Return to Headlines

Principal's Message

This winter has been one of the worst in recent memory when it comes to school operations - even though our kids love the idea of “SNOW DAY” - we all know that at least 75% of us will want our summer vacation to begin on time in late May.  That said, this month begins our thaw and the start of a very busy time of year.

As we try to make improvements to our school, we are all facing a new and different structure with regard to evaluating public schools.  For years, we became accustomed to No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top.  At their essence, they judged the success, or lack thereof, of a school based on a singular measurement of success - college entrance exams (ACT and SAT).  Although schools like ours valued these exams, we all realize there is so much more to both individual student and whole-school success.

Now we have ESSA...which, this past year, provided a summative rating of COMMENDABLE, the second highest rating possible.  That, essentially, means we are not within the top 10% of high schools in the state who received EXEMPLARY status; but we were with roughly 55% of other schools that did not have any failing subgroups (racial/ethnic groups, EL, IEP, and low income), or did not have any of the categories evaluated in the lowest 5% among state schools.  Looking at our actual rating compared to the top 10%, we were fairly close and likely fell within the top 20-25% of schools.

That said, this letter is reflecting the categories that are now part of a portfolio for high schools.  As we unravel the mathematics of the rating, we will continue to establish goals to help us eventually meet the challenge to become EXEMPLARY.  The list below includes the category, brief description, and the 2017-18 performance for VJA:

Graduation Rate - This includes three graduation years - four year, five year, and six year - and requires schools to reach as close to 100% graduation rate among all three graduating classes. This is 50% (or 50 points) of our overall rating, VJA received 37.6 points.

  • SAT - Illinois establishes annual rates for the junior class performance on both the English-Language Arts exam and the Math exam. Schools need to meet or exceed that annual benchmark on the April exam.  This is 20% (20 points) of our overall rating, VJA received 19.3 points.
  • Chronic Absenteeism - Illinois tracks student absenteeism and considers a student chronically absent for missing 10% or more of a school year (including all categories of being absent). Students who miss 10% or more are counted against the school’s rating.  This is 7.5% (7.5 points) of our overall rating, VJA received 5 points.
  • Freshmen on Track - All freshmen need to pass five courses and not fail any core classes to be considered on track. Students that don’t do either will count against a school in this category.  This is 6.25% (or 6.25 points) of our overall rating, VJA received 4.9 points.
  • EL - Our students who indicated a language other than English is spoken in the home must take the ACCESS exam. Student performance on that exam is benchmarked each year and students must meet or exceed that benchmark to be considered passing.  This is 5% (or 5 points) of our overall rating, VJA received 2.4 points.
  • College/Career Readiness - The State of Illinois has yet to define this benchmark for last year. As such, all schools received full credit.  This is 6.25% (or 6.25 points) of our overall rating, VJA received 6.25 points.
  • Climate - Each year, the state asks stakeholders to complete the 5Essentials survey. Last year, all schools who had minimum participation received full credit.  For this year, student participation will be weighted.  This is 5% (or 5 points) of our overall rating, VJA received 5 points.

In total, VJA received 80.61 points out of 100, and was around 7 points shy of reaching EXEMPLARY status.  Clearly, we will be looking to increase our score where possible and have chosen to target graduation rate and chronic absenteeism this year.

 If you have any questions or suggestions, please don’t hesitate to reach out at

Robert Nolting