CRYSTAL LAKE – The bar has been set for the Class of 2015 at Community High School District 155.
As school begins this week, the Class of 2014 left one final mark on District 155 after district officials announced the class set a new ACT composite score record of 23. The new mark is a significant increase from the 22.5 composite score in 2013.
Superintendent Johnnie Thomas said the score is not just a reflection of the students, teachers and staff but the community, as well.
"It means a great deal to the district, but I think it shows that education is of high importance to the community, as well," Thomas said. "We get great support from our community ... and we have excellent feeder schools."
The score also shows students of all abilities are improving as the composite includes tests from students with accommodations such as reading assistance or language issues, which was excluded until the state board of education changed its policy in 2013.
From the time the Class of 2014 took the Explorer test in eighth grade until the time it took the ACT, the overall student achievement grew 6.5 points, which exceeded expectations.
"We have worked to really put the emphasis on raising expectations of our learners and challenging them to go beyond their comfort zones," Thomas said. "The focus is not on the score, it's on challenging students to take more rigorous coursework. As a byproduct, you get a higher ACT score."
Each high school increased its composite score from the previous year, with Crystal Lake Central making the biggest leap from 21.3 to 22.3. Cary-Grove High School had the highest composite at 23.8. The Illinois average is 20.7.
While it is a student achievement, it also shows the hard work and professionalism of teachers and staff, Thomas said. Teachers and administrators were engaged in a lengthy and at times contentious contract negotiation, but Thomas said neither teachers nor administrators ever lost sight of the primary goal.
"I think there is probably some misconception about some of those difficulties," Thomas said of the negotiations. "All of the teachers and administrators kept the focus on the students. But it is great to come back and share in those gains."