Wisconsin doctoral student includes N. Palos in study of poorer school districts

From Jim Hook
N. Palos School Dist. 117

When you think of students living in poverty, the communities of Hickory Hills and Palos Hills don't readily come to mind.

But a University of Wisconsin doctoral student begs to differ, and says she has used North Palos District 117 as part of her research about "school districts that significantly increase academic achievement among students living in poverty."

Sally Parks, who earned her undergraduate degree at Northwestern University, is working on her PhD in educational leadership and policy analysis. She said she focused her research on school districts in Illinois and two other states.

"What I found with District 117 was nothing short of amazing," Parks said. "I started looking at public data from school districts starting with at least 15 percent of its students living in poverty that had significant increases in academic achievement.

"North Palos District 117 quickly rose to the top of my list. District 117 does incredibly well academically, and you have about 40 percent of your students living in poverty. That's amazing."

Parks has twice made the nearly three-hour trip from just south of Madison, Wis., to District 117, where she has met with administrators and teachers and conducted interviews, focus groups and observations to help with her research.

"Everyone here has been so great," she said. I'll probably need to come back at least two more times before I get everything I need."

Parks said her goal is to "fully understand the strategies the district implements to improve achievement for kids in poverty as well as the resources to help improve achievement."