September 30, 2008

U-46 Sets Plans for 6 Schools

By Kerry Lester

[email protected]

The Elgin Area School District U-46 board approved restructuring plans for six of its schools Monday night.

Bartlett, Elgin, Larkin and Streamwood high schools, Kimball Middle School and Larsen Middle School have all failed to meet state standards in reading and math for the past five years.

To avoid further state and federal intervention, the board is required to submit school restructuring plans to the state.

While each school's plan varies slightly, they share the same strategies and goals, said Barb Bonner, the district's chief academic officer.

Teachers will develop and implement common district assessments at both the middle and high school levels, Bonner said.

Failing high schools' libraries and computer labs will be used to support student learning beyond the school day.

To help with the transition from middle to high school, students identified "at risk" for academic failure will have the opportunity to participate in a bridge program the summer in between eighth and ninth grade, she said.

Schools will give a survey analyzing the safety, diversity and learning climate to its students, faculty and parents, Bonner said.

Under the federal No Child Left Behind law, a school is considered failing if less than 55 percent of students from any targeted group pass standardized tests in reading and math.

The groups include students with special learning needs, English learners, black and Hispanic students, and students from low-income families.

Scores on the 2006-07 Prairie State Achievement Exams show all five high schools fell far short of having 55 percent of all students, from all targeted groups, meet state standards.

While U-46's high schools have struggled year after year on state tests, elementary and middle schools have posted solid gains.

In 2005-06, all 40 elementary schools met state standards. Last year, just one missed the mark, based on the scores of its special education students.

In recent months, U-46 has expanded its curriculum roadmap, which guides and standardizes instructions at the lower levels, to the high schools. "(We've) already implemented much of what we've outlined in the restructuring plans," interim Superintendent Mary Jayne Broncato said.

The full restructuring plans will take effect next fall if schools once again fail to make adequate yearly progress this year, district spokesman Tony Sanders said. "Essentially, the kids who just took the Prairie State Exams and the Illinois Standards Achievement Tests will decide their school's fate."

State report cards will be released in September.

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