First round of state testing in for Southland College Prep
By Casey Toner firstname.lastname@example.org November 3, 2013 9:32PM
A sign points the way to the new home of Southland College Prep, a south suburban charter high school that opened in fall 2010 and is located at 4601 Sauk Trail Road, Richton Park.
Updated: December 5, 2013 6:26AM
Southland College Prep Charter High School’s first ever state testing scores show its students scored more than 17 percentage points higher than students from a neighboring high school district that once tried to shut it down.
Test results show that 47 percent of Southland College Prep’s juniors met Prairie State Achievement Exam testing standards, about six percentage points lower than the state average. About 29 percent of students at Rich Township High School District 227 — which fought the charter’s opening — met PSAE testing standards.
The scores offer the public its first window into the academic results of Southland College Prep, which ushered in its first class of freshmen in 2010 amidst political and legal controversy involving District 227. Southland College Prep students took the PSAE for the first time last year since the test only measures junior students.
“I’m extremely pleased about what we were able to do,” said Southland College Prep chief executive officer Blondean Davis. “I can’t be more proud of these children.”
The school, now located in a renovated insurance office building in Richton Park, opened in 2010 in an empty wing of Huth Middle School in Matteson. It opened after the Illinois State Board of Education granted Davis a charter for the school, reversing a prior District 227 board decision.
One month later, District 227 filed a lawsuit against Southland College Prep to try to keep it from opening, claiming the charter school would reduce state aid for District 227 by about $2 million per year. A Cook County judge ruled against District 227 in December 2010 and following an appeal, the Illinois Appellate Court ruled against the district one year later.
Similar to District 227, Southland College Prep’s student body is mostly black and a majority of the student population is low-income. About 75 percent of District 227 student population is low-income compared to about 55 percent of the population at Southland College Prep.
Many of the students from Southland College Prep and District 227 come from Olympia Fields, Park Forest, Richton Park, and Matteson. Southland College Prep’s students are selected using a lottery.
“There’s no selective enrollment,” Davis said. “There’s the little white bouncing ball.”
Despite the past squabbles, Davis said her school and District 227 have put the conflict behind them. A new District 227 board majority, which was elected in April, fired former superintendent Donna Simpson-Leak, who said the charter school cost her district millions of dollars annually.
“I’m so grateful for the peace and that the districts are working together now,” Davis said. “I just thank god neither one of us are wasting money on lawsuits.”
With the first year of testing behind her, Davis said she wanted to focus her efforts of securing scholarships for the soon-to-be graduating students and boosting the percentage of Southland College Prep students that meet PSAE standards next year to anywhere between 53 and 55 percent.
“Who we are is yet to be written,” Davis said.