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10/28/16

Report cards are in for Illinois schools — and Belleville District 201 earned high marks across the board.

Belleville Township High School District ranked among the top performing school systems in the state. Its students met or exceeded standards in English Language Arts (ELA) skills more than twice as often as students did state-wide.

“I’m very proud of the work our students and teachers did last year,” District 201 Superintendent Jeff Dosier said of the test results gathered by testing Illinois high school juniors for language and math skills during the 2015-16 school year. “I believe we have some very impressive teaching and learning going on in our schools.”

A total of 73.2 percent of students at Belleville East and Belleville West met or exceeded standards on Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College Careers (PARCC) testing. According to, 34.1 percent of Illinois high schoolers, statewide, met or exceeded goals.

Good grades for District 201 are no surprise. School report card scores have been trending upward for the Belleville high school district for the past several years, according to its Director of Student Services Melissa Taylor.

“The English Departments on both campuses have worked for the last six years to align their curriculum with state standards,” Taylor explained. “These standards include a focus on research-based strategies, critical thinking skills, close reading and a heavy emphasis on writing. It’s been a concerted effort to use our resources wisely and produce results.”

Close reading is an intensive reading technique that stresses comprehension. It was described by Taylor as reading a book as detective would investigate a case.

“It’s not just knowing an answer about what you read,” Taylor said. “It’s knowing how to justify and support your answer based on the reading passage.”

District 201’s 2016 scores were about 6 percent higher than its admirable scores from a year before, according to Belleville East English Department Chair Jessica Templin said.

“We started five or six years ago by looking at the new Illinois Learning Standards,” Templin said. “We started students working on this when they’re freshman and this is an indicator of how hard they worked. They really embraced the rigorous curriculum we put in front of them.”

Belleville West English Department Chair John Lodle said he was “really, really pleased” with the payoff for years of hard work.

“I felt they were a great validation of the curriculum we’ve developed,” Lodle said of the school report card results.

By sharpening fundamental reading and writing skills, Belleville Township High School students scored well in every category.

“Our scores were really phenomenal, from our perspective,” assistant superintendent Brian Mentzer said. “Our composites were in the top one or two school districts in our three-county area.”

District 201 ranked among the best schools in the state for performance of both minority and economically-disadvantaged students.

A total of 55.7 percent of African American students in the Belleville high school district met or exceeded ELA standards. Statewide, 14.7 percent of black students met English standards.

District 201 had 59.8 percent of its students from low income families that qualify for free or reduced cost lunches meet or exceed English standards. That compares to 20.3 percent statewide.

Belleville East and Belleville West students also out-performed the average state school district in math standards with 24.1 percent of students meeting or exceeding PARCC math standards. An average of 21.8 percent of students met or exceeded standards across the state.

Taylor said teachers, administrators and students worked together to achieve District 201’s exceptional level of success on state testing.

“We knew that the work we were doing aligning our curriculum with state standards was rooted in best practices and was the right thing to do in order to provide our students with the best education,” Taylor said. She added that PARCC testing “served as a strong validation of the quality of our curriculum.”