Mt. Vernon Register-News

November 8, 2013

Three high schools see drop in test scores

By TRAVIS MORSE travis.morse@register-news.com
The Register-News

---- — This article is the third in a four-part series on Illinois School Report Card data.

MT. VERNON — The three rural Jefferson County high schools saw declining state test scores in 2012-2013, according to Illinois School Report Card data.

Of the three schools, Webber Township High School had the highest overall score, while Woodlawn Community High School and Waltonville High School had slightly lower results.

In 2012-2013, 47 percent of Webber students met or exceeded state standards on the Prairie State Achievement Examination. This compares to 52 percent the prior year and the state average of 53 percent.

Webber Principal Brock Harris said 47 percent is “not too bad” of a score compared with other schools in Southern Illinois.

He also pointed out that Webber's scores are markedly better than they were two or three years ago when only about 20 percent of students were meeting or exceeding the standards.

“It's been a complete turnaround as far as I'm concerned,” Harris said.

In both the reading and math categories, 47 percent of Webber students met or exceeded the PSAE standards for 2012-2013. The prior year's percentages were 46 for reading and 58 for math.

Furthermore, in science, 41 percent of Webber students met or exceeded the standards in 2012-2013, compared to 42 percent the prior year.

In Woodlawn's case, 45 percent of students met or exceeded the PSAE standards in 2012-2013, compared to 57 percent the year before.

Woodlawn Principal Thomas Rude said his school's overall scores have stayed “pretty consistent” over time, fluctuating between 42 and 57 percent.

The state, he said, has continued to raise the standards for the PSAE, which has made things more difficult for students.

Even so, Rude said he will examine the test results with the superintendent and the Board of Education to determine if there are ways to improve.

“We'd like to see it go up. We'd like to see as many students pass as possible,” Rude said.

Woodlawn also had 45 percent scores in the reading and math categories for 2012-2013. The prior year's scores were 56 percent for reading and 58 percent for math.

In science, 29 percent of Woodlawn students met or exceeded the PSAE standards in 2012-2013, compared to 56 percent the prior year.

Waltonville's overall PSAE score was 40 percent in 2012-2013, compared to 59 percent the prior year.

The school also had 40 percent scores in reading and math for 2012-2013. The prior year's scores were 55 percent in reading and 62 percent in math.

In the science category, 33 percent of Waltonville students met or exceeded the standards in 2012-2013, compared to 45 percent the year before.

“We'd like for them to score better for that,” said Shlonda Horton, Waltonville's superintendent and principal. “We do take the test seriously, but we also consider it's one test taken on one day one time of the year.”

Horton said 15 juniors took the PSAE last spring at Waltonville. With that small a number, it only takes a few students not doing well to bring the total scores down, she said.

Horton added that testing students more than once a year would give a better indication of their abilities.

All three schools had high attendance rates for 2012-2013, above the state average of 94 percent.

Webber's rate was 96 percent that year, and Woodlawn and Waltonville both had 95 percent.

Two of the schools also had four-year graduation rates for 2012-2013 that were above the state average of 83 percent.

Waltonville had the highest at 94 percent and next was Webber with a rate of 90 percent.

Woodlawn was slightly below the state average at 82 percent.

All of the Report Card data for these schools can be viewed at www.illinoisreportcard.com.