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The Student News Site of Niles West High School

Niles West News

The Student News Site of Niles West High School

Niles West News

Board of Education Meeting Recap: November 14, 2023

Emma Schieffer
Superintendent Tom Moore and President Ken Durr listen to public comments during the Nov. 14 board meeting.

In a district-wide board meeting, issues surrounding Niles West, SAT and AP Exam reports, new courses and staff suspensions were discussed on Tuesday, Nov. 14. Community concerns about the pool renovation and the recent sit-in were raised during public comment.

In light of the nine new courses approved, board members highlighted a need to audit course catalogs.

“Although these offerings are beneficial, we must be sure that course selection is proposed thoroughly and with [a] comprehensive understanding of how these additions impact our students, teachers and our course catalog, and the overall quality of education,” board member Joseph Nowik said.

The board members also discussed the D219 academic reports, which include the AP report, SAT report and Illinois school report card.

The AP report showed that currently, 29% of D219 students take AP exams, but there is a push to raise this number in the coming years to ensure college readiness for students. Superintendent Thomas Moore aims to remove intimidation around taking an AP course. He believes that showcasing success and achieving good scores will encourage students to invite their friends to join.

“I think we have to be careful about incentivizing AP as elite. AP should just be another course that’s available to kids that will help them be prepared for college,” Superintendent Tom Moore said.

Moore also shared concerns regarding the school’s approach to promoting AP class enrollment and exam participation. He believes that Niles West could do more to encourage students in this regard. One of his suggestions to potentially increase enrollment was to exclude ninth graders from AP class offerings.

“I’ll say something controversial that some people wouldn’t agree with, I don’t think we should offer AP to 9th graders. I think a college course is too much to offer. I think it should just be 10th, 11th and 12th and I actually think offering it to 9th graders disincentivizes because it establishes who the AP kids are in 9th grade as opposed to building toward something,” Moore said.

During the SAT report discussion, several board members raised concerns about the district’s performance. The district fell short of meeting benchmarks in both reading/writing and math compared to the state’s standards. According to the Illinois School Report Card, 57.5% of Niles West students fell below the performance level standard in ELA and 65% of students fell short in the math category in 2023. However, this is a small improvement from 2022, as 61.3% of West students fell below performance level in ELA and 59.2% of students fell below in math.

“It’s very disheartening to see these kinds of percentage drops when we’re pushing so hard to have our kids college ready and our numbers show that less and less are becoming college ready,” Nowik said.

Following that, the Board members discussed the Illinois School Report Card’s Commendable School designation, which Niles West received. To determine the designation, 75% of the data focuses on academic measures like math proficiency and graduation rates, while the remaining 25% considers school quality and student success indicators, such as chronic absenteeism. These indicators highlight essential goals like achieving a graduation rate of 90% or higher, ensuring students receive quality teaching and support, and maintaining a safe learning environment. Despite the dip in SAT scores, Niles West received a commendable designation according to the standards outlined in the report card.

“Having the commendable designation means that none of our students are underperforming as classified by the state. Each of the student population groups has a different proficiency target annually, and this year none of our students have fallen below as what the state has designated as underperforming,” Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Christine Gonzales said.

However, aiming for the top 10% rank on the report card, labeled as exemplary, might be difficult to achieve according to Gonzales.

To conclude the meeting, five staff members of District 219 faced suspensions, three of whom work at Niles West. The reason for their suspensions is unclear, as the district is unable to comment on issues regarding personnel. They will receive 3-day unpaid suspensions.

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