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Best Elementary Schools: Six Great Schools

A look inside some schools that performed well on our charts.

(page 3 of 3)

DUPAGE COUNTY
PARK VIEW ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
(LOMBARD)

Educating children doesn’t simply mean turning out reading-and-writing machines. It’s about preparing them to thrive as adults, a philosophy most clearly made manifest at Park View Elementary School in Lombard, where the principal, Roberta Wallerstedt, articulates a trio of specific goals. “We want our students to succeed in three areas: academics, social/emotional, and physical,” she says. “You need growth on all three, because a child who is not happy on the [latter] two is not going to do [his or her] best in the classroom. If they feel good about themselves, it’s easier [for them] to feel they can succeed at school.”

Teachers, reading specialists, and other educators closely follow each child’s academic progress, Wallerstedt says, and that is supplemented with similar attention paid to the other two areas. On the social and emotional front, she explains, “our goal is to prevent alienation and promote friendship.” Three times a year, students complete a questionnaire about how they feel socially. Those who feel they are drifting are tapped for leadership roles “so other kids start to interact with them in more positive ways,” Wallerstedt says.

Concurrently, every Park View student has physical fitness goals. These include improving aerobic capacity every month, as well as increasing strength, endurance, and flexibility. “Kids can see and feel their improvement,” says Wallerstedt, “and it makes them want to improve even more.”

 

KANE COUNTY
GENEVA MIDDLE SCHOOLS (NORTH AND SOUTH)
(GENEVA)

Geneva’s middle schools took the top two spots on our Kane County chart, and that’s really no surprise. Not only do the two schools stand next to each other on Viking Drive—while configured as separate schools to keep them at a manageable size, they are essentially two halves of one institution—but they benefit from District 304’s steady focus on students’ needs.

“We pay attention to the data we have and really drill down to get at what [students] need to help them make progress,” says Patty O’Neil, the district’s assistant superintendent for curriculum. “Data [come] in lots of forms; [they] can be standardized test scores, teacher observations, student performance in class—all sorts of things.”

Teachers and administrators gather regularly to study that data and find students’ weak spots. In math, for example, they might discover some students who aren’t picking up on decimals or fractions. The educators then put their heads together to devise a solution, be it tutoring, taking more time on lessons, or working with smaller groups of students. “We will find something that helps them make the progress we want to see,” O’Neil says.

That kind of focus results in high test scores—96.5 percent of South’s students and 95.5 percent of North’s meet or exceed state standards—but as O’Neil sees it, there is an even bigger payoff. Not only do students gain the confidence to take on academic challenges—“They’re willing to take chances and push themselves,” she says—but they develop an assurance they can carry with them through their lives. “We want students to have every opportunity available to them,” she adds.

Five other District 304 schools finished below the middle schools, giving Geneva a solid top-of-county position in both our quality rankings. For efficiency, the two middle schools and two of the district’s elementary schools got As, but three of its elementary schools landed only Bs because their test scores were slightly lower.

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