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McNair: Several factors key in school’s success

Jerald McNair is dean students Parker Junior High School Flossmoor School District 161.

Jerald McNair is dean of students at Parker Junior High School in Flossmoor School District 161.

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Updated: February 10, 2013 6:15PM



We are now into another successful school year at Parker Junior High School in Flossmoor. While we are launching initiatives this year, such as the technology plan that will make learning more interactive and help students take a more active part in the learning process, we must also celebrate our most recent accomplishments.

The annual test that K-8 schools in Illinois use to illustrate and determine to what degree students are learning is the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT).

Parker Junior High was the only public junior high school in Illinois to have an African-American population of more than 60 percent and to have its students score higher than 85 percent in math and reading on the ISAT. Many of our students scored at or above 90 percent in those subjects.

In addition, Parker is ranked 388th out of 1,377 middle schools in the state, according to SchoolDigger.com, which uses metrics to rank schools — adding each school’s average ISAT math and reading scores to derive at a ranking.

This remarkable accomplishment is not an aberration. Parker students have posted similar results for many years. Why? What characteristics and fundamental aspects are in place that allow for this level of success?

Parker students are challenged to self-actualize and be motivated at a high level, but there some factors that underscore more than others why the school has been so successful.

Most importantly, we have a community that expects us to achieve and that provides the resources necessary to aid us in this mission. The school faculty and staff put the needs of students first.

It’s common to see teachers, deans and administrators still at school at 6 or 7 p.m. and to come in on some Saturdays — all in an effort to improve student achievement.

During a time of cynicism and a general lack of confidence that many people have in our institutions, so many of our parents and community members believe in what we are doing. I hear these sentiments echoed at sports and community events, on the phone while talking to parents and even at local stores.

According to a Gallup survey last year, the percentage of respondents indicating a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in public K-12 education in America dwindled to 29 percent nationwide, a considerable drop from a similar 1973 survey.

That’s contrary to what many of Parker’s community members are saying.

Yes, we have our challenges. At times, progress is slow and disagreements exist. Nevertheless, we never forget what our ultimate objective is — improving the academic, social and behavioral output of our students.

Last but not least among the key factors is flexible leadership at Flossmoor District 161 that allows teachers some autonomy in carrying out their job of getting students ready for the 21st century.

The meaning of Parker students’ success, generated by the aforementioned aspects, is only understood in the context of knowing that it is, indeed, rare. Unfortunately, that is empirically true.

Parker is a thriving junior high school, a blueprint for success on how to educate, discipline and inspire students, notwithstanding their race, gender or religion. Our diversity is an asset that adds to a favorable experience for our students.

So congratulations to Parker students for another outstanding effort on the ISAT and thanks to the community and parents for their support.

Our students are ready to take on the rigors and challenges of the highly competitive curriculum at Homewood-Flossmoor High School or any other high school that our students may attend.

Jerald McNair is dean of students at Parker Junior High School in Flossmoor School District 161.



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