UNDERNEWS

Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

July 5, 2009

REPORT SUGGESTS DUNCAN'S CHICAGO SCHOOL IMPROVEMENTS A MIRAGE

Chicago Business - Chicago Public School reform largely has failed, with the vast bulk of students either dropping out or unprepared for college and apparent gains at the grade-school level more perceived than real.

That's the bottom line of a blockbuster report by the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club, a report that directly challenges the legitimacy of one of Mayor Richard M. Daley's major claimed accomplishments. . .

Half of the students drop out by high school, and of those who remain until 11th grade, 70% fail to meet state standards, the report says. In fact, "In the regular (non-magnet) neighborhood high schools, which serve the vast preponderance of students, almost no students are prepared to succeed in college."

The report directly challenges widespread claims by current and former CPS officials that local students have shown substantial progress over the last decade on standardized tests.

For instance, it notes a 2006 letter from then schools CEO Arne Duncan, now U.S. secretary of education, stating that the share of CPS students meeting or exceeding state standards had leapt 15 points in one year.

In fact, it says, the change occurred because of a change in the test, not because of real educational gains. As a result, it points out, while a test cited by local officials showed that 71% of 8th graders met or exceeded state standards in 2007, a national test taken here the same year showed just 13% were up to par.

Similarly, while the test employed locally reported that the share of 8th graders meeting math standards grew from 32% to 71% from 2005 to 2007, the national test, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education, showed scores effectively flat, moving from 11% to only 13%. . .

A spokeswoman for the Chicago Teachers Union said she hopes the report spurs more cooperation between school management and teachers. "We know what's needed," she said.

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