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. And yet, 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 13.8% in twelve 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 initiated a major effort to do just that.
Readers may note that test scores are down a few tenths of a point, both this year and last, from the District high of 25.5 in 2012. The lower scores reflect ACT’s decision, starting in 2013 and going forward, to 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 from 24.8 to 25.4 in 2013 and from 25.1 to 25.8 in 2014.
Finally, the future of the ACT in Illinois is uncertain. Up until 2014, it was given to all high school juniors in Illinois. For 2015, Illinois is making the test available, but it is not required as the PARCC test will replace the PSAE/ACT for state-wide assessment purposes. District 203 has elected to give the ACT test in March of 2015 to interested students, but going forward, it will be a year by year decision to offer it. It should also be noted that Illinois was one of only 12 states that required 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 eight 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 2014 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 recent changes to assessments and reporting at 2013 Academic Results. A year of Changes and Confusion.
There are six high school districts whose students posted higher ACT scores than District 203. Our analysis indicates the average additional amount spent per student by these six districts is $3,511 (25.4%) per year more than District 203's $13,819 - which itself is $1,774 more than the state average. While these six 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 coming in second. District 203 has maintained its position as the top CUSD for the eight 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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