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Academic Achievement in Chicago Public Schools

The Civic Committee has been tracking the academic performance of public schools in Chicago and Illinois since the introduction of statewide, standards-based testing in 1999.  On June 30, 2009, it released a report, Still Left Behind, which evaluates student learning in Chicago Public Schools.  The report updates the Civic Committee’s 2003 Left Behind report.

Click here to view the full Still Left Behind report

Still Left Behind finds that Chicago’s public schools have made little progress over the last five years in raising student achievement.  The report’s key findings are as follows:

    • Most of Chicago’s students drop out or fail.  The vast majority of Chicago’s elementary and high schools do not prepare their students for success in college and beyond.

    • There is a general perception that Chicago’s public schools have been gradually improving over time.  However, recent dramatic gains in the reported number of CPS elementary students who meet standards on State assessments appear to be due to changes in the tests made by the Illinois State Board of Education, rather than real improvements in student learning.

    • At the elementary level, State assessment standards have been so weakened that most of the 8th graders who “meet” these standards have little chance to succeed in high school or to be ready for college.  While there has been modest improvement in real student learning in Chicago’s elementary schools, these gains dissipate in high school.

    • The performance of Chicago’s high schools is abysmal – with about half the students dropping out of the non-selective-enrollment schools, and more than 70% of 11th grade students failing to meet State standards.  The trend has remained essentially flat over the past several years.  The relatively high-performing students are concentrated in a few magnet/selective enrollment high schools.  In the regular neighborhood high schools, which serve the vast preponderance of students, almost no students are prepared to succeed in college.

    • In order to drive real improvement in CPS and fairly report performance to the public, a credible source of information on student achievement is essential.  Within CPS today, no such source exists.  CPS and the State should use rigorous national standardized tests.  Also, the Board of Education should designate an independent auditor with responsibility for ensuring that published reports regarding student achievement in CPS are accurate, timely and distributed to families and stakeholders in an easily understood format.

    • Efforts to provide meaningful school choices to Chicago’s families must be aggressively pursued – including expanding the number of charter and contract schools in Chicago.  Most of these schools outperform the traditional schools that their students would otherwise have attended; and the choices that they offer parents will help spur all schools in CPS to improve.

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