Letters to the editor: Is Lake Forest High School as good as it was in the ’60’s?

January 3, 2011

(http://www.pioneerlocal.com/lakeforest/news/forum/2983660,lake-forest-letters-123010-s1.article) 

In my Lake Forester YOU SAY article of Nov. 24 calling for transparency at Lake Forest High School, I broached the subject of ACT and SAT test scores (the two major college entrance examinations administered here in the United States) as measurements of student achievement. Both tests are designed to allow college admissions officers to judge all students by a common measurement.

Until recently, the ACT was required by colleges in the Midwest, while the SAT was the test of choice for schools in the Northeast and on both coasts. Now days most schools accept both.

Here in Lake Forest’s High School District 115, the ACT is administered to all Lake Forest High School juniors and is designed to test the subject areas of English, math, reading, vocabulary and reading comprehension.

When compared to other high schools in Lake County, Lake Forest High School ranked second with 56.3 percent of Lake Forest High School juniors meeting all four ACT achievement benchmarks. Yet upon release of the results to the public, the 56.3 percent level of performance was promoted as the best ever in District 115.

Since ACT test scores measure student achievement, should Lake Forest High School District 115 taxpayers be satisfied that over 40 percent of Lake Forest High School juniors did not meet the ACT test standards in either one or more of the four tests, despite the fact that in 2007 ACT tests were revised so they were less challenging for students?

Is it fair to scale or compare Lake Forest High School ACT and SAT test scores with other high schools here in Lake County or at the state level?

Consider the following: Unlike most high school service districts, the demographics of Lake Forest and Lake Bluff are unique in that they have changed little since Lake Forest High School opened its doors in 1935. Both the divorce rate and racial and economic mix of students are basically the same.

With this in mind, we can compare Lake Forest High School ACT and SAT test scores to Lake Forest High School scores over an extended period of time, and achieve an accurate assessment of true student achievement and the performance of Lake Forest High School.

It is not unreasonable to request that archives at Lake Forest High School District 115 be opened up back to and including 1963, when public schools were performing at their best due to the influence of Sputnik, which created a heightened interest in maintaining superiority over the Soviet Union.

We should look at a statistical series of standardized test scores, including adjustments for whatever re-norming has taken place.

I have on good authority from a gentleman who served as the special assistant to the U. S. Secretary of Education in the Reagan Administration, that SAT test scores declined a composite of 90 points nationally from 1963-1983. A former superintendent, Dr. Robert Metcalf, disclosed to at Lake Forest resident that during the same time period math and verbal aptitude declined a composite of about 45 points among Lake Forest High School students. Have we recovered from this loss?  Are we doing as good a job for today’s students as Lake Forest High School did in the 1960s?

How we educate our children will determine the future of this nation. The question we should be addressing is not whether Lake Forest High School is ahead of the curve in educating its students, but whether is it falling behind the level of performance it is demonstrably capable of?

Lake Forest School Districts 115 and 67 have a massive amount of money available to spend on education. Now citizens must determine whether that money is really producing the outcome that they wish for our children and what to do about it.

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