those kids arriving at South, primarily from D-64 – itself among the highest-priced elementary districts – under-prepared for high school? If so, it’s time for Wallace and the folks at South to say so. Then let Supt. Laurie Heinz, her heretofore puppet school board members, and her administrators defend their stewardship of their schools’ students.

If not, then it’s time to start questioning the stewardship of Wallace, his puppet school board members, and his administrators.

We’ve had more than enough of what appears to be a conspiracy of mutual silence and back-scratching by the folks running both D-64 and D-207.

Meanwhile, it’s well past time the Illinois State Board of Education started producing its own official “apples-to-apples” comparisons of Illinois schools – both elementary and secondary – rather than leaving the task to the likes of U.S. News, Schooldigger, et al.

Because, like it or not, comparative school shopping and community shopping is here to stay – especially when those schools consume a whopping 70% of a community’s hefty property tax bill.

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8 comments so far

When will anybody but this blog (and Moira Collins, who spoke at the WCB “public hearing”) ask tough questions of these school people. It’s like they wear Teflon armor that nothing sticks to.

If Wallace wants to bang his own drum for the Hawks’ football championship, let him do so. But he is not putting out a championship education and neither is his top feeder system, D-64.

The $18000 per student per year that property tax payers fund, is that all for operating expenditures (teachers, administrators, programs, security, etc.) or does a portion of this money go for capital expenditures as well?

EDITOR’S NOTE: The $18,000 per student is actually low: According the D-207’s 2015-16 “Report Card” (, “Operating Spending” per pupil last year was $19,475per pupil, and included “all costs for overall operations in [Dist. 207], including Instructional Spending, but excluding summer school, adult education, capital expenditures, and long-term debt payments.”

“Instructional Spending,” on the other hand, deals only with “the activities directly dealing with the teaching of students or the interaction between teachers and students.”

My youngest graduated from South 11 years ago. Higher ranking, less money.

Now we are paying more for less. Great job, Ken Wallace, great job school board.

Just taking the time to dig deeper into the rankings, your statement that less than half of the students at Maine South are “college ready” based upon the CRI score of 44.6 is inaccurate. The CRI is not a percentage of total students ready for college. It’s a scoring index based upon the percentage of students taking AP exams (25%) and the percentage of students getting scores of 3 (“passing”) or higher any exam taken throughout their 4 years of high school (75%). 87% of students who took an AP exam at Maine South passed at least one (compared to 80% at Maine East and 87% at Prospect ranked #9). It appears Maine South’s biggest downfall is that more kids don’t take AP exams. Schools with higher rankings have a higher percentage of students taking AP exams (accounting for 25% of the total CRI score), not necessarily more kids passing all of those exams. Maine South had 49% take the exam and 83% of the total exams taken were passed while Prospect had 68% take the exams with an 81% total pass rate. Prospects CRI was a 61.5 and a #9 ranking while Maine South had a 44.6 and would have been around #27 if it qualified to be ranked. I am not sure which students are more college ready based upon those numbers.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We stand corrected re the 44.6 CRI not being an actual percentage of college-ready students.

But while that 44.6 would put South in 27th place in the ranking, it didn’t make the rankings because it couldn’t get past Step 1: its students were not “performing better than statistically expected for students in that state” – based on reading and math results for all students on each state’s high school proficiency tests, and then factoring in its percentage of economically disadvantaged students.

Several other higher-end schools apparently are in the same unranked boat, although their CRIs are still notably higher than South’s; e.g., Glenbrook South (55.6); Glenbrook North (52.5); Highland Park (58.3); and Deerfield (58.6).

So it still seems to us that Ken Wallace and the D-207 Board have a lot more explaining to do than they have done so far.

I don’t know who to believe or trust about whether our schools are as good as they should be, and that we are getting the highest value for our tax dollars.

That college readiness number really troubles me.

article about “problems” with the methodology used:

EDITOR’S NOTE: Of course there are “problems,” but the author concedes that U.S. News “is arguably doing the best it can with the available data” – primarily because the public school system of each state, under the thumbs of the NEA and/or the AFT, has abrogated any responsibility to rate or rank its schools despite having both the data and the lawful authority to do that job.

If you look at where MS students go to college (this info is readily available on the website) you’ll see they are doing just fine. This year’s class has students going to not just U of I but Northwestern, Notre Dame, Michigan, even Yale to name just a few. Just because South doesn’t push AP doesn’t mean their students don’t stack up with the best in the area.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We just checked the MS website and couldn’t find that list, so please provide a link – assuming there is one.

And high school rankings suggest that South students might no “stack up with the best in the area.” What metrics do you have that suggests otherwise?

Sadly MSH is over rated folks.Hopefully the dope problem is being addressed as well. Living next door ( Rosemont ) to the cocaine corridor does not help either. Look at Naperville…..

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