ETHS questions accuracy of achievement test results

Paul Thissen

Evanston Township High School filed an appeal Monday of results from tests that will determine whether it meets the standards of the federal No Child Left Behind law.

But officials with the state of Illinois say they have yet to receive the appeal.

“The state’s calculations are inaccurate,” said Judith Levinson, director of research evaluation assessment for District 202, which oversees ETHS. “There are inaccuracies in the participation rates and in performance ratings.”

According to the data being appealed, black and low-income subgroups at ETHS, 1600 Dodge Ave., did not score high enough on Prairie State Achievement Examinations, a test administered to all Illinois 11th-graders. In addition, some subgroups did not meet the 95 percent participation rate required to pass Annual Yearly Progress, the evaluation standards set by the law.

Schools that fail to meet the standards for two consecutive years must allow parents to move their children to another school in the district. The schools must also offer extra services and could be subject to corrective action from the state.

More than 450 schools have appealed the participation rate data, said Karen Craven, director of public information of the Illinois State Board of Education.

Craven said problems with data resulted from the way it was submitted, not errors on the part of the state board.

She said the large number of appeals resulted from discrepancies between overall enrollment data, the number of kids initially reported to be in each subgroup and the number of students in each subgroup who took tests.

A formal announcement about the data will be made by the end of February.

Craven said Thursday that she did not have ETHS’s appeal, however. She also said she only knew of appeals with respect to participation data, not performance.

Beyond the immediate difficulties, No Child Left Behind also drew fire from ETHS employees as an overall policy.

“I think the intent of the law is good,” Levinson said. “But, there are a lot of practical problems with using the model as it stands.”

Administrators at ETHS said some subgroups’ failure to meet standards belies the school’s efforts to help disadvantaged students.

“I do not know another institution in the country where the kids No Child Left Behind is earmarked for could receive a better education,” said Bruce Romain, associate principal of grades 11 and 12. “I believe No Child Left Behind will hurt the perception of our efforts as well as the confidence of the community.”

If ETHS is required to offer parents school choice, it is not clear what could be offered. Since ETHS is the only school in its district, it would have to find another district which would enter a transfer agreement. But doubts remain.

“If we send 100 kids to New Trier, how are they going to do better?” Romain said. “Then, New Trier would become a non-performing school because of those same kids.”