Monday, February 24, 2020
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Half of IL’s worst schools are outside Chicago

An analysis of how well Illinois school districts are performing was posted by Kevin Haas last month, showing that Rockford District 205 has the greatest percentage of schools, among Illinois’s 25 most populous districts, that the state has identified as “lowest performing.”

Pregame warm-up for girls’ basketball at Guilford HS in Rockford District 205 (school via Twitter)

Of the 43 schools in District 205, 37 percent, or 16 of them, were identified as being among Illinois’s lowest-performing schools, a designation reserved statewide for only 5 percent of all schools.

Although the state uses more than standardized test scores to rank schools, the Illinois Report Card shows, for example, that only 3 percent of the students—most of them minority and most of them poor—at Lewis Lemon Elementary in Rockford are reading at grade level. For high schools, the graduation rate constitutes half of a school’s ranking.

The lowest designation means the state will send additional funding to District 205 to support various turnaround initiatives at the school, along with the districts of other schools that are so labeled.

  • Gamers will love Marvel’s Spider-Man, writes Eddie Drinkwine of Guilford High School in Rockford in the school’s student newspaper, The Voyager.
  • Sully Reilly, a reporter for East Highlights, the student news site at Rockford East High School, remembers Stan Lee, who died recently from pneumonia at the age of 95 but who created many Marvel characters during his lifetime, including Captain America, Iron Man, and Spider-Man.

Rockford and other downstate communities, such as Peoria, where District 150 has the second-highest percentage of lowest-performing schools among Illinois’s 25 biggest districts, have fallen into various states of disrepair in a post-industrial economy. And although many people associate the urban jungle of Chicago with low-performing schools, only 15 percent of the district’s 619 schools were designated as lowest-performing.

“The economics of an area matter. Older river cities tend to have this lower economic status,” the Rockford Register-Star quoted Travis Woulfe, executive director of improvement and innovations for the Rockford Public Schools, as saying. “A lot of times it’s not just a matter of doing things differently. You have to be equipped to make the change. You have to be well prepared. You have to have well-resourced teachers and all of the supplies. Places of affluence have had an easier time adapting.”

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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