Petition for Illinois to delay the launch of the PARCC test

You may have seen posts from Raise Your Hand already, but I’d urge people to consider signing this petition to ask the Illinois State Board of Education to delay the launch of the PARCC as the high stakes test in IL until some issues with the methodology are refined.

CPS itself is also in favor of a delay (which indicates the mess that this test is in.)

CPS and BBB alone don’t have the authority to delay the test launch since it’s a state decision.  To let ISBE know that both CPS and parents support delay, more signatures are needed on the petition.

Try the sample test here:   (I’ve tried it and it’s horribly, horribly clunky and cumbersome to use, particularly for math. As a research person, I see multiple ways that this methodology will contort the scores as a way to represent how much a child knows.)


November 9, 2014 at 10:35 pm 26 comments

Fall 2014: Applying to High School

SEHS Open House Dates 2014

Use this thread to ask questions, post news about open houses (any type of high school) and share testing info.

I’ll try to get more open house dates from the other (non-SEHS high schools) to post.

In the meantime, SEHS Open House dates are above.

Man, that can take up a LOT of time!  Choosing the early test option (that allows your child to know their score early) can help make the touring process more efficient as you may be able to eliminate certain schools from your repertoire (and may want to include others to widen your net.)

Which reminds of me of the CPSObsessed reader High School Mantra:  CAST A WIDE NET

September 28, 2014 at 10:50 am 606 comments

Fall 2014: Applying to Academic Centers and Intl Gifted Programs


As a quick review, Academic Centers are for 7-8th grade (apply in 6th grade.)  Entry into an AC guarantees you a high school spot in that school (and you can still apply to other schools for high school if you wish.) Students can earn up to 8 HS credits while in an AC.

International Gifted Programs are for grades 6-8 (apply in 5th grade.)  The program includes intensive study of English, French, social studies, laboratory science, mathematics, technology, arts, physical education, library science, and advanced research. The International Gifted Program is designed to allow intellectually able students to be schooled in their least restrictive environment and to mature at an accelerated pace.


Academic Centers

(No dates listed for Taft, Morgan Park yet)

Harlan Academic Center
9652 S. Michigan Ave

Oct 18 10-11:30 am
Nov 15 10-11:30 am

Kenwood Academic Center
5015 S. Blackstone Ave.

Nov 8 10am- 12 noon

Lane Tech Academic Center
2501 W. Addison St.

Nov 2 10am – 12 noon

Lindblom Academic Center
6130 S. Wolcott St.

Nov 1 10am – 11:30am

Young Academic Center
211 S. Laflin St.

Oct 19 10 a.m. to 12 noon

International Gifted Programs

Lincoln International Gifted Program
615 W. Kemper Pl.

Nov 4 9:15 am

Ogden International Gifted Program
1250 W. Erie St.

Oct 23 6-8pm

September 27, 2014 at 7:15 pm 140 comments

Test Prep: Pros and Cons


Interesting discussion started in the elem thread about test prep.

As I see it:


What can it hurt?

Kid gets extra learning time

Helps a child feel more comfortable taking the test as it will feel a bit familiar

Can potentially give your child an edge in testing (my assumption is that this is truer the older the student is, say middle school, high school test prep versus Kindergarten test prep)

Teaches kids that if you want something, you should work hard/prepare for it


Costs money if you pay someone (I feel did some informal “test prep” with my son when he was little, but I could also call it “teaching him stuff he needed to know anyhow.”)

Gives some kids in the system a possible unfair edge over others (typically meaning that higher socio-economic kids get an advantage)


Feel free to continue the discussion here:

September 25, 2014 at 1:47 pm 132 comments

Fall 2014 – Applying to Kindergarten / Elementary School

Bye mommy! Now you can look at Facebook all day long!

Bye mommy! Now you can look at Facebook all day long!

Kindergarten/Elementary application time here!

Welcome! After the long wait from infanthood, it is now time to being charting the waters of CPS elementary school.  

Applying has never been easier, now that it’s all online.

You can apply for a PIN (needed for online enrollment) now.  It will be mailed to your home within a week.

Applications will be accepted starting October 1st.

Details are here and the OAE site now covers almost everything you need to know, very well organized:

When entering Kindergarten (and older grades as well) you have several options:

Gifted and Classical schools – these schools require a test for entry.  For Kindergarten, the tests are given at the same time and kids are tested one-on-one.  For older grades, the kids test in a large group and the gifted and classical tests are on different days.   There is often debate about whether to apply early so your child gets and early test date (benefit: avoid blizzards, get it out of the way) or wait until the end of the application period to apply (benefit: kids may hit that magical reading breakthrough you’ve been waiting for.)  The test scores are normed by age, so it shouldn’t really matter when you do the testing.

Magnet schools – these admit kids via a lottery process.  People who live within 1.5 miles of a school get preference in a proximity lottery.  Others are also admitted, based on Socio-Economic Tier.

Neighborhood schools (also includes Magnet Cluster school, which are just neighborhood schools) – these are schools that admit kids from te neighborhood that surrounds a school.  If you don’t want to attend your own neighbohood school, you can apply to others who have room to spare.  This can only be done through the online application process.  Not every school has space, so it’s wise to fine some ‘up-and-coming’ schools that are growing and have seats to fill.  Or give you local school another look, with some other parents.   Building up parent interest is often a great way to build community and create/uncover a good local school.

One factor that can influence your chance of selection at a school is your Socio-Economic Tier.  Your address determines your Tier (Tier 4, highest socio-economic level, Tier 1, lowest.) NOTE: the tiers for the current application process have not been update yet, so current Tier information may be out of date!!

These are explained here, very cleary by OAE:

Feel free to post questions, comments, or suggestions below.

I don’t see open house dates posted yet, but ideally you’ll tour the schools you’re most interested in.  It’s possible to get a call very late in the application season or even over the summer and have 24 hours to make a decision, which may or may not allow for touring a school at that point.



September 23, 2014 at 9:03 pm 250 comments

Hidden Gems High School Fair Sept 28th

That time of year is coming up… the time to start lookin’ at schools!  Yeah!

I don’t know what’s better than a fair with rides and corndogs, than a school fair with tables, flyers, and Principals!

Truly though, these school fairs are a great way to meet a lot of the leaders of some of the “off the radar” high schools.

Anyone who has read this blog for a while knows that the key theme for parents when applying to high schools is “cast a wide net.”  That net will feel much more strategic and comfortable if you really get to know some of the high school options in the city.  I had a lot of great one on one conversations there last year.  The list ranges from neighborhood high schools to private, so take you pick.

I have more high school open house info, as soon as I get organized and find it.  If you know of other events parents should know about to tour the high schools, feel free to post in the comments.


“Hidden Gems” Chicago High School Fair presented by Chicago School GPS

Sunday, September 28, 2014 @ 2-5 p.m.

St. Benedict College Preparatory High School, 3900 N. Leavitt (enter on Bell, south of Irving Park Road)

RSVP online for reduced admission and a chance to win raffle prizes

Join Chicago School GPS at our 3rd Annual Hidden Gems High School Fair where we will introduce you to “hidden gem” public and private Chicago high school options.  This event is geared to middle school parents and students.  In addition to hearing from “hidden gem” high schools in a forum setting, parents can attend planned seminars on:

  • High school admissions process

  • Private school scholarships

  • Executive functioning for middle schoolers

  • “Mini boot camp” on entrance essays

  • Entrance test strategies, and

  • Peer to peer info sessions for middle schoolers.

Come learn how to “widen your net” and find multiple Chicago high schools to meet your family’s needs!

Participating Schools include public, charter, independent, parochial, and boarding schools.  The list so far:
St. Benedict’s Prep
Beacon Academy
Wolcott School
Chicago Academy for the Arts
Intrinsic School
Chicago Hope Academy
Chicago HS for the Arts(ChiArts)
Harbridge College Prep Academy
Westinghouse College Prep
DePaul College Prep (Gordon Tech)
Disney II Magnet
Resurrection College Prep
Alcott College Prep
Chicago Waldorf School
Rickover Naval Academy
Global Citizenship Experience
Senn High School
Luther North
GEMS World Academy
St. Patrick High School
Willows Academy
Lake View High School
Chicago Virtual Charter School
La Lumiere School
De La Salle Institute
British School of Chicago
Amundsen High School
Notre Dame for Girls
Noble Network
Scattergood Friends School
Von Steuben (Scholars)
Notre Dame College Prep



September 10, 2014 at 8:08 pm 110 comments

Sun Times/Blaine Principal Analysis shows neighborhood schools outperform charters on MAP growth

A very compelling piece was published in the Sun Times today (coinciding with the first eve of school starting) where the current Blaine principal (who has been outspoken about the system) reports some results from an analysis of MAP test that shows that neighborhood schools greatly outpace Charters in GROWTH over the past year.  this is different from attainment as it actually shows how much students improved compared to where they started the year.  Math growth is around the same and attainment levels are around the same.  (Not surprisingly selectives and magnets are better than other schools.)  The Sun Times has corroborated his data.  

Take a read and see what you think of his analysis.  Is this a reason to stop expansion of charters?  Some charters?  All charters?

The data is certainly compelling.  I ranked the charters and found that they break out to roughly 1/3 in the top 33% of growth nationally, 1/3 middle. 1/3 lower.  Perhaps the top 1/3 of charters are worth maintaining?  For students in some neighborhoods, even having the chance to attend a school with average growth is an improvement, right?  

My questions: Why isn’t math growth on track with reading?  Will this trend continue with neighborhood schools showing really strong reading growth?  What’s going on at some of these schools with low attainment (ie low scores) but huge growth?  Hopefully someone is CPS is finding out what’s happening there to see if its replicatable.

All in all, you have to admire someone who is willing to step up to speak publicly critiquing CPS from inside, using data to support the argument.


For original CPS MAP data, charts, graphs, and other data files, please visit

By Troy A. LaRaviere                                                         

When mayor Rahm Emanuel recently heralded a small gain on the average Chicago Public Schools elementary “MAP” test results, I knew something wasn’t quite right. It wasn’t what he said; it was what he didn’t say. You see, this is the first year the MAP scores can provide a more decisive apples-to-apples comparison of charter schools and traditional public schools.

The result? Public school students learned far more in one year than charter school students did.

Until now, schools were judged on student attainment scores, not student growth. This is important because — like magnet schools — charter schools lean heavily on their ability to enroll students who are more likely to have higher attainment than their neighborhood peers by virtue of the degree of parent involvement needed to enter a child into a charter school lottery. Chicago’s charter schools also expel students at more than 12 times the rate of our public schools, which calls into question their own confidence in their ability to effectively teach the most difficult to reach children. When you consider those factors, the attainment of charter school students could be more a result of their admissions and expulsion policies than their teaching.

This is where the MAP assessment comes in. The MAP is designed to measure teaching and learning. In fact, CPS trusts it so much that it uses the results to determine teacher and principal evaluation ratings. It’s also used to rate schools on CPS’s five-level rating system.

If CPS can use MAP growth results so broadly to rate teachers, principals, and schools, one would expect CPS to use those same results to rate its school reform strategy, which is dominated by the proliferation of privatized charter and turnaround schools, where a private operator replaces all or nearly all of a school’s staff. How did Emanuel’s reform schools do? What kind of learning growth did they foster? Why didn’t Mr. Emanuel say anything about it? Surely he knew.

So I downloaded the publicly available MAP results and conducted a preliminary analysis. For the sake of consistency I am deferring to the Sun-Times results, which were similar to mine. The MAP report lists the “growth percentile” assigned to each school based on student results. If a school gets a growth percentile of 99, then the average growth of the students in that school is greater than the average growth of 99 percent of schools in the United States that took the MAP assessment.

In terms of assessing the effectiveness of charter schools I believe the most accurate comparison is to public magnet schools since both charters and magnets have lottery admissions processes that increase the likelihood of enrolling students with involved parents. In essence, charters are privately-run magnet schools and therefore should be measured against publicly-run magnet schools. I believe that turnaround schools should be compared to neighborhood schools since they both must accept students within their attendance boundaries. Using the Sun-Times results, the comparisons are as follows:


* The most dramatic performance gaps are in reading, where the public magnet school growth percentile is 83, while the charter score is 48.

* The public neighborhood percentile is at 75, while turnarounds are at 51.

* Although neighborhood schools must enroll any student in their attendance boundary, their students’ reading growth percentile is 27 points higher than that of lottery-driven charters schools. Neighborhood schools are at 75 and charters are at 48.


* In math, the public magnet school growth percentile is 67, while the lottery-driven charter schools are at 49.5 — over 17 points lower.

* The neighborhood school growth percentile is at 55 while the turnaround school percentile is at 43 — 12 points lower.

* Even with their admissions limitations, public neighborhood schools outperformed the growth in lottery-driven charter schools by more than five percentile points, with neighborhood and charter schools at 54.9 and 49.5 respectively.

A simple look at a list of the schools reveals even more. Of the 490 Chicago schools for which elementary grade MAP data was available, 60 of those schools are charter (12 percent), 24 are turnaround (5 percent), and 406 (83 percent) are traditional public schools. When sorted by growth percentile rank, I found the following:

* Although charters and turnarounds make up 17 percent of district schools, they account for none of the 60 schools with the highest growth percentiles.

* Of the 30 lowest performing schools in CPS more than half are charters or turnarounds.

* Of the 10 lowest performing schools in CPS, seven are charters or turnarounds.

* Nearly nine out of 10 charter/turnaround schools are in the bottom half of CPS performance.

In summary, charters and turnarounds are overrepresented among the schools with the lowest student growth, and not represented at all among schools with the highest student growth.

CPS testing and accountability officials told me their numbers looked similar to mine and that any minor differences may have been the result of the inclusion of one or two schools not included in the data available at the time of my analysis. This led to another striking revelation. Eight of the city’s charter schools — including five Learn Charter Schools — had no MAP growth data at all. When I asked how this was possible I was told these charters had not “opted in” to the MAP assessment. You read that correctly; CPS allows some charter schools not to participate in the assessment used to hold regular public schools accountable.

The 50th percentile represents the “average” for U.S. schools. The reading growth percentile scores of 83 and 75 for students in Chicago’s public magnet and neighborhood schools stands in stark contrast to the often-promoted picture of traditional Chicago public schools as “failing.” On the contrary, the 51st and 48th respective growth percentiles of turnarounds and charters clearly indicate that it is these reforms that are failing Chicago’s students. There may be a few exceptions, but exceptions don’t create good schools systems; critical mass does. Our public schools have developed this critical mass while charter schools have fallen short.

This situation sets up an inexcusably dire situation when considered in the context of the racial achievement gap. As large numbers of African American and Hispanic students are funneled into the low-growth charter/turnaround system, the high-growth public system is becoming increasingly Caucasian and Asian. The students on the low end of the achievement gap — the students who need the most growth — are being fed to a system that produces the least. In December, the Sun-Times reported that the achievement gap between white and black students was widening. It now appears we have identified a cause.

In the face of these results, the mayor’s next press conference on schools should be much different than his last. He should announce that CPS will cease its effort to divert funding from public neighborhood schools into his failed charter experiment. An immediate surge of investment in public neighborhood schools should follow. He should also announce an immediate publicity campaign to inform parents who made the charter “choice” of the learning growth disparity between these different types of schools so those parents can then make a more informed choice about where to send their children. Unfortunately many of the schools in those parents’ neighborhoods have been shut down. It is a tragic irony that a so-called “choice” system has left thousands of families with no choice at all.

In the past, when public school advocates have mentioned the difficulties of teaching in schools in low-income minority neighborhoods, charter and “choice” advocates have had a “no excuses” response. “Hold the public schools accountable!” has been the battle cry. Will the mayor now hold his charter schools accountable? Let’s hope Mr. Emanuel remains consistent with that “no excuses” mantra now that his own reforms have failed.

Looking forward to that next press conference.

Troy A. LaRaviere is principal at Blaine Elementary School, a parent at Kellogg Elementary School, a graduate of Chicago Public Schools and Chairperson of the Administrators Alliance for Proven Policy and Legislation in Education (AAPPLE).


September 1, 2014 at 6:03 pm 56 comments

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