Rockford School District–how does it measure up?

Rockford School District–how does it measure up?

By Barb Dent

Rockford School District

—how does it measure up?

District 205 is supposed to be focusing on educating children. The new majority (Mike Bliss, Mark Burns, Nancy Kalchbrenner, Jay Nellis and Mike Williams) has been focusing on borrowing money, more borrowing and wasting millions of taxpayer dollars on interest. We have yet to hear them discuss the schools on the academic watch list and the “bright flight” that occurred during the People Who Care (PWC) years. This new majority needs to focus on the classroom as they promised and rid the district of the failed court-ordered programs and policies instead of borrowing more money at the expense of the children and the taxpayers.

Each year, the state of Illinois honors the top seniors by designating them Illinois State Scholars. The award is based on your class rank and your college test scores (ACT or SAT). District 205 students are falling behind students at Boylan, Hononegah, Belvidere and Lutheran.

Illinois State Scholars 2001 2002

School Scholars % of Seniors Scholars % of Seniors

Boylan 57 17% 46 16%

Hononegah 47 13% 36 10%

Lutheran 13 12% 13 13%

Belvidere 42 11% 45 12%

Guilford 32 11% 33 11%

Auburn 23 9% 33 10%

Harlem 23 6% 17 5%

East 13 5% 16 6%

Jefferson 11 4% 14 5%

Unlike Lutheran and Boylan, District 205 high schools have open enrollment in their honors and advance placement classes. Therefore, low-achieving students can sign up for these classes and can slow the progress in these classes. The district should end open enrollment and should adopt an objective academic policy for taking honors and advancement placement classes.

Students at Boylan and Lutheran are rewarded with a “weighted grade” for taking honors and advanced placement classes. If you receive an “A” in these classes, it equals 5 points. If you receive a “B”, it’s worth 4 points. In regular classes, an “A” grade is 4 points and a “B” grade is worth 3 points. Weighted grades provide extra motivation for students to take these challenging classes because their class rank is dependent on it. District 205 students don’t have weighted grades, which accounts for the reason Guilford had 15 valedictorians this past school year. In District 205, you can graduate first in your class without taking an honors class. District 205 previously had weighted grades, but it was eliminated during the PWC years. It’s time to bring back weighted grades.

The Brown administration needs to meet with other local public and private schools and discuss how it can raise student achievement among its top students. The board and administration needs to evaluate its extra credit, homework and semester exam policies and compare them to the top schools in the area. Boylan, which is the current leader of Illinois State Scholars, has quarter exams that are worth 33% of your grade, semester exams are worth 33% of your semester grade and a challenging curriculum and grading scale. Students must take their semester exams even if they earned an “A” for both quarters.

The new majority has raised our taxes and is spending more money on interest in 2002. It’s time they focused on raising the academic standards and spending our precious tax dollars on education, not interest.

Barb Dent is president of Rockford Educating All Children (R.E.A.CH.).

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