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Local

An ‘A’ for academic excellence

Kindergarten students at Cherry Grade School work with teacher Jennifer Ring on identifying words on the flash cards. Thanks to the high test scores of last year's third-, fifth- and eighth-graders, the district was named to the Illinois Honor Roll and awarded the Academic Excellence Award for the third consecutive year.
Kindergarten students at Cherry Grade School work with teacher Jennifer Ring on identifying words on the flash cards. Thanks to the high test scores of last year's third-, fifth- and eighth-graders, the district was named to the Illinois Honor Roll and awarded the Academic Excellence Award for the third consecutive year.

CHERRY — Excellent ... for five years in a row.

The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) and Northern Illinois University announced last week that 624 schools made the Illinois Honor Roll for their continued academic progress or excellence.

“These Honor Roll schools once again show us that rigorous standards, great instruction and lots of hard work improve student performance,” said Illinois State Board of Education Chairman Gery J. Chico. “Behind each school’s success is an untold story of extraordinary passion and dedication on behalf of administrators, teachers, parents and students. We commend each school and hope local community members will also celebrate their local schools’ success.”

Once again, the Cherry Grade School has received the Academic Excellence Award for sustaining very high academic performance for at least three years. It is the third consecutive year the district has earned this distinction. The district also received the Academic Improvement Award in 2006.

In 2012, 93 percent of Cherry’s students met or exceeded state standards on the Illinois Standards Achievement Test, the highest percentage in Bureau County for the last five years.

The state’s annual recognition program is based on the previous spring’s state standardized tests and demographic information. Northern Illinois University works with the ISBE to establish criteria, identify winners of the awards and administer the Honor Roll. This Academic Excellence Award recognized 454 schools that have sustained very high academic performance over at least a three-year period.

Cherry Principal Tom Nesti was elated by the award, calling it “fantastic.”

Nesti credited the award to many factors, including outstanding teachers who are willing to go the extra mile; students who do what is asked of them; a helpful support staff; and certainly the parents.

“Like the old cliche, there is no ‘I’ in team,” he said. “They value what they are doing here, which is the best job they can to prepare these students for high school.”

Nesti said he was not criticizing districts with larger class sizes, but that an advantage of small class sizes is that it is easier to notice if a student is having problems.

“There is less of a chance of them slipping through the cracks,” he said.

A complete listing of the 2012 Illinois Honor Roll Schools can be found online at http://www.ilhonorroll.niu.edu/.

Comment on this story at www.bcrnews.com.

More to the story

The Cherry Grade School wasn't the only Bureau County school on this year's list, but it was the only school that is still currently open.
For the fifth consecutive year — and for the eighth time since 2005 — the Leepertown School District received a Spotlight School Award. The Spotlight School Award recognizes 105 high-poverty, high-performing schools that are beating the odds by overcoming the achievement gap.
Criteria for selecting Spotlight Schools are rigorous. All schools must be making adequate yearly progress (AYP), which requires that at least 85 percent of the students must pass the state achievement tests in both reading and mathematics. At least half of the students in each school are from low-income families. As the AYP requirements continued to rise, the number of schools achieving this award leveled off in 2008 and has declined in succeeding years.
At Leepertown, 93 percent of the students met or exceeded state standards in 2012. More than 71 percent of the students qualified for free or reduced lunch.
It was the 10th consecutive year Leepertown was recognized by the Illinois Honor Roll, making it one of only 50 schools in the state that were recognized for the ninth or 10th consecutive year.
Almost all of the Leepertown district was annexed into the Ladd School District July 1, 2012.
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