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Rockford Officials Discuss Low Test Scores and How to Get Them Higher

District 205's Superintendent of Accountability concedes many students are struggling now, but says they're working hard to change that.
ROCKFORD -- On a TV commercial for the website Zillow.com -- a military couple discusses buying a home.

"So what did you think of the house?" the wife asks.
"Well, it's got a great kitchen, but did you see the school rating?' her husband responds.
"Oh you're right."

It's only a commercial, but the message is clear.  Many people -- especially families with kids -- will steer clear of communities where schools are struggling.

And the latest state report card shows that Rockford Public schools are struggling.  Test scores are low -- and in many cases as with the year's ISATS's -- falling.  But for Assistant Superintendent of Accountability Dan Woestman, information is the power to improve.

"We do have schools which have declined over the past couple of years," he concedes, "so we try to find the schools in our district  that have increase in their capacity and find out what there doing that is replicable in the schools that have struggled."

One school that is definitely struggling.  Jefferson High School, where fewer than 1-in-3 students meet or exceed state standards.

Jefferson is also the pilot school for the academies program, which Rockford is expanding to all high schools.  But Jefferson students in the academies haven't gone through key state tests yet, and Woestman says there are signs the academies system is working.  "The discipline for those students is down, the attendance for those students , the grades are up for those students, so we feel that while Jefferson right now stlll has a lot of areas where they can improve, we have a lot of hopes and the data show that  the academy model will help them."

Woestman is an educator who came from the Hononegah School District, which finished at the top of the same analysis where Rockford finished at the bottom.  He understands he's taken on a major challenge working in a district where nearly 80%,  For him, one big key is more early childhood education, and getting parents more involved at younger ages well before students walk through the doors of a Rockford school.  "We're trying as much as we can to allocate more resources to earlier interventions - to provide assistance to students even at the younger ages." he says.
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