Winnetka, News

New Trier’s proficiency rates on the way back up post COVID

New Trier ranks high in test scoring but is dinged for absenteeism

Following a dip in correlation with the COVID-19 pandemic, New Trier High School test scores are trending in the right direction, according to the annual Illinois Report Card.

New Trier’s School Board heard highlights from the report card during its meeting on Nov. 13, when Peter Tragos — the district’s assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction — shared that New Trier recorded academic improvements across the board.

“If there’s any headline it’s this: Our academic performance is very high and it’s the highest among our peer schools in the state,” he said.

The state report card is an initiative from the Illinois State Board of Education that uses school-provided data to measure districts across Illinois. The results are based heavily (75%) on in-classroom performance (English language arts, math, science, graduation rate, English learner progress) but also includes non-classroom data (absenteeism, climate survey, graduation expectancy).

A graphic showing New Trier’s scoring on the Illinois State Report, including full points in math, science and ELA proficiency and an overall designation of “commendable.”

New Trier made its biggest leap over 2022 in its ELA proficiency rates, jumping 9 percentage points to 80 percent, matching rates from 2018 and just short of those from 2019 (82). Tragos said the school’s 2023 ELA rate was the highest among the state’s public and non-selective-enrollment schools.

“It wasn’t by chance or by accident that those increases happened,” he said. “We identified targeted support that was needed for students; (and) working with department leaders and teachers, we made some real data-informed curriculum revisions.”

NTHS also gained ground in math, moving from 70 to 72 percent (second among peers; 81% in ’19, 77% in ’18); and science, from 82 to 83 percent (ninth among peers; 71% in ’21 — newer test).

All of New Trier’s proficiency rates are well above the state averages (ELA: 32%; Math: 27%; Science: 52%).

While New Trier recorded premier results in the in-classroom categories, it did not earn the highest overall designation (exemplary) from the state — a mark earned by 66 schools, or the top 10 percent. Instead, it picked up the next highest designation: commendable.

Tragos said New Trier was pulled down by its 2022 chronic absenteeism levels, which were not in the top 10 percent of Illinois schools, a point of concern and focus for the district over the past year. During the meeting, administrators also presented the latest absenteeism data showing substantial improvement to start the school year.

Tragos said of the 66 schools that did reach “exemplary” status, “many have proficiency scores that are much lower than ours.”

“It’s not exactly the best way to represent how schools are meeting their own benchmarks and the state’s benchmarks and the good work happening around the state, including at New Trier,” said Tragos, who added he and other administrators are in talks with the state on a metric to recognize schools that don’t fit inside the top 10 percent in all categories.

Based on the data, Tragos said New Trier’s priorities are to keep improving the attendance rate, identify and support students who do not meet proficiency benchmarks, analyze SAT assessments, continue to focus on a culture of belonging for all students, and to maintain the positive trend of proficiency rates.

The Record is a nonprofit, nonpartisan community newsroom that relies on reader support to fuel its independent local journalism.

Subscribe to The Record to fund responsible news coverage for your community.

Already a subscriber? You can make a tax-deductible donation at any time.

joe coughlin
Joe Coughlin

Joe Coughlin is a co-founder and the editor in chief of The Record. He leads investigative reporting and reports on anything else needed. Joe has been recognized for his investigative reporting and sports reporting, feature writing and photojournalism. Follow Joe on Twitter @joec2319

Related Stories