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CPS changes policy on promotion, plans help for struggling students

Chicago Public Schools CEO BarbarByrd-Bennett  |  Sun-Times files

Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett | Sun-Times files

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Updated: November 19, 2013 6:40AM



Extra help for struggling students will be built into the school day, Chicago Public Schools said Thursday, announcing a change in the way it determines how children in key grades will be promoted. How the new policy could affect summer-school enrollment remains up in the air.

Annette Gurley, CPS’ chief of teaching and learning, said the district is taking a more supportive approach for children who struggle in three key grades: third, sixth and eighth grades.

Since the state has changed its standardized test for elementary school students to reflect the new Common Core curriculum, Gurley said the district needed to change how it decides when children should be held back a grade — or how to help them be promoted to the next.

“Our focus is on support,” she said. “The goal is not to hold students back. The goal is to provide the supports for the students.”

The current two-tier model that considers statewide Illinois Standard Achievement scores and grades will morph into three tiers this school year and lean on a district-administered test. Previously, children who had a C or below in math or reading or both on their final report cards — whether they scored well or poorly on standardized tests — had to attend summer school. Going forward, some of those students will be promoted only if they pass a yet-to-be-redesigned summer school and a summer exit exam, and even then will only be “promoted with support,” Gurley said.

That means the children who struggled could get weekly intervention sessions during the longer school day or access to individualized instruction, including practice on computers, schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said. Some might need an extra adult in the classroom, she said. Some neighborhood schools that suffered deep budget cuts have reported laying off math specialists and reading coaches, but Byrd-Bennett said paying for the extra academic support has “not been a concern that’s been raised to us” by individual schools.

Rather than using the first 30 questions of the state-required ISAT known as SAT10, the district will look at a more difficult test given districtwide twice a year to third- to eighth-graders — the Northwest Evaluation Association Measure of Academic Progress.

Comparing the test used last year, CPS said 4,683 students tested at or below the 24th percentile, the cutoff it used to consider children for summer school. Similarly, using the more difficult test, about 7,200 students tested at or below the 10th percentile, according to the district.

“There will be differences in the number of students who will be promoted,” Gurley said. “We don’t know quite what that looks like.”

At the end of the 2012-13 school year, 13,980 students were supposed to go to summer school; 11,095 of them passed. The other 2,885 students were held back a grade because they didn’t show up or didn’t pass the course, according to CPS. Anyone who doesn’t show up is automatically retained.

CPS has to inform parents how their children may be promoted by the first report card pickup day, which this year falls on Nov. 12. That means the Board of Education will have to approve promotion policy at its next meeting on Oct. 23.

Email: lfitzpatrick@suntimes.com

Twitter: @bylaurenfitz



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