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Where Lake County middle schools are 'underperforming' on state report card

The needs of the many often can outweigh the needs of the few.

But now in Illinois, the performance of a small group of students can affect how schools are graded by the state's new ranking system aimed at targeting support to those who need it the most.

Of 114 Lake County public schools studied in the Daily Herald's coverage area, mostly west of I-94, 10 were deemed underperforming -- the second-lowest rating -- according to the 2018 Illinois Report Card. Of those 10, six were middle schools.

Those schools were Round Lake Unit District 116's Round Lake and Magee, Gavin District 37's South Middle School in Ingleside, Big Hollow District 38's Middle School in Ingleside, Gurnee District 56's Viking Middle School, and Barrington Area Unit District 220's Station Middle School.

Seventy-eight schools, or about 68 percent, were deemed "commendable," and 26 schools, around 23 percent, were rated "exemplary," the highest grade achievable. None received the "lowest-performing" designation under the state's new ranking system, aimed at targeting additional funding and resources to students who need it the most.

Underperforming schools have one or more student groups performing at or below "all students" in the lowest-performing 5 percent of schools statewide. This year, the state listed 11 possible groups to be evaluated: economically disadvantaged, students with disabilities, English learners, former English learners, and racial and ethnic groups.

District 220 Superintendent Brian Harris said Station would have had a higher rating if English language learners had scored better.

"It's unfortunate. We have two of the highest performing middle schools in the state, but because one subgroup underperforms in one of two of them, therefore the whole school gets deemed underperforming," he said.

Harris said he felt the state's ratings were misleading.

He said he has no problem being accountable for the data and added that officials are working at providing more help to students in that particular group. He doesn't think the rating reflects the school as a whole or makes it any different from Prairie Middle School, which was deemed commendable.

"Is there a material, significant difference between two schools? There is not," Harris said.

The purpose of the state's new ranking system is to hold schools accountable for meeting the needs of all students, especially the most disadvantaged. Under the rating system, if any student group in a school is underperforming, the entire school is labeled so.

Round Lake Area Unit District 116 Superintendent Donn Mendoza said District 116's two middle schools would have earned commendable ratings, but students on an Individualized Education Program were underperforming compared to their peers. IEP students have personalized plans because they have a learning or other form of disability.


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