Taft High School Test Scores Improving
by BRIAN NADIG
Achievement test scores at Taft High School are improving, and they rank the highest among the area’s five neighborhood high schools despite the fact that only about 40 percent of Taft juniors met or exceeded state standards last school year.
“We’re moving in the right direction, but it’s slow, and we want them to keep going up,” Taft principal Mary Kay Cappitelli said after the Nov. 20 meeting of the Taft High School Local School Council. The council discussed attendance, literacy and curriculum strategies that the school is implementing in an effort in increase achievement.
Thirty-nine percent of juniors met or exceeded state standards in reading, mathematics and science on the Prairie State Achievement Exam in 2012, compared to 34.6 percent in 2011. The 2012 figure was about 6 percentage points lower than in 2010 and 2009.
Taft’s scores are higher than the other neighborhood high schools on the Far Northwest Side. Mather was at 28.9 percent, Steinmetz at 21.0 percent, Schurz at 14.8 percent and Roosevelt at 14.2 percent. Steinmetz, Schurz and Roosevelt are on the Chicago Public Schools’ probation list because of their low test scores.
The average composite score at Taft on the ACT college entrance exam, which all juniors take as part of the Prairie State exam, was 18.4 out of 36 points, compared to the Chicago Public Schools average of 17.6 and the national average of 21.1. Taft’s ACT average was lower than the 19.6 at Chicago International Charter School-Northtown, 3900 W. Peterson Ave.
The average ACT score at Taft for students who do not have special needs or who are not in the limited English proficiency program was 19.3, and students in the school’s International Baccalaureate program had an average score of 25.1, which is higher than some selective enrollment schools, including Lane Tech.
It also was reported that last year about 73 percent of Taft’s freshmen were on track to graduate, compared to about 60 percent in 2010, and that average daily attendance was 89.9 percent last year, compared to 82.7 percent in 2008. The students who took an Advanced Placement test earned a passing grade 43.4 percent of time. Some colleges award course credit for AP classes that are taken in high school.
Cappitelli said that while Taft has a strong attendance rate, the school is calling the parents of students who arrive too late to attend their first class and that in January some students may start receiving wake-up calls.
Taft also will implement several freshman on-track strategies, including “data chats” that require teachers to periodically review with students their progress in the class. Taft also plans to use a new intervention system that encourages staff members from different departments to work together in monitoring and helping students with academic and disciplinary problems.
A new literacy team also has been formed to work with the staff in integrating reading standards and instruction throughout the curriculum, upper-level science classes will review practice ACT questions, and the curriculum will have an emphasis on data analysis and the interpretation of charts and graphs.