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Emanuel wants team to figure out why some grade schools did better in test scores

Mayor Rahm Emanuel. File Photo.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel. File Photo.

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Updated: August 18, 2012 6:24AM



Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Monday he wants his handpicked school team to closely examine test scores for Chicago elementary schools to find what schools that outperformed the system are doing differently so he can duplicate it citywide.

The 0.9 percentage-point gain in elementary school scores included mixed results for Emanuel’s signature push for a longer school day. But he isn’t looking at that way.

Instead, he wants to find out why the best-performing schools rose to the head of the class, then follow that recipe at schools that came up short.

“A number of schools did really well — six times, seven times the average throughout the system. I want to know, how did Fiske get 11.8 percent growth? How did it out-perform the six schools in its area? How did Fiske get 11.8 when you were seeing 0.9 growth” elsewhere? he said.

“Part of it is obviously they added time in language arts. They added time in math and they added time in science. How did Nash increase scores by 2.7 percentage points [and] double the number of students in the ‘exceeds’ category? What did they do that the other schools [didn’t]? . . . What did Montefiore do? How did Melody score 5.5 points? They added time to reading and math and science, but what else did they do? I also asked beyond the pioneer schools [with a longer day], why is it that fourth grade went up better than any other grade?”

He added, “Data is a measurement. . . . What are the things you learn from it to improve so next year is a better year for each of the students in the system?”

The Chicago Sun-Times reported this week that elementary test scores hit a record high during Emanuel’s first year in office, but rose by the smallest margin — only 0.9 of one percentage point — since 2005.

Results for the longer school day were mixed. Five schools that started the longer day in September posted seven times bigger gains than the district by rising an average 6.6 percentage points. The total 12 schools that started a longer day by January averaged gains of 2.5 percentage points, CPS data showed.

Three of the five longer-day “Pioneer Schools” actually posted worse gains than the system. Two went down; one (Skinner North) showed no change in its 100 percent passing rate but dropped 10.5 percentage points in its “exceeding state standards” rate. Two went up — including Fiske, where the passing rate jumped a massive 11.8 percentage points.

Of the 12 schools that started a longer day by January, half had better gains than the system and half had worse.

Some 220 elementary schools that did not receive up to $150,000 per school and teacher stipends to institute a longer day also beat the systemwide average gain, a Chicago Sun-Times analysis showed.

Some urban education experts contend the results show the longer school day is a “failed experiment.” They contend that the test scores “call into question” the mayor’s decision to implement the longer school day systemwide next year, especially when it requires leaving CPS without a penny in the bank.

On Monday, Emanuel chose to defy those critics and look at the glass as half-full.

“The first blush of evidence — and it doesn’t mean I’m gonna take it — is that schools that started in September with the longer school day and longer school year out-performed everybody on the pioneer basis. What does that tell you? What did they do? How did they do it?” he said.

“I also want to look at schools that didn’t achieve it and measure it. When you take that, it’s incumbent upon us, given where education is, to try different things, new things to achieve the goals we have to do for our children.”

He noted that graduation, college attendance and test scores are all at “record” rates during his first 16 months in office.

“Now, the question is, how do we do better because, while they’re record-setting, they’re not good enough and we have to always achieve more because it’s our children,” he said.



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