Richmond Intermediate School can't seem to catch a break.
As St. Charles District 303 officials continue to face two lawsuits centered on the 2011 reorganization of the school, Illinois Standards Achievement Test results released today by the Illinois State Board of Education show that not only is Richmond the district's worst-performing school in the past two years, but the gap between it and the district's other schools has grown.
District officials say Richmond's performance is due to the school's demographics and changes to the statewide exam.
"They were disappointing when we looked at the gap and how it's widened a bit," said school board President Steve Spurling. "The important thing for the board to do is to make sure that the administration identifies what they think the causes are and make sure we have a plan in place."
In 2012, the difference between Richmond and the highest-performing elementary school for students passing the ISAT was 11.2 percentage points, according to a Tribune analysis of state records.
By the next year, the difference between Richmond — which had 59.8 percent of students passing the test — and the highest-performing elementary school had more than doubled in 2013, to 23.9 percentage points, according to the records.
Mark Pomplun, executive director of assessment and accountability for the district, said that because some students will always score above the passing score and another group will always score below, the percentage of students who pass only takes into account the performance of students near that score.
"When you look at percent proficient or any kind of proficiency category, you're basically looking at the kids around the cut(-off) score," Pomplun said.
That's why it's important to look at the data in several different ways "to get the complete picture," Pomplun said.
To understand student growth from year to year, the district considers the average scale score, which looks at scores for all students who take the ISAT for two consecutive years and measures growth based on the difference between the two.
Based on this metric, the average growth at Richmond was consistent with that of the rest of the district, Pomplun said.
When looking at how Richmond students fared in math using the 2012 passing scores, the difference between the school and the district grew by about 4 percentage points, according to Pomplun. In reading, the gap between Richmond and the district average shrunk by 1 percentage point when using 2012 passing scores, according to Pomplun.
But analyzing the 2013 results using the 2012 passing scores is a misrepresentation of data, according to board member Ed McNally.
"We've got a gap widening between a school that's supposed to be working on improvement," McNally said. "The fact that the gap (has widened), no matter how you present (the data), is of concern.
In 2011, 17 parents sued the district, alleging officials acted illegally when the district changed Davis Elementary into a kindergarten through second-grade school and Richmond Elementary into a school for third- through fifth-graders. At the time, Richmond had failed for three consecutive years to meet federal progress standards.
More than two years later, a Kane County Circuit judge ruled in favor of the parents this fall after finding the district failed to comply with federal mandates when it reorganized and ordered district officials to complete a new improvement plan for the two schools, which would include offering school choice and supplemental educational services.
An appeal on the 2011 lawsuit to reverse the reorganization remains and parents recently filed a second lawsuit seeking monetary damages.
McNally said the reorganization "certainly" contributed to the school's poor scores and had the district taken more time to develop the plan to merge the two schools, the testing results would be better.
"They could have gotten considerably more support if they had taken more time. When you have more parents buying in, you can make it more successful," McNally said. "A disruption in anyone's education is going to have a negative impact on their ability to perform well."
But Superintendent Don Schlomann said the merger is in no way responsible for Richmond falling behind.
"I hate to say it, but unfortunately social economics has a lot to do with student performance, so we've seen our socioeconomic condition at Richmond deteriorate," Schlomann said. "Did the merger fix the socioeconomic issues of St. Charles? The answer is no. It's not the merger that was any cause."
The number of low-income students at Richmond increased in the 2012-13 school year by about 6 percent, to 40.4 percent, according to district officials.
At Anderson Elementary, the district's second-lowest performing school where Tribune analysis shows 63.7 percent of students passed the ISAT in 2013, the number of low-income students increased to 42.4 percent, officials said.
Schlomann also pointed to the school's large English language-learners population as a reason for the lower percentage of passing students.
"I believe we will continue to see improvements," Schlomann said. "The growth scores at Richmond are as good as the rest of the district, it's just our performance isn't as good as the rest of the district. … The growth numbers haven't caught up with the performance numbers yet."