- Associated Press - Thursday, May 12, 2016

CARTERVILLE, Ill. (AP) - Keith Liddell, superintendent of Carterville Community Unit School District 5, doesn’t like to brag, but his district has a reputation of being among the top school districts in the area.

“It’s nice to be mentioned in the same breath as those who do well,” Liddell said.

The district has earned several awards that might be reason to brag.

Carterville CUSD received a silver medal and ranked 94th in Illinois and 2,308th in the national list on US News and World Report’s 2016 list of the nation’s best high schools. The district was listed on the Advanced Placement Honor Roll, which recognizes schools for student achievement on AP exams. Carterville High School also was the only public high school in Southern Illinois that performed above the state average of 21 on ACT test during the 2014-15 school year. Carterville student scores averaged 23.

Liddell and Assistant Superintendent Sarah Barnstable believe the reasons for the district’s success is shared by teachers, administrators, parents, students, the school board and the community.

Liddell said district teachers are very dedicated to students and to a very rigorous academic curriculum. They work together to understand the standards and set high expectations of their students.

“I think if you set the bar really high, students will work to meet expectations,” Liddell said. “The community also expects high academic standards.”

“It’s setting the bar and saying we’ll achieve it together,” Barnstable said.

Barnstable said research shows that one of the big things to impact student outcomes is who’s in front of the classroom. Teachers work together in teams who share both successes and failures.

“We’ve got experts in our own system, and we lean on them,” Liddell said.

Principals meet with teachers who are leaders and provide time for teachers to meet together, both in each school building as well as district-wide. Teacher meetings are very structured and data driven.

“It’s not easy to get eight second-grade teachers together weekly to work on their target and approach,” Liddell said.

But Carterville CUSD does - district-wide, kindergarten through 12th grade.

The district has been fortunate to build three buildings in about 14 years, but those buildings are quickly filling. Enrollment is up from 1,720 in 2006-07 to 2,118 this year.

“We have to have an ongoing five-year plan,” Liddell said. “We owe it to our community.”

When Tri-C Elementary School was built, it was designed to hold 700 students in kindergarten through fourth grade. In a Southern Illinoisan article in December 2001, Tim Bleyer, superintendent at the time, talked about the luxury of having extra classrooms.

The enrollment at Tri-C is 690 students in kindergarten through third grade. Fourth graders were moved to the intermediate school and an addition was built. Every room is in use, and administrators are working on a plan for next year.

Carterville Junior High, the newest building in the district, is about two years from capacity at current rates of growth.

Liddell and Barnstable also talked about the district’s ability to form really good community partnerships with groups like the Rotary Club and Chamber of Commerce, John A. Logan Community College and Southern Illinois University.

“I also don’t think we can downplay the impact education has in Carterville,” Liddell said. “We live in place where education is respected and valued at a high level.”

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Source: The (Carbondale) Southern Illinoisan, http://bit.ly/1Szn4ys

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Information from: Southern Illinoisan, http://www.southernillinoisan.com

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