Report Card: Peoria Public Schools graduation rate improves, but attendance issues linger
Three Peoria public schools with almost entirely low-income students got high marks in the state’s latest report card, even as the district and others across Illinois struggle with chronic absenteeism.
The latest Illinois School Report Card data was released Thursday morning. Peoria Public Schools, with over 12,600 students, saw 12 of its 24 eligible schools earn the “commendable” designation for 2021-22, meaning there were no underperforming student groups. That includes three schools with around 90% of students coming from low-income families: Franklin Primary, Harold B. Dawson Jr. Middle, and Manual High School. Two others earned the highest possible “exemplary” designation: Charter Oak Primary School and Reservoir Gifted Academy.
Another bright spot: Peoria Public Schools’ high school graduation rate continued to improve, climbing to 80.2%, up 10 percentage points from five years ago, data show. The statewide rate is 86.2%.
In a memo accompanying the graduation-rate data, PPS administrators point to “intense and deliberate credit recovery and alternative schools” which allow students to work at their own pace at the most convenient times of their day. There is also “constant contact with home school liaisons and deliberate intervention services to ensure students stay the course” and that’s had a large impact on outcomes.
There are also many challenges. Seven PPS schools earned the lowest designation – “comprehensive” – meaning they are among the lowest performing 5% of schools in Illinois. They are:
- Dr. Maude A. Sanders Primary School
- Glen Oak Community Learning Center
- Lincoln School
- Sterling Middle School
- Elise Ford Allen Academy
- Trewyn Primary School
- Von Steuben Middle School
Chronic absenteeism (students who miss 10% percent or more of school days per year either with or without a valid excuse) remains a stubborn problem statewide and in Peoria.
In Peoria Public Schools, 4 in 10 students (39.3%) were chronically absent, outpacing the statewide average (29.8%). The problem is more acute for Black students in Peoria (45.7% chronically absent).
To address attendance issues, PPS leaders told the state that they’ve tried “a combination of door-to-door home visits followed by monthly data analysis meetings, interventions, and celebrations” which have made large improvements in attendance, tardies, and chronic absenteeism.
Peoria Public Schools has 27 active school buildings, including three traditional high schools, one career and technical center, and one credit recovery center. In addition, there are seven middle schools and 10 primary buildings, three K-8 buildings, one early childhood center and one special education center.
Here is the “District Equity Narrative” provided to the state by PPS leaders, summarizing the district’s initiatives and progress on many issues addressed in the data:
Highlights – 12 schools are designated commendable compared to 8 schools in 2018/19
2 schools are designated as exemplary (Charter Oak Primary and Reservoir Gifted) compared to 1 in 2018/19
3 schools located in the most distressed zip codes in the State rose from the lowest designation to commendable (Franklin Primary, Harold B. Dawson Jr. Middle, and Manual High School)
Equity practices are at the forefront of every strategy and implementation. We continue to invest significantly to support our school improvement efforts with the following:
Dual Language Program – ELL students are showing great progress to proficiency and are closing the gap for bilingual students.
High School Graduation Rate – Intense and deliberate credit recovery and alternative schools allow students to work at their own pace AND at the most convenient times of their day. Constant contact with home school liaisons and deliberate intervention services ensures students stay the course and has had a large impact on outcomes.
Freshmen on Track – Teachers have all developed specific competencies and allow students to learn from mistakes. The ability to reassess has helped students move more successfully to their sophomore year.
Social Emotional – In addition to counseling supports present at each school, the District added two alternative programs to provide SEL and academic supports for primary and middle school students. School Resource Officers focus on intervening and mentoring students. The Justice Advocate staff are assigned to students who are actively engaged with the law. As a result, more students are back in school with a recidivism rate lower than what is seen state-and-nationwide.
Assistance - Unique to our District is the Wraparound Center where individuals can receive: food assistance, counseling services, services for victims and relatives of violent crime, juvenile probation services, programs for single parents, drug and alcohol treatment, legal services, employment training, and certification programs.
Attendance – A combination of door-to-door home visits followed by monthly data analysis meetings, interventions, and celebrations have made large improvements in attendance, tardies, and chronic absenteeism.
Opportunities for Advanced Learning – Improved engagement by expanding options of and access to AP courses while maintaining a strong International Baccalaureate HS and providing dual enrollment opportunities for students through dual credit courses within the high school setting (both traditional college and CTE pathways) and opportunities for students to spend full days of their junior and senior year on the community college campus.
Career Pathways – Expansion of career and technical pathway opportunities has increased industry credentials earned by students to over 600 with most students earning at least two credentials, certifications, licenses, and dual credit.
Curriculum Revitalization – Breathing new life into curriculum and professional development impacting mathematics, science, English/language Arts, and social studies (including newly adopted Black History curriculum for middle and high school students) has realigned learning to much higher levels of rigor while still providing intervention support. The literacy framework has been restructured so students are reading at grade level by third grade. Students writing daily is an additional focus to increase proficiency. Individual devices are also more readily available.
Innovation – Hiring parents as Parent Advocates has provided support throughout school buildings while improving parent-teacher relationships. Our International Teacher Exchange program also allows students to learn from teachers from diverse countries. PPS has many more REMARKABLE and innovative investments to make for our students, staff, and community that will continue to accelerate learning and provide more opportunities and growth for a REMARKABLE future for every student.