The number of students at Glen Ellyn School District 41 meeting standards on a state achievement test has dropped this year.
The range of students who met proficiency in the Illinois Standard Achievement Test was between 96 percent to 85 percent in 2012. That has dropped to between 89 percent and 69 percent this year, according to data released by the state.
District officials expected scores to drop because the state raised proficiency guidelines, said Julie Worthen, director of communications and grants.
"We started communicating (to parents) last year about this so that they would not be surprised. The main thing we want them to know is the state is raising the bar, their child didn't suddenly start doing worse in school."
The biggest drop was at Churchill Elementary School, where the percentage of students who passed dropped 16 points, from 85 percent to 69 percent. The smallest decrease was at Benjamin Franklin Elementary School, where proficiency levels dropped from 96 percent to 89.
"Churchill is our most diverse school. It has the largest low-income population, and we have a lot of kids who are learning English and all of those things, we know, are barriers to doing well, particularly the English piece," Worthen said. "We have put extra resources at Churchill, and the school is united around wanting to make sure that, regardless of barriers, that all their students do well."
Hadley Junior High, Abraham Lincoln Elementary, and Forest Glen Elementary saw drops of 14, 11 and 13 percentage points, respectively.
School officials have been beefing up curriculum and changing the way they teach after it was announced that the state would be moving the bar up on what qualifies as proficiency.
At District 41, there have been a number of structural changes, said Karen Carlson, assistant superintendent for teaching, learning and accountability.
The elementary school teachers are becoming more specialized in certain subjects, she said, so instead of having one teacher cover four subject areas, they now cover just math and science, or just literacy and social studies.
"Our hope is for the teachers to be able to go even deeper into the content," Carlson said. "They can really refine their craft in that specific content, which we believe can have a positive impact on student learning."
Several years ago, school officials implemented a number of changes at Hadley Junior High School, including more instructional time and support classes for students who are struggling.
"So they could be getting double doses in literacy or math to bring them up to grade levels," Worthen said.
The district looks at the new standards as, ultimately, a positive step for schools, she said, because it is a more realistic look at how prepared students are for their high school and college exams.
"We want to raise the bar and give the kids what they need so they will be successful," Worthen said. "We're not alone in this, and it's a period of adjustment for schools across the nation."