Daley, Huberman celebrate small gains on state tests

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Elementary school standardized test scores inched up again as they have each year since the big jump of 2005, but continued to fall short of meeting the federal benchmark set by No Child Left Behind.

This year, 71.7 percent of students met or exceeded standards, up from 69.8 percent in 2009 but short of the 77.5 percent needed to meet the federal goal.

[Download the school board’s presentation on ISAT scores]

Elementary school standardized test scores inched up again as they have each year since the big jump of 2005, but continued to fall short of meeting the federal benchmark set by No Child Left Behind.

This year, 71.7 percent of students met or exceeded standards, up from 69.8 percent in 2009 but short of the 77.5 percent needed to meet the federal goal. 

[Download the school board’s presentation on ISAT scores]

The increase was driven largely by an increase in science scores, which made the biggest gain: from 64.3 percent to 69.7 percent. Math scores were next, rising from 73.6 percent to 76.4 percent. Reading scores, however, were essentially flat, going from 67.8 percent to 68.3 percent.

Chicago’s scores on the Illinois Standards Achievement Test have been inching up, but remain below national and urban-district averages on the NAEP, the well-regarded national test that allows for cross-city comparisons of student achievement.

While CEO Ron Huberman said he was pleased, he immediately laid out some initiatives aimed at bolstering ISAT scores.

This summer, his staff will identify teachers whose classes made substantial gains and have those teachers lead a symposium for their peers.

He also has instructed his staff to work on coming up with a definition of what makes a great teacher. The definition will be used to create an “instructional framework,” which Huberman stressed will not be a narrow box in which each teacher must fit. Instead, it includes figuring out what activities and characteristics typify effective teachers, he said.

“The bottom line with the results is that they start with great teachers,” Huberman said. He noted that he plans to look into work done by Washington, D.C. Supt. Michelle Rhee on effective teaching, but didn’t mention using other existing tools, such as the Danielson framework that is part of the city’s Excellence in Teaching pilot program, or work done by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, which is participating in a new nationwide effort to identify and measure good teaching.

District officials also plan to work with the union on creating a new teacher evaluation, something that is mandated under new state law passed to help bolster Illinois’ chance of winning federal Race to the Top funds.

This is the first year that Huberman has been at the helm for the entire year. It also is the first year for his hallmark performance management initiative, in which principals are held accountable for performance on a regular basis.

The backdrop for the Wednesday announcement is the district’s looming budget crisis, which threatens to force teacher layoffs, increase class sizes to 35 students and cut funding to other key areas, like extra-curricular programs and magnet and charter schools. Huberman avoided saying that such budget cuts would prevent the district from continuing to make progress.

Daley noted that test score gains have occurred every year since he took control of the school system.

Huberman also noted that a higher percentage of students are now exceeding standards: 15.4 percent in 2010 compared to 9.4 percent in 2006. Experts say reaching this benchmark is a better barometer of how students will perform in college.

Also, Huberman included standardized test scores for students who are identified as English language learners, though they are not officially counted. With ELL students, the composite score for the district is 69.5 percent.