Aug. 26 is the start of the new school year, and for the Schuler Scholar Program, the first time its students at Maine East Township High School will begin their senior year.

The program, first offered in 2010 at Maine East, enables qualifying students to receive mentoring and college counseling while in high school with the goal to be accepted into selective private schools.

Joanne Bertsch, Schuler's school director for Maine East, presented a progress report Monday night to the Maine Township High School District 207 board.

The Schuler Scholar Program has partnered with nine high schools in the Chicago area, and Bertsch described Maine East as its best example of success.

"When we look at our nine schools, we look at Maine East as our model school," she said.

Bertsch and Karly Vance, Schuler educational counselor and program associate, outlined several highlights of the results after three years at Maine East, including the first look at ACT scores.

Last year, the first time Maine East Schuler Scholars took the ACT, the students scored an average of 23.6 on their pre-ACT tests and increased to 29.8 average for the actual test, Vance said. 

In addition, the board was told that juniors in the program showed improved results on the Nelson-Denny Reading Test, rising from the 88th percentile nationally in comprehension to the 91st and improving from the 83rd percentile to the 87th in vocabulary. Sophomores showed even more improvement, going from the 76th percentile to the 86th in comprehension and the 71st percentile to the 81st in vocabulary, Vance said.

District 207 board member Donna Pellar said she was impressed with the program.

"I think it's wonderful," Pellar said.

Board member Jin Lee was also impressed, especially because the program costs the parents of qualifying students nothing.

"We just need them to provide a strong atmosphere at home, but it doesn't cost them anything monetarily," Bertsch said.

The Schuler program and money spent on students is paid for by Lake Bluff businessman Jack Schuler, Bertsch said. Financial support averages $8,900 per scholar a year. Over the 2012-13 school year, the Schuler Scholar Program provided $507,300 to cover the 57 students in the program at Maine East, Bertsch said.

To enter the program, students are selected in eighth grade through an application process. This year at Maine East, 21 freshmen will join the program, selected from 51 who applied, Bertsch said. 

Also discussed at the District 207 meeting was "Rocky's law," which takes effect Jan. 1 and requires insurance coverage for student-athletes. The law was named for Rasul "Rocky" Clark, a running back from Eisenhower High School in Blue Island who was paralyzed in 2000 and whose family ran out of insurance money before his death last year. The law requires injured student-athletes be covered for at least five years or $3 million in benefits, whichever comes first. Board member Sean Sullivan said the board was still shopping for the insurance and estimated it would cost the district $50,000 to $100,000 per year.