Friday, October 31, 2014

School rankings: The more things change...

Guess what? 
After nearly two decades of mayoral control, testing obsession, and top-down, corporate-style reform of Chicago schools, the more things change, the more they remain essentially the same. Student test scores still correlate most strongly with parent income and the top and bottom ranked schools, with few exceptions, still correspond most closely to the number of high-scoring kids they recruit.

Community protests new charter across street from Prosser.
Today's Sun-Times reports:
Once again, Chicago’s elite high schools dominate the top of state’s high schools, with selective-enrollment schools taking the top four statewide spots. But 28 of the state’s bottom 40 schools are Chicago neighborhood or contract public high schools, according to a Sun-Times ranking of state standardized test scores.
The top open enrollment neighborhood high school, Lincoln Park High School, sits in Chicago’s wealthiest neighborhood, though its scores on the Prairie State Achievement Examination have dipped slightly from last year.
The same held true for the city's elite elementary schools which easily outscored the rest of the state. Behind them are the state's wealthiest suburban schools.

Jennifer Johnson, a former LPHS teacher and now special projects coordinator at the Chicago Teacher Union, summed it up best:
 “We already know that the selective-enrollment students have to meet a higher bar to get into those schools in the first place on standardized assessments. High test scores correlate with family income and the neighborhood in which students live.”
One interesting exception is Prosser Career Academy, in the Belmont Cragin neighborhood, which is the top scoring high school that serves nearly all low-income students, according to the S-T rankings. I know Prosser well. I coached basketball there until last year.

But despite Prosser's gains, made by a great group of teachers, under the leadership of Principal Ken Hunter (now on leave), and despite ongoing community protests, CPS has approved a new privately run charter school being built right across the street. Even before the new Noble Street charter is constructed, there are already attempts to recruit away Prosser students.

Byrd-Bennett promised a better school.
Then there's the so-called "welcoming schools", which received lots of extra resources and funding in the expectation that students from the 50 closed schools would attend. Many of them never showed up, leaving those schools with extra money and fewer kids. CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett had promised that every child whose school had been shuttered would end up in a better place.

But the S-T report finds the receiving schools "a mixed bag at best."  Some of the city’s largest drops in Illinois State Achievement Test scores happened at some of these “welcoming schools.”

Charter schools weren't included in the S-T analysis. But my own quick scan of the charters found none among the top-ranked schools. More to come on this.

Finally, the report found --get this-- much of the the data being used by CPS to evaluate school progress, is full of errors and unreliable. It's a lot like Supt. McCarthy's crime data. So proceed with caution at your own risk.

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