Most CPS elementary schools dip in students meeting state standards
BY MAUDLYNE IHEJIRIKA AND ART GOLAB Staff Reporters September 27, 2013 9:12PM
Updated: October 29, 2013 6:07AM
Practically every CPS elementary school took a dip last year in percentage of students meeting or exceeding state standards, according to a Chicago Sun-Times analysis of state standardized test scores amongst data released Friday by Chicago Public Schools.
The finding aligns with preliminary results of last year’s new and stricter scoring of the Illinois Standard Achievement Test, which earlier showed a giant drop in percentage of third to eighth graders meeting or exceeding standards in math, reading and science.
The Sun-Times compared the district’s 2011-2012 ISAT composite scores to 2012-2013 scores in the district’s annual school-by-school performance report. That new data shows three of five CPS schools in good standing this year — 5 percent more than last year.
It also showed two of five elementary schools and half of all CPS high schools on probation.
CPS Chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett saw the numbers in the report as the glass half full.
“While more work remains to be done, I’m pleased that many of our schools are moving in the right direction, and applaud our principals and staff for the dedication they are bringing to the classroom every day to help our children get on a path for success,” Byrd-Bennett said.
Friday’s report represents the last time the current three-tier ratings system — placing schools at Level 1, in good standing or excellent; at Level 2, in good standing; or Level 3, on probation — will be utilized. It’s been in use since 2008.
CPS has chucked it for a five-tier system eliminating the “on probation” label, to be implemented next year. However, this report shows the highest percentage of schools at the Level 1 or 2 categories since the ratings were implemented, according to CPS.
The report did not include final performance data on any schools that were among the record 48 shuttered this year in the largest wave of school closings nationally.
The Chicago Teachers Union found that problematic.
“We are happy to see improvements, but we are concerned that the closed schools are not in this data, even though they also had exam results that should be measured and included,” said a CTU spokesman, Jackson Potter. “And any progress that we’re seeing is jeopardized by the biggest cuts to school budgets in a generation that we’re facing.”
Achievement academies, special education and alternative schools also were excluded from the ratings. And charters, while rated, were excluded from probation data.
Next year, all schools — charters, alternatives, contracts — will be rated the same way.
On the bright side, the report showed 28 elementary schools and 12 high schools managed to move off probation this year.
It showed 151 elementary and 23 high schools at the top level; 169 elementary and 62 high schools in the middle; and 140 elementary and 44 high schools at the bottom. Also, 81 elementary schools moved up a level, 91 moved down; 26 high schools moved up a level, 13 moved down.
And coincidentally, seven elementary schools shot from Level 3 to Level 1, while seven dropped from Level 1 to Level 3.
Next year, rather than being considered “on probation,” academically struggling schools in the lowest two tiers will be considered on “provisional” or “intensive” support.
The Sun-Times analysis found 419 out of 422 elementary schools (for which data was available both years) dropped in percentage of students meeting or exceeding standards, in a year of closings chaos. Preliminary results released by CPS in July had showed 52.5 percent of all third- to eighth-graders meeting or exceeding — down from 74.2 percent the year before.
The giant drop is attributed to the state’s raising the meeting or exceeding standards to better align elementary schools with high schools and reflect better how kids are doing.
Amongst high schools — where testing standards remained the same — the percentage of students meeting or exceeding standards on the Prairie State Achievement Exam rose at 45 schools, while dropping at 42 schools.
For at least one school that survived the closings hit list of 129 schools proposed last winter — a jump from Level 3 to 1 was considered validation for the decision to keep the school open.
“We visited the school three times before we decided to enroll,” said Jen Parsio, who moved to Logan Square earlier this year and enrolled her two kids at Brentano Math & Science Academy. “It was clear to us the staff was very dedicated and the principal has great vision. That they struggled with just trying to stay open, but never gave up on the students as they kept on fighting, proves it’s amazing, and deserved to stay open.”