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Seven Chicago-area public schools step into spotlight for making the grade
Naperville, Ill. The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) today gave Spotlight School recognition to seven Chicago area public schools that have achieved high academic performance in an environment in which a majority of students come from low-income families.
The Spotlight Schools which were presented with plaques during a special reception at Northern Illinois University at Naperville are:
We are extremely pleased to be able to honor these schools, said Robert E. Schiller, State Superintendent of Education. Each of them shows that students at any grade level and in a challenging economic environment can be motivated to learn and, more importantly, to achieve.
The seven schools are among Illinois schools where a majority of students come from low-income families, and in which 60 per cent or more of students passed rigorous state tests in 2003. A total of 27 such schools statewide met the Adequate Yearly Progress standards imposed by the federal No Child Left Behind initiative as well as the states accountability system, and have been designated Spotlight Schools.
The accomplishments of these schools demonstrate that high-poverty schools can bridge the well-documented achievement gap between high-income and low-income students, and between students of color and their white and other peers, Schiller said.
The Spotlight Schools awards are a joint effort between ISBE and Northern Illinois University, which has researched high-poverty, high-performance schools.
There are not many Spotlight Schools, NIU President John Peters said, but their significance is monumental. Our research at NIU has identified 10 commonalities among high-poverty, high-performing schools. Given the importance of their accomplishments, these schools deserve close attention from scholars and dedicated support from all of us interested in raising student achievement.
Marilyn McConachie, director of the Spotlight Schools Project for NIU Outreach, said recognition of the Spotlight Schools should inspire other educators to believe that they can truly make a difference in helping all children reach high expectations.
The conventional wisdom is that low-income students provide an excuse for low performance, McConachie said. What we have here are schools that disprove conventional wisdom. For them, demographics are not destiny. Their students are extraordinarily more successful than students at comparable schools. What theyre doing is special, and they deserve to be praised.
The extraordinary accomplishments of the Spotlight Schools are thrown into relief by NIU statistics that, unfortunately, paint a bleak picture.
Nearly 38 per cent of the 2.1 million children in Illinois come from low-income families. Percentages of achievement drawn from low-income schools can dwell in the bottom quarter. At one high-poverty high school, only 17 per cent of students met reading standards while the percentages of student meeting math, writing and science standards were 7 percent, 4 percent and 3 percent respectively.
Meanwhile, numbers at schools with more affluent students often are quite opposite.
While just 40 percent of Illinois third-graders from low-income families meet state standards, 75 percent of their peers do. Merely 20 per cent of low-income high school juniors meet math standards, a number that more than triples to 65 per cent in schools with more affluent students.
The 27 Spotlight Schools have beaten the odds, however, proving the gap can be closed. Four criteria were used to determine which schools are making the grade:
The common characteristics of high-poverty, high-performing schools, according to NIUs Center for Governmental Studies, include:
Illinois State Board of Education