This from the Chicago Tribune by Tara Malone and Darnell Little:
More than half of Illinois public schools including, for the first time, many of the state's academic powerhouses failed to meet test targets this year, raising questions not only about the schools, but also the standard by which they are judged.

In Illinois, high schools fared the worst.

Nine of 10 high schools 609 of 665 in the state missed the mark on math and reading tests and risk federal sanctions, according to information released Wednesday by the Illinois State Board of Education.

Statewide, 44 percent of elementary and middle schools fell short.

Educators say it was bound to happen. The federal No Child Left Behind law requires that schools bring every student to proficiency in reading and math by 2014, a goal that most teachers have thought impossible from its inception. The standard ratchets higher every year as the deadline nears.

"Everybody knew it would get to this point. It had to," said Superintendent Linda Yonke of New Trier Township High School, which missed the test target for the first time this year.

This year, 77.5 percent of students had to read and do math at their grade level on state tests, up from 70 percent a year ago. Smaller subsets of students as defined by race or income, for example had to meet the target too.

New Trier, among the state's best schools by virtually any measure, posted some of its highest scores ever on the college-entrance ACT test, which comprises half of the Prairie State Achievement Exam given to juniors. But the performance of a small group of students, those with learning disabilities, fell short of the testing target.

The entire school failed as a result, revealing one of the troubling limits of the law: Schools that narrowly miss the mark with one group of kids get saddled with the same failing label as schools where virtually all students languish below grade level, and are subject to the same penalties.

The sweeping designation muddies the issue for parents trying to make sense of it all, and threatens to make the federal standard irrelevant.

"When we've got 98 percent of kids going to college, you can't tell me that we're a failing school," Yonke said.

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