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The student news site of Downers Grove South High School


The student news site of Downers Grove South High School


District 99 school board discusses academic success and improvement

District 99 school board meetings are open to the community and hosted at the district building.

On Monday, Nov. 20th, District 99 hosted a board meeting at the Administrative Service Center in which the first hour and a half was focused on student academic improvement and support. Associate Superintendent for Student Learning, Gina Ziccardi, began the meeting by presenting SAT statistics over the past 5 years. 45.7% of D99 students met or exceeded English based reading and writing scores for the 2023 SAT, which was improved from the 41.1% in 2022.

Superintendent, Dr. Hank Thelie, brought up the point that they do not like to compare scores from year to year because each year is a different group of students and a different test. Ziccardi then mentioned that next year the SAT will be online, shorter and adaptable, meaning that the next question will be determined based on a student’s responses. This new system raised concerns about students’ performance; however, Ziccardi suggested that it may not affect students much.

“The good thing, in my opinion, is that students are used to taking tests online, so it’s not a foreign concept,” Ziccardi said.

The new testing method is supposed to bring more accurate scores due to the adaptive system.

Next, the board moved onto discussing SAT math statistics. School board president Don Renner pointed out that it seems like D99 is trailing behind in math compared to English based reading and writing. Thelie responded that the number of students who met/exceeded expectations in the math portion of the test has been down nationwide since the pandemic.

“What you see with math is a dip… we haven’t really returned to the spot we expected had there not been a pandemic… [we’re] on par with the shape of the data for the country,” Thelie said.

Associate principal at DGS, and former math department chair, Jacob Giblin explained why it was so difficult for some students to come back to math after the pandemic.

“A lot of the help we were able to give students in class was not available online… “It has been a slow process but it’s picking up… A lot of the time math is not as intuitive as [EBRW],” Giblin said.

Ziccardi also brought up the SAT prep course now offered at DGN and DGS during resource periods on block days. Students can sign up to take lessons from staff specifically hired for this course and there are still spots available at both schools.

The board also discussed “9th Grade on Track,” a system that identifies if a ninth grade student is on a good track to succeed the rest of their high school careers. To be “on track” a ninth grader must earn a minimum of five credits and cannot fail more than one semester of a core course. Core courses include English, math, reading, social studies and science.

Giblin presented what DGS is doing to keep students on track. He brought up key interventions such as double math blocks, guided study and peer tutoring, but also that there are still 44 freshman students that are currently not on track, half of which are chronically absent. Thelie also mentioned that students who are failing tend to be chronically absent, but those who are chronically absent are not necessarily failing.

“Both schools are doing a really good job… We can do 100% of our 50% right? We need students and families to do 100% of their 50% to close those gaps and hopefully we get to the point where both sides have done all of their work and nobody is not on track. That’s the goal,” Thelie said.

The next board meeting will be held at the District Administrative Service Center on Dec. 4, 2023. More information about the meetings can be found on the District 99 website.

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