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Highland Elementary School in Skokie School District 68 and HH Conrady Jr. High School in North Palos School District 117 recognized for academic success

SPRINGFIELD, IL – The Illinois State Board of Education announced that two Illinois schools with a high percentage of children in poverty will be honored for their academic gains next month during the National Title I Association’s annual conference. Highland Elementary School in Skokie School District 68 and HH Conrady Jr. High School in North Palos School District 117 will be among schools across the nation honored for serving students in poverty and achieving academic success.

“The State Board is committed to providing schools with the proper resources to close achievement gaps and prepare every student for success in college and their chosen career path,” said State Board of Education Chairman James T. Meeks. “These schools demonstrate that with teamwork, innovation, clear academic goals and a strong support system in place for all children’s unique needs, outstanding results are possible for our neediest students.”

The National Title I Association, established to help improve and implement programs under Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Act (ESEA), recognizes up to two schools per state as National Title I Distinguished Schools. Title I is the largest federally funded pre-college education program, providing funding to school districts that serve students from low-income families. The schools will be honored during the association’s annual conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, as well as at the No Child Left Behind annual statewide conference in Chicago, both scheduled for the first week of February.

The National Title I Association allows each state to select one qualifying school in each of the following two categories:

1. High Performing – A school that has exceeded its Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) – or alternative accountability criteria for those states with ESEA Flexibility Requests approved by the U.S. Department of Education – for two or more years.

2. Achievement Gap – A school that has significantly closed the achievement gap between subgroups of students.

Results were based on scores of the state’s previous test, the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT), which measured the achievement of third- through eighth-graders in reading and mathematics and measured achievement in science among fourth- and seventh-graders. Illinois is replacing the ISAT with the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) exams this school year.

“Children in poverty have significant needs that pose unique challenges for educators,” said State Superintendent of Education Christopher A. Koch. “I commend the students, teachers, administrators, local board members and families at HH Conrady Jr. High School and at Highland Elementary for their commitment to strong academics and innovative approaches to ensure that all students are prepared and capable of high achievement.”

HH Conrady Jr. High School (North Palos School District 117)

More than 56 percent of students at HH Conrady Jr. High School are classified as low income. ISAT scores rose from 71.4 percent of students meeting or exceeding standards in 2011 to 74.9 percent meeting and exceeding in 2013. Results for 2014 were not used as Illinois participated in piloting the PARCC assessments in 2014.

Conrady Junior High School Principal Andy Anderson said the school operates under North Palos District 117’s 10 core values and Quality Review process, which establishes annual academic goals and includes the regular review of student performance data to identify appropriate interventions for students who are not meeting standards as well as what to do for students who have mastered standards.

“We have found that ‘focus’ on student academic goals is essential when making daily decisions,” Anderson said. “We strive each day to protect instructional time, build in-house department-wide professional development around identified needs, and strategically use limited financial resources to support intervention programs and professional development that keeps staff up to date with effective best practices.”

Anderson also credits the hard work and dedication of his school’s staff, many of whom put in extra hours before and after school to work with students and revise curriculum.

“I’m grateful for this moment of recognition for our teachers because they certainly are a major factor behind this award,” said Anderson, principal at the school for five years. “I’m also proud of the students and the parents who have partnered with our staff in ensuring student success.”

Highland Elementary (Skokie School District 68)

Highland’s ISAT composite score increased by 13.7 percentage points, growing from 60.8 percent of students meeting or exceeding standards in 2010 to 74.5 in 2013. This school has closed the racial/ethnic achievement gap from 33.7 percent in 2011 to 21 percent in 2013. Additionally, the achievement gap has also narrowed between low-income and non-low-income students from 31.7 percent in 2010 to 23.7 percent in 2013.

Highland Principal Leslie Gordon credits her school’s success in part to a continually evolving, multi-tiered system of support that begins with a solid core curriculum rooted in the new Illinois Learning Standards and varying support levels that address students’ specific academic and social-emotional needs and provide appropriate interventions.

“I work often with other principals and the administration in our district and we’re a very good team,” said Gordon, who is in her 13th year as Highland’s principal. “To be recognized for our hard work is so important to the teachers, to the school and the district as a whole.”

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