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Mayor Rahm Emanuel: Despite test gains, ‘we have a long way to go’

CTU president Karen Lewis news conference outside Chicago Public Schools headquarters 125 S. Clark St. Wednesday August 22 2012. |

CTU president Karen Lewis at news conference outside Chicago Public Schools headquarters, 125 S. Clark St., Wednesday, August 22, 2012. | John H. White~Sun-Times

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Updated: January 25, 2013 10:16PM



Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday basked in the glow of a dramatic increase in high school test scores but scoffed at the teachers union’s claim that it’s proof Chicago Public Schools don’t need a longer school day and year.

“We have a long way to go ….The mean score throughout the CPS is still off of what you need for a DePaul, for a University of Illinois, for Loyola. That said, we’ve had the best improvement we’ve had in a decade,” Emanuel told reporters after a visit at Richards High School, 5009 S. Laflin.

“Our goal is to get to 21 (on the ACT) as a mean score for the system. To get to the University of Illinois, you need 27. So, while we’ve made good progress, we haven’t made the progress we need to open up the doors of the future for our kids.”

The Chicago Sun-Times reported this week that high schools long viewed as the system’s weakest link posted strong gains in state achievement tests and ACT scores during the first full year under Emanuel.

Chicago’s average ACT score soared to its highest level in at least 11 years, jumping from 17.2 last year to 17.6. That’s still well shy of the 18 generally considered minimally acceptable and the 20 CPS officials have used as a goal.

The overall ACT increase was the biggest in eight years, in part because it followed a dip in 2011, when the system weathered three different Schools CEOs.

Chicago Teachers Union Vice-President Jesse Sharkey has noted that the huge gains occurred before systemwide implementation of Emanuel’s signature plan for a longer school day and school year.

“If they are getting record success, why do we need a longer day?” Sharkey asked.

On Wednesday, Emanuel noted that the jump in high school test scores was just one of several major milestones in the last year. They include, what he called a “record” 60 percent graduation rate and an all-time high in college attendance.

“I’m proud that almost a half-a-point was accomplished in a single year. But, with a full school day and a full school year starting in first-grade, second-grade, fourth-grade and it accumulates over time, those scores will go” even higher, he said.

“It’s not about one year. It’s about what you build in a system ….When the kids who are in first-grade, second-grade or third-grade right now have that much more time with teachers, by the time they get to high school, that time with teachers in math, science reading and history will accumulate and help us achieve better scores.”

He added, “We have to do more, better because guess what? In Tokyo, they’re not resting. In Shanghai, they’re not resting. In Singapore, they’re not resting. In London, they’re not resting on their laurels. And guess what? In Winnetka, in Wilmette, in Oak Park, in Bolingbrook, they’re not resting on their laurels... We have work to do on behalf of the kids of Chicago, which is why we’re gonna give ’em … a full school day and full school year and make sure it’s used well.”

Last month, Emanuel forged a breakthrough agreement with the teachers union that could go a long way toward averting Chicago’s first teachers strike in 25 years.

It calls for hiring 477 teachers to staff the longer school day so elementary school teachers do not have to work a minute longer and rearranging the high school day so teachers there only have to work 14 extra minutes.

Emanuel has refused to say where he will find the $40 million-to-$50 million needed to hire those new teachers. But he has insisted that it will not come at the expense of charter schools.



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