Performance

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Are touted gains real?

Elementary ISAT scores skyrocket

The percentage of Chicago students meeting or exceeding standards on the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) jumped nearly 15 percentage points in 2006—”historic gains,” according to the district. But improved achievement only partially explains the surprising increase.

Why scores are higher

Chart: ISAT composite

Real gains in reading; math a question

About half of Chicago’s 3rd- and 5th-graders met state reading standards in 2006, while a full 72 percent of 8th-graders cleared the bar. Before this year, math scores showed an opposite pattern: the district’s younger students outperformed its 8th-graders. Educators finally persuaded the state that the cut score for 8th-grade math was too high, and it was lowered from the 67th percentile to the 38th percentile. That sent 8th-grade math and composite scores soaring.

Chart: 8th-grade math

Nearly all elementary schools post gains

Just under 90 percent of schools made gains on the state’s math, reading and science tests. Four schools cracked the 30-point increase mark, but six schools—generally higher-performers—lost ground.

2005

2006

Difference

Dodge
26%

62%

+36

Clark Academic Prep
50%

86%

+36

Burke
19%

51%

+32

Schiller
21%

52%

+31

Williams
63%

46%

-17

Dunne
62%

54%

-8

Chicago Math and Science Academy
74%

70%

-4

Carver Primary
69%

65%

-4

Beethoven
56%

53%

-3

L.E.A.R.N. Charter
79%

77%

-2

Source: CPS final 2006 ISAT scores; Illinois State Report Cards

Chicago trails other districts

Though Chicago’s widely publicized gains on state tests have been impressive, results from the nation’s report card have unmasked shortcomings in reading, math and—most recently—science.

In science, Chicago ranked seventh among the 10 school districts that participate in the Trial Urban District Assessment of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). And black students in Chicago scored significantly lower than black students in other large urban districts.

The most recent reading and math comparisons, reported in 2005, also put Chicago in the lower ranks. For example, Chicago’s low-income 4th-graders ranked eighth in reading, and its middle-income 4th-graders tied for last.

The percentage of “at-risk” students ranged widely among the participating urban districts, which complicates comparisons. One would expect districtwide scores for Chicago, where 86 percent of students come from low-income homes, to be lower than those in Charlotte, where 47 percent of students are low income. However, just comparing scores of low-income students rather than all students, Chicago still fares poorly.

Black students in CPS struggle most

Chicago placed seventh in the performance of its low-income students and last in the performance of its black students on the 8th-grade science test.

8TH-GRADE NAEP SCIENCE

(2005 national percentile rankings by income)

District Low-income White Black Hispanic
NATION 30 61 24

28

LARGE CENTRAL CITY 23 59 21 24
Boston 27 58 24 25
Austin 26 75 24 29
New York 26 48 20 23
Houston 24 69 22 27
Cleveland 24 37 20 30
Charlotte 23 68 24 28
San Diego 23 62 26 22
Chicago 21 53 17 25
Los Angeles 19 55 19 19
Atlanta 16 NA* 18 NA*

*Sample sizes too small for reliable estimates.

Source: National Center for Education Statistics, NAEP 2005 Trial Urban District Science Assessment

Fourth-graders in Chicago and Los Angeles tied for last place in overall science achievement. Only 35 percent of students scored at a basic, proficient or advanced level.

WEBEXTRA: 4TH-GRADE NAEP SCIENCE

(2005 percentage of students by achievement level)

District Below basic Basic Proficient Advanced
NATION 34 39 25

2

LARGE CENTRAL CITY 52 32 14 1
Austin 40 35 22 3
Charlotte 40 37 21 2
San Diego 49 33 17 2
Houston 53 33 13 2
New York 54 33 12 1
Boston 58 33 9 1
Atlanta 58 29 11 2
Cleveland 64 31 6 *
Chicago 65 26 8 *
Los Angeles 65 26 8 1
*Estimates round to zero.

Source: National Center for Education Statistics, NAEP 2005 Trial Urban District Science Assessment

Graduation rate stagnates

One of the most important measures of high school success is the graduation rate, which until this year’s plateau of 56 percent was inching up under Arne Duncan’s leadership. The district had more success driving down the dropout rate in 2006, thanks to an increase in students who are sticking it out for a fifth year of school.

A good predictor of future graduation rates is the percentage of freshmen who have earned enough credits to put them “on track” to graduate in four years. Under Duncan, the on-track rate climbed to a high of 62 percent in 2003, only to slip to 59 percent last year. The dip is in part due to rising expectations, as freshmen now take heavier course loads.

Chart: Achievement gap widens

High school tests in limbo

State law requires districts to release results from the Prairie State Achievement Exam by October 31. But as Catalyst goes to press, the state does not yet have them, due to a series of highly publicized missteps by the state and its testing provider, Harcourt Assessment.

WebExtra: Four-year gains outpace state, nation

One component of the PSAE has materialized: scores on the ACT college entrance exam. The district’s 2006 composite score has climbed nearly a full point to 17.4 from its 2002 mark of 16.5, outpacing both national (0.3) and statewide (0.4) gains. Still, Chicago’s students trail national and state averages, and score far below the college readiness benchmarks set by ACT: 22 in math; 24 in science; 21 in reading; and 18 in English. The scoring scale for the ACT goes up to 36.

ACT 2002

ACT 2003

ACT 2004

ACT 2005

ACT 2006

CPS

16.5

16.7

16.9

17.1

17.4

Illinois

20.1

20.2

20.3

20.3

20.5

Nation

20.8

20.8

20.9

20.9

21.1

Gains in English, science set the pace

ACT 2002

ACT 2006

English

15.5

16.9

Reading

16.7

17.5

Math

16.8

17.2

Science

16.7

17.6

Source: Chicago Public Schools

WebExtra: Low-income areas make strides

The district’s lower performing instructional areas narrowed the achievement gap in the latest round of testing. The five areas with the lowest percentage of students meeting standards had average gains of 15 percentage points between 2005 and 2006. The average gain in other areas was 13.5 points.

Area

Low-income

ISAT Comp 2006

ISAT Comp 2005

Difference

8

95%

51%

33%

+18

7

96

46

30

+16

18

90

60

45

+15

6

69

71

56

+15

3

91

51

36

+15

4

95

61

47

+14

12

96

55

41

+14

10

96

66

52

+14

16

74

62

48

+14

13

91

48

34

+14

2

81

73

59

+14

17

83

57

43

+14

15

86

59

45

+14

14

91

45

31

+13

9

87

67

55

+13

11

83

67

56

+13

1

63

80

71

+10

Source:

CPS final 2006 ISAT scores; Illinois State Report Cards