Taft scores higher on PARCC test than some suburban high schools




by BRIAN NADIG

Taft High School has an average college readiness test score which is higher than several nearby suburban schools, according to Taft principal Mark Grishaber.

"It’s been a good year," Grishaber said during his state of the school address at the May 17 meeting of the Taft High School Local School Council.

In 2015 the number of Taft students who met or exceeded state standards on the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers assessment was 39 percent, which was higher than the average at Niles West, Evanston, Ridgewood and Maine East high schools, Grishaber said. Less than one third of Illinois public high school students who took the test met or exceeded standards.

The PARCC test, which was first administered statewide in 2015, holds students to higher standards than previous assessments, Grishaber said. He said that older tests relied too much on multiple choice questions.

To better meet the needs of Taft students, teachers are being asked to instruct at an accelerated or honors level throughout the curriculum and to adjust for those students need extra assistance, Grishaber said. That philosophy helps raise student expectations, he said.

"I’m getting better kids in here," Grishaber said. "Fifty percent of my freshmen are in the top 25 percentile. I’m getting kids who chose us over a selected enrollment school."

One of the best barometers of success is a student’s performance in algebra, and plans are being made to offer a 3-week summer session for students who struggle in that course, Grishaber said. "If you pass algebra, you pass high school," he said.

Also at the meeting, Grishaber discussed how an improved sports program will benefit Taft. Since Grishaber’s arrival 2 years ago, he has called for upgraded sports facilities and has implemented a sports fee to help pay for uniforms.

Grishaber showed the council pictures from a 10-year-old yearbook in which players on a team were wearing different shirts and shoes. He said that consistency in what players wear leads to better team unity and performance.

"I know how to win city championships," Grishaber, a former assistant principal at Young High School, a perennial power in several sports, said. "You give them the best stuff and show up at all their games."

Studies show that athletes do better academically than other students, and Taft’s coaches should be pursuing the top players at Taft’s feeder schools by attending some of their practices or games, Grishaber said.

It also was reported that the number of student misconducts, which includes exhibiting disruptive behavior in the classroom, is at 800 this school year, compared to 3,000 in 2014-15. "Fifty-one students are responsible for 49 percent of all misconducts," Grishaber said.

Two years ago Taft implemented a "restorative justice" policy which focuses more on addressing a behavioral issue than punishing the offender. About 84 percent have Taft’s students have no misconducts this school year.

Grishaber said that teachers are being asked to talk to a student before sending them to the dean’s office, where they spend time away from the classroom. He said that a teacher can handle a situation better than relying on an administrator who may not know the student.

It also was announced that Taft’s projected enrollment for this fall is 3,250, up from 2,900 in 2011.

The number of Taft students is split almost evenly among the four classes, reflecting a decline in Taft’s dropout rate, which is at about 2.7 percent, according to Grishaber. In the early 2000s, the senior class at Taft was about half the size of the freshman class due to high dropout and transfer rates.

Grishaber also reported that he attended a recent meeting of principals at which Chicago Public Schools officials showed a sample 2016-17 school budget, which included a nearly 30 percent decrease in funding for the sample school. "It’s not a viable budget," he said. "You can’t run a school on that budget."

School system officials were scheduled to hold meetings at Taft and at Palmer School on Tuesday, May 24, to discuss budget cuts.

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