Public Watchdog.org

“College Ready”? Don’t Bet On It

05.19.17

We got a few constructive criticisms about our previous post that caused us to look a little more closely at – and drill down a little more deeply into – those U.S. News & World high school rankings, which this year had Maine East soaring from 63d place to 37th place among Illinois high schools while Maine South plummeted from 45th to out-of-the-money.

A couple of commenters faulted our suggestion that South’s 44.6 College Readiness Index (“CRI”) score indicated that the Maine Twp. High School District 207 administration was “incapable of educating even half of its students to the level of ‘college readiness’.”

And those commenters are correct.

The CRI is not the percentage of students in a given school who are “college ready.” Rather, it’s a number that reflects how many students take Advanced Placement (“AP”) tests and how many “pass” by scoring at least a “3” out of “5” possible points.

As one of our commenters speculated, South may have been penalized because not as many of its students took as many AP exams as other schools’ students.

Or maybe South students just didn’t pass as many of the AP exams they did take.

But South didn’t fall out of the rankings because of its CRI, which was higher than East’s and a number of the other schools ranked a head of it.

South fell out of the rankings because it could not get past Step 1 in the ranking process: A determination of whether its students “were performing better than statistically expected for students in that state” – based on its percentage of economically disadvantaged students.

According to U.S. News data, 46% of Maine East students are considered “economically disadvantaged, while a mere 7% of Maine South students fit that description.

So the bottom line of South’s rather dismal ranking performance is that it under-performed its expectations for a school with such affluent students.

That under-performance was totally side-stepped by D-207 Supt. Ken Wallace, who keeps on getting raises for reasons we can’t begin to understand. As we noted in our 05.08.17 post, he basically blamed PARCC testing, Park Ridge’s lack of diversity, and the U.S. News rating system.

If D-207’s or D-64’s rankings, or their objective performances on standardized tests, don’t match up with those for the schools in Glenview, Northbrook and all those other communities that compete with Park Ridge for highly-educated, high-income transplants from Chicagoland or out of state, you can count on Wallace and D-64 Supt. Laurie Heinz to come up with more alibis and excuses than you can count…using both your fingers and your toes.

Almost all of them boil down to: We’re better than they say we are. And the standards they use to say we aren’t are fatally flawed.

In that vein we encourage you to read an article in today’s Chicago Tribune (“Tribune analysis: College prep courses not preparing kids for college”, May 19), which raises yet another warning flag about Maine South’s 44.6 CRI: That South’s “general” curriculum may be under-performing in preparing South’s students for college.

That Tribune story points out how the general curriculums in too many Illinois high schools are not rigorous enough – absent “honors” and AP classes – to get their students college-ready. So if South’s CRI is lower because of a lack of AP course/test takers and AP test passers, a less-than-rigorous general curriculum may be part of the problem.

Is it?

We don’t know. Getting a handle on the quality of public education in this country is like trying to catch a greased pig, squealing (by administrators, teachers, teachers’ unions and politicians) included.

But one thing is clear: When it comes to local public school education, it’s always sunny in Park Ridge. Our schools are great…just ask all our highly-paid educators. And according to them, anyone or anything that suggests otherwise lacks credibility, or is using faulty data, or is manufacturing fake news.

Will we ever have a school superintendent or school board member who actually accepts accountability for the continuing under-performance of our schools occurring on their watch?

And will the Park Ridge sheeple who have every right to demand more, and better, for the children of this community – because they already are paying for much more, and much better – ever stop mindlessly buying the propaganda churned out by the likes of D-64 Propaganda Minister Bernadette Tramm and her D-207 counterpart, David Beery, presumably at the direction of Heinz and Wallace?

The folks who run D-207 and D-64 have bet heavily on “No.”

To read or post comments, click on title.

10 comments so far

What is your take on the new plan for District 207 to open an “Instructional Coaching Center” in Chicago? As I understand it, the district has already hired a director at $170K per year. Teachers who are also part time instructional coaches will be tapped to teach classes in instructional coaching at the center. Maine Township teachers can take the class for free. Other school districts will pay a fee. I wonder what purpose such a center serves in educating Maine Twp. students — not to mention the escalating costs of administration. In the past three years the district has added three $140K+ Asst. Principal “of learning” positions. Now add on the new head of this coaching center and that’s $600K of yearly salaries. At the same time, the district has continued to raise classes sizes (now 31 students per class) and this year is cutting $60,000 from the book budget while pushing students to use online, free texts. This blog has consistently made the argument that salaries are too high for the results. What needs to be tackled is administrative bloat. On top of this, one has to question the purpose of this new and expensive “Instructional Coaching Center.” Maine Twp. continues to find new ways to waste money on ventures that pad administrative resumes but do nothing to help students learn. Do parents in the community support this level of administration? This new venture seems like little more than a vanity project for people’s resume.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We have heard nothing about this but, if true, it doesn’t surprise us.

NO function of local gov’t is less accountable than education, as operated by both D-207 and D-64. That goes back to that masterful public relations ploy they came up with, “It’s for the kids,” which made any criticism of the schools anti-kid.

And our school board member just keep letting them get away with it.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Your last point is the most troubling, as our elected representatives are supposed to hold the “natives” responsible, not go “native” themselves.

The value of these schools to the community is quality of education versus cost.

Maine South (not all of D207) needs to get back to academic basics, instead of focusing so much on their football program and athletics in general. This is not a call to eliminate their football or any other athletic program, but a call to hit the reset button and shift their focus. If Maine South has the vision and commitment to do so, residents must understand it could very well get worse before it gets better. Additional quality volunteers running for the D207 Board is the first order of business to help raise the academic bar at Maine South a reality.

EDITOR’S NOTE: It all comes down to better Board members who don’t come to the Board, or immediately become, sycophants of the teachers and administrators whom they are supposed to be holding accountable. When was the last time you read an article in the local papers, or read any meeting minutes, where any Board member even mentioned school rankings or questioned the quality of education?

I believe that one reason so many Park Ridge taxpayers do not complain about the schools (at least not publicly) is because they are using them for their kids and are reaping the benefit of paying far less in taxes than they would have to pay for private/parochial educations for their kids.

If you use a $15,000/year RE tax bill, approx. $6,000 of that goes to D-64 and another approx. $5,000 goes to D-207. But one kid in D-64 costs $15,000, and one kid at MSW or SPC costs $7,000, so with just one kid at D-64 the parents are already money ahead.

Since one kid at Maine South costs $18,000 versus $10-15,000 in a private/parochial school, the parents with just one kid at South are also money ahead.

And when those same parents start putting 2 or more kids in either district with no additional incremental cost, it becomes a total windfall, so much so that many parents can afford to hire tutors or sign their kids up for summer enrichment programs to make up for whatever inadequacies they perceive in the schools.

Those parents have no real reason to complain.

EDITOR’S NOTE: That’s pretty much the way we see it, which would explain why tutoring is such a big business in Park Ridge.

My point exactly PWD! Radio silence on rankings by current board members, but weekly updates in the media about Maine South’s football program.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Because they CAN’T explain away rankings that show ME soaring while MS plummets. So they look for any convenient “Look, there goes Elvis!” distraction. Unfortunately, the rubes keep falling for it.

Bnonymous is spot on about why the complaints about the educational quality are few and far between. And then after their kids graduate from h.s. they move out of town to avoid paying back the costs of their kids’ schooling.

The people who should start speaking up are the parents of private and parochial school kids, who are paying but not using, and actually relieving the burdens on the public schools. They are the ones who are getting ripped off the worst.

The Washington Post disagrees with your assessment that Maine South’s curriculum is not rigorous enough with its ranking of Maine South as the 33rd most challenging high school in Illinois (https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/local/high-school-challenge-2017/). Maine South ranks ahead of Deerfield 37th, Highland Park 38th and the almighty New Trier 56th. This just goes to show that every ranking can be discredited by another ranking especially when these rankings are created by publications who are just trying to sell magazines/newspapers. Rankings of high schools are silly (as are most rankings) and are given way too much value in today’s society.

EDITOR’S NOTE: To overpaid school administrators and their rubber-stamp school board sycophants, ANYTHING that raises questions about the quality and value of the education the public schools are providing is “silly” because it creates more scrutiny for people who hate to be scrutinized.

Frankly, we’d LOVE the State of Illinois Board of Education to provide analysis and rankings but that’s never going to happen because the politicians that control that Board are beholden to the teachers’ unions who don’t want to be paid for performance.

Meanwhile, whether the rankers are the WAPO’s Jay Matthews or U.S. News, Maine South still trails the likes of Stevenson, Hinsdale Central, Prospect, Hersey, Buffalo Grove, Fremd, Libertyville, Glenbrook South, Elk Grove, etc.
But keep on buying the D-207 and D-64 propaganda: Propaganda ministers Beery and Tramm appreciate it.

Hey, 5/24/17 @ 4:10 PM, did you read how Jay Matthews does his “Challenge Index” rankings? He counts up the total number of AP, IB and Cambridge tests given at the school each year and then divides that number by the number of seniors who graduated that year.

WTF?

Why no mention of the excellent MAP scores D 64 students earned this past spring?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Please enlighten us.



Leave a comment
Line and paragraph breaks automatic, e-mail address never displayed, HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>