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Making the grade

Truancy, low income, enrollment and limited English

Published: Monday, Nov. 12, 2012 4:00 p.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, Nov. 12, 2012 4:01 p.m. CDT

Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a multi-part series on the Illinois Report Card.

The number of students in Illinois returned to a recent downward trend last year, with 8,114 fewer students in Illinois classrooms, bringing the total to 2,066,692.

That decrease was echoed in Bureau County, which continued its downward trend, losing 131 students and bringing the number of students in local public school classrooms to 5,409, 311 students less than just four years earlier.

Certainly the biggest reason for the drop was the annexation of the Neponset School District and its 90 students into the Kewanee School District in July 2011.

That’s only one of the pieces of information that can be found in the 2012 Illinois School Report Card, which was released by the state Oct. 30.

The report cards show how students are doing in math, reading and science, but they also provide information on items ranging from student demographics to just how many teachers in a district have their master’s degree. All of this information has an impact on how students perform.

How does your school district measure up?

Enrollment

There were 5,540 students in Bureau County in 2010-11 school year, and that number dropped to 5,409 by the following year.

Five districts saw growth, like Spring Valley Elementary, which added 35 students. Tiny Cherry added 18 students for a 30 percent increase from the previous year. Princeton Elementary added 13; Ladd added five; and Ohio High School added four more students.

Malden stayed steady with 83 students.

But the losses seen by the other eight districts more than outweighed any gains seen by the other districts.

Princeton High School lost 39 students, and the DePue and LaMoille School Districts lost 17 and 16, respectively. The Bureau Valley School District lost 14 students, following a loss of 52 students last year. Ohio Grade School lost nine, and Hall High School and Dalzell each lost three students. Leepertown, which was annexed into the Ladd and Princeton Elementary districts July 1, lost 14 students.

Seven Bureau County school districts have fewer than 100 students, with Ohio High School being the smallest with 38 students.

Low-income

According to the Illinois School Report Card, most low-income students come from families receiving public aid or are eligible to receive free or reduced-price lunches.

Statewide, the percentage of low-income students increased from 48.1 percent in 2011 to 49.9 in 2012.

Every school district in Bureau County, with the exception of Ohio Grade School, saw their percentages increase as well. Locally, the district with the highest percentages was Leepertown Elementary in Bureau, where 71.0 percent of the 46 students in the district qualify. Other districts with large percentages of low-income students were DePue at 68.0 percent, and Spring Valley Elementary at 53.0 percent.

The Bureau County schools with the lowest percentage of low income students were Princeton High School with 31.2 percent, and Ladd with 31.7 percent.

Limited English

Again according to the report card, limited-English-proficient students are those students eligible for transitional bilingual programs.

In Bureau County, DePue takes the top score with 37.6 percent, but that figure declined more than 12 percentage points since 2010. Spring Valley Elementary has 8.5 percent of its students on the list, and Hall High School shows 4.0 percent. Ohio Elementary, Dalzell and Princeton Elementary also appeared on the list, with 2.6 percent in Ohio, 1.8 percent in Dalzell and 0.2 percent in Princeton.

Chronic truancy and attendance

Income and language skills don’t matter much if the child isn’t in the classroom. Chronic truants are those students who are absent from school without valid cause for 18 or more of the last 180 school days.

No Bureau County district was above the state average of 8.6 percent. Leepertown’s truancy rate led the county with 4.9 percent, followed by Hall at 2.1 and LaMoille at 1.2 percent.

However, overall attendance at all Bureau County school districts is higher than the state’s 94.4 percent mark. Only Princeton High School, at 92.5 percent and Hall High School at 93.9 percent are lower than the state average.

Comment on this story at www.bcrnews.com.

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