CPS high school ACT scores go down — and they go up
By ROSALIND ROSSI Education Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org August 18, 2011 3:44PM
Roosevelt High School junior Lam Ho joined CTU President Karen Lewis and parents, activists and clergy in call for a "better, smarter school day" outside Price Elementary School, 4359 S. Drexel Thursday, Aug. 18, 2011. | Rich Hein~Sun-Times
Updated: November 3, 2011 10:44AM
ACT test results across Chicago public high schools dipped this year.
And they went up.
It all depends on how you keep score.
The test results went down a notch under a new counting method that compares this years’ juniors and seniors to last year’s juniors. But the results went up a notch, under an apples-to-apples measuring stick, comparing juniors to juniors, preliminary scores released Thursday indicated.
Chicago Public School officials emphasized the more dire score calculations, however, and contended they proved the need for a longer school day and year, as Mayor Rahm Emanuel has been demanding.
“These results show we have work to do,’’ new Chicago Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard said in a news release. “Students need more time in the classroom with their teachers and that time needs to be best used to boost student achievement.’’
This year’s results were murkier than usual because for the first time, state officials required schools to count not only the juniors who take the Prairie State Achievement Exam and the ACT exam it includes, but also any seniors.
This year’s new counting method emerged after complaints that some high schools were trying to boost their scores by preventing low-achieving juniors with too few credits from taking the PSAE and the ACT until their senior year, meaning the potentially lower scores would not be counted against the school.
Using an apples-to-apples, juniors-versus-only-juniors comparison, results contained in a CPS Powerpoint released to reporters Thursday indicated the average ACT score racked up by CPS juniors rose from 17.3 to 17.4 on the 36-point college admission test.
Again, comparing only juniors to juniors, the percent of CPS students considered “college-ready’’ in all four ACT subjects tested — reading, English, math and science — also increased from 7.2 to 7.9 percent, a paltry showing but still an uptick nonetheless.
And, under the old counting method, the percent of CPS juniors who passed the Prairie State this year held flat, at 29.3.
But CPS’s news release reflected only the new counting method in its reported scores. As a result, CPS found that the percent of students passing the Prairie State declined one full percentage point, and the CPS ACT average dropped by 0.1 of a percentage point, to 17.2.
The headlines of the CPS news release were uncharacteristically negative: “Mostly Flat and Declining High School Test Results Underscore Need for More Time on Task and Extended School Day for Students. PSAE shows that only 7.9 % of student test takers meet college readiness benchmarks.’’
Julie Woestehoff of Parents United for Responsible Education said the news release seemed to be emphasizing the negative to make a political point of pushing a longer school day.
“He’s trying to make the data agree with his message,’’ Woestehoff said of Brizard.
The release’s headlines, Woestehoff said, “seem to be a slap in the face to the [former Mayor Daley] mythology about how he improved the schools. ... Then you have the first year after he retired, this terrible negative news. ... You really question whether anything a politician tells you about the schools is real.’’
Meanwhile Thursday, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis joined several community groups in demanding that any longer school day be part of a “better school day’’ reflecting a well-rounded curriculum featuring daily art, music, physical education and recess — and less time on test preparation.
To continue to “do more of the same, just do it longer,’’ and expect different results is the “definition of insanity,’’ Lewis said.