Departments place more focus on reading

By on December 4, 2009

by Madi Bluml
Kaneland Krier Reporter

Kaneland—Every Thursday, Scott Parillo, head of the social studies department at Kaneland High School, goes to a meeting to discuss with other social studies teachers how their classes can be improved. Sharing thoughts and ideas, the teachers determine how they can improve their teaching. One of the ways is by using a more writing-intensive course.

“We are working on helping our students to become more efficient writers,” Parillo said.

Students can now be required to write four to five essays per class, and juniors are taken to the library to work on a program called Keytrain, to help with PSAE testing, Parillo said.

But why the sudden change in the social studies department?

In fact, it isn’t just this one part of the high school. Many of the classes are now becoming more reading- or math-intensive, the reason being that Kaneland’s junior class did not meet one of the goals last year set by the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLBA).

NCLBA is a federal mandate from the George W. Bush administration that requires all students to be college-ready in reading and mathematics by 2014, and it is done by raising the standards 7.5 percent every year, Ian Smith, assistant principal, said. Whether the overall school has reached the level of basic proficiency is based on standardized testing by the junior class.

“In Illinois, that test is called the PSAE (Prairie State Achievement Exam) and that’s composed, day one, of the ACT test and on day two, exams specific to Illinois that measure reading, math and science,” Smith said. “To determine if a student has met or attained basic proficiency, the PSAE combines the day one and day two math scores and the day one and day two reading scores.”

A student has to achieve a certain combined score to attain basic proficiency, and if a certain percentage of all of the juniors achieve that basic level of proficiency, then the school makes AYP, adequate yearly progress, Smith said.

“One unfortunate aspect of (No Child Left Behind) is that it’s making a comprehensive judgment of how well a school is educating its students based on their performance on this one assessment taken by the junior class,” Smith said. “It doesn’t take into account any of the other measures that we would consider that would also make for a successful educational experience, such as the number of students that are learning and growing and developing in many intangible ways through our wonderful elective programs, extracurricular, student activities, athletics and the strength of our academic program that in other ways is simply not reflective in this one assessment, nor does it take into account the number of students we have who are successful in the work force and in college and in life beyond college.”

There is a positive side to No Child Left Behind, Smith said. It makes the administration look at how it can improve the academic curriculum.

Because Kaneland did not meet one of the testing goals, there are now weekly departmental meetings during Student Teacher Educational Needs to attain cross-curricular support and to improve.