QualityEducation203.org annually compares Naperville Community Unit School District 203's composite ACT score and operational expenditures to those of the highest performing public school districts in the Chicagoland area. The results, once again, demonstrate the academic excellence of District 203 schools and the fiscally sound manner in which they are operated. Year in and year out, the return on our community's educational investment is substantial.
The education of our children is a huge, multi-faceted and complex task, that scores on a standardized test will never fully measure. Still, the composite ACT score is an accepted benchmark of a school district's academic performance; it is the most widely accepted test for college admissions in the U.S. We caution that discretion should be applied when comparing districts with minor differences in scores; variances of a few tenths of a point are not statistically significant.
Further, districts with larger populations of low income students historically have lower test scores than those with fewer low income students. It should be noted that many Chicago area districts have increasing percentages of low income students. In this, District 203 is no exception. Its low income population has increased from 2.3% to 13.4% in eleven years' time. It is significant that 203's ACT scores continued to climb during this same time frame, even as the number of low income students increased. Nationally, there is an increasing effort to reduce the achievement gap between low income and more affluent students. District 203 has recently initiated a major effort to do just that.
Readers may note that test scores are down a few tenths of a point this year compared to last year (District 203's composite score declined from 25.3 in 2012 to 24.8 in 2013). The decline is due to ACT's decision to now include the results of students who receive additional time to take the test due to various disabilities. Had this group not been included, 203's ACT score would have increased to 25.4.
Finally, the future of the ACT in Illinois is uncertain. It is currently given to all high school juniors in Illinois. With the roll-out of the PARCC test, Illinois may well decide to stop requiring the ACT for all students, substituting the PARCC test for state-wide assessment purposes. It should also be noted that Illinois is one of only 9 states that requires 100% of 11th grade students to take the ACT
With respect to expenditures, the average District 203 Operational Expenditure Per Pupil (OEPP) over a 20+ year period has been essentially at the state average, a rarity for a suburban school district. Recently, District 203's OEPP has started to increase over the state average. Much of this is due to the fact that state funding has been cut in the past few years and many districts are significantly more reliant on state funding than District 203 is. These cuts in state funding have the effect of limiting the increases in the state average.
In the seven years QE203.org has conducted this analysis, there has not been another district in the Chicago area whose students' ACT scores equal or exceed D203 students' scores, while spending less than D203.
QE203.org analysis of the Illinois State Board of Education 2013 Report Cards
The data used for the following analysis' can be found at two Illinois State Board of Education sites. The majority can be found at what is now called the Classic Report. There also a new interactive site Illinois Report Card that is well worth checking out. You can read about the many changes to assessments and reporting at 2013 Academic Results. A year of Changes and Confusion.
There are seven high school districts whose students posted higher ACT scores than District 203. Our analysis indicates the average additional amount spent per student by these districts is $3,122 (23.7%) per year more than District 203's $13,184 - which itself is $1,352 more than the state average. While these seven districts are in the Chicagoland area, they are also the top performing districts in Illinois.
Our comparison of District 203 to the seven top CUSD districts (combined elementary and high school districts) shows that District 203's ACT composite score is, once again, first, with its ISAT (elementary school) score tied for third place. District 203 has maintained its position as the top CUSD for the seven years we have done this analysis. It is noteworthy that the top CUSD's spend significantly less per pupil than the top achieving districts with separate elementary-high school systems (although test scores are lower as well).
A note on other rankings:
Both US News & World Report and Newsweek do national rankings for high schools. While their methodology takes a number of factor into consideration, because they put so much emphasis on taking AP classes and tests, their ranking are essentially proxies for AP participation rates. We think that is far, far too narrow a criterion and does a disservice to those students who are achieving academically, but are not taking AP classes.
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