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Lake View High School on Probation Despite Academic Achievement: Principal

By Serena Dai | October 7, 2013 7:12am
 The Lake View High School Local School Council met recently.
The Lake View High School Local School Council met recently.
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DNAinfo/Serena Dai

LAKEVIEW — Lake View High School's in an strange position when it comes to Chicago Public Schools performance standards: It's on probation even though its test scores exceed the CPS average.

The school dropped from being a Level 1 "excellent" school to a Level 3 "poor/probation" school in one year. Lake View dropped because it lost "trend" growth points, part of the CPS performance standard calculation.

The problem: Juniors in 2012 were "a particularly strong group," and the 2013 juniors, while stronger than most previous classes, did not score higher than 2012 juniors, said Principal Lillith Werner.

But the school is still on an upward trend overall, Werner said at a special Local School Council meeting last week.

"It’s one of things where we were punished for going too high, too soon in 2012," Werner said.

In 2011, juniors scored 38.1 on the reading portion of the Prairie State Achievement Examination, a standardized test on which schools are judged. The "particularly strong" 2012 juniors scored 43.8, which launched Lake View to a Level 1 "excellent" status.

The 2013 juniors scored an average 38.6 score on the reading exam — lower than 2012, but higher than 2011. Similar things happened with the math and science portions of the exam, Werner said, which lowered the score.

Lake View also lost points for its attendance record. The School Board had promised not to count two days in January in which Lake View had a dramatic attendance drop because they were makeup days from the Chicago Teachers Union strike, Werner said. Many students already had planned vacations, she said.

But the School Board did count the makeup days. If those two days are taken out of play,  Lake View actually would be taken off probation, Werner said. She has asked the School Board to reconsider dropping the two makeup days as attendance days.

CPS sets a 90 percent attendance goal, and Lake View had 88.7 percent last year, Assistant Principal Michael Cox said.

Lake View's demotion is an example of why CPS is moving to a new performance policy, said Leslie Boozer, the North/Northwest High School network chief. Students are "achieving at a high level," but Lake View's rating doesn't reflect that, she said.

"It's rare that it happens," Boozer said. "It does show the flaws to be in the current system."

In fact, when Werner and her team calculated Lake View's performance based on the new calculator, the school would be in good standing — with the same data.

The new policy includes five tiers instead of three, changes the way growth trends are calculated and uses a different standardized test.

"We’ve all worked at Level 3 schools. Real Level 3 schools," Werner said of her and the assistant principals. "This is nowhere near a Level 3 school."

The big challenge with Lake View is getting out the message that the school is performing well and has made "significant progress" over the last years despite the probation label, Boozer said.

Lake View has fought to be known as a viable neighborhood high school option. In past years, elementary schools like Nettelhorst and Blaine have made tremendous gains as neighborhood schools, but many parents are still wary of sending children to Lake View.

More than 70 percent of the school's students travels from outside the neighborhood, Werner said.

So far this year, the school is on track regarding attendance and helping students at high risk of dropping out, Cox said. And despite the drop to probation status, the school made gains in factors such as Advanced Placement class enrollment and success rate.

In 2012, 17.2 percent of students took Advanced Placement classes, and in 2013, additional classes and more student choice raised the percent to 23.9. The pass rate for the AP test remained steady, about 30 percent.

Lake View has added teacher planning time, started an attendance recovery program earlier and started sending parents biweekly student data reports, actions to help boost the school's performance again.

"We march on strong," Werner said. "We know what we have to do."