Are you smarter than a third grader ? (Guest post by HSObsessed)

June 30, 2011 at 6:20 am 112 comments

Thanks to the wonderful HSObsessed (I think I owe you dinner at this point) we have another insightful posting – this time about the new ISAT scores that are out.  As a fellow data lover, I’m excited to start poring through them.   In a nutshell, she’s scared me into thinking that the parents of young kids need to get on the ball to expand the high school options, as there will be a glut of high scoring kids in the system in about 5 years.  Read on….

The newest ISAT scores are now available on the CPS website. I’ve provided the link to the CPS data below, as well as a link to a spreadsheet I created about 3rd graders.
I’m always most interested in looking at scores from the 3rd graders, because they reflect the abilities of new schools that just started up or those that have undergone big changes in programming for the youngest grades.
I’m also most interested in looking at the “exceeds standards” scores. While it’s nice to see what percentage in a school “meet or exceeds” standards, the ISATs are not terribly  challenging — they’re testing to see whether kids are learning the basics of each grade — and I think it’s widely agreed that it’s not really hard to “meet” standards. I also think that a core group of kids who are not just meeting minimum criteria, but going beyond, provides a class, a grade, a school with a “core” group of kids who can help raise the bar for all the kids around them, and who can keep parents confident in a school’s ability to provide a strong learning environment.
So I looked at the 2011 “exceeds” scores for 3rd graders, and what I see is really encouraging. Out of 500 elementary schools in the grid, 63 have 50% or more of their 3rd graders exceeding standards, which I believe is a record number. In 2010, there were only 43 schools, in 2009 37 schools, and in 2008, only 29 schools.
Looking at the list of the top schools, I note that there’s a huge variety of school “type”: 8 are test-in only (red), 13 are citywide magnets (purple), 31 are neighborhood schools (some accept via lottery if space is available — in black), 6 are neighborhood schools with gifted centers (blue), and 5 are charter schools (green). (Skinner West does have a neighborhood component, but the neighborhood kids haven’t hit 3rd grade yet, so I’ve left it as a “test in” school for now.)
If you looked at how many schools had 50% or more of their TOTAL student population of 3rd through 8th graders exceeding standards in 2011, it’s only 22 schools. So this means there’s a huge crop of smart third graders in CPS. Why? More preschool before kindergarten built a strong foundation? Better instruction for lower grades? Better test prep? More affluent families staying in the city (voluntarily or otherwise) and choosing or being forced to enroll their kids in public schools? I don’t know.
I think this bodes well for CPS as a whole, but it will be a challenge to put forth strong middle-school instruction in three years, and then to  provide safe and academically challenging high school programs for this wave of go-getters in another six years.
All CPS data can be found here:
My little spreadsheet:

Entry filed under: Test scores.

Quest Open House Weds – spots still open The Charter School Post

112 Comments Add your own

  • 1. cpsobsessed  |  June 30, 2011 at 7:07 am

    ok, first comment – Budlong on the short list. Wow. 86% low income and I’d say pretty much not on people’s radar on the north side (although I believe momentum is building there.)
    I’m not familiar with a lot of those neighborhood schools – if anyone can comment on them, please do.

    I know Edgebrook has long been noted for their strong scores which has attracted people to the neighborhood (I hear resulting in overcrowding a bit — which doesn’t seem to have affected their test scores!) As a note, this school is only 10% low income.

    In regards to why test scores are higher, I hate to speculate – but “teaching to the test” could be part of it?

  • 2. Hawthorne mom  |  June 30, 2011 at 7:59 am

    I am going to guess that more affluent and involved families sending their kids to CPS could be a factor in the 4% jump. However, I don’t have the desire or time to parse out which schools jumped how much so it is just speculation on my part.
    Or it could just be luck. There have been years where schools have dropped.
    Or, did they lower the bar needing to “meet” standards again? Over the last ten years, if I remember correctly, the number of questions required to Meet standards dropped from in the mid 50’s to the 30’s. (all manipulated to ensure that Illinois kids met nclb standards). Did they drop the number of questions required again? If so, then there wasn’t really any increase.
    I hate to be so skeptical. But I just don’t think that 4% is a big deal or is very meaningful. When I hear that nearly 65-70% of CPS kids Meet standards, and I KNOW that nowhere near half that amount can truly do grade level work system wide, I just don’t put much faith in those numbers.

  • 3. Kelly  |  June 30, 2011 at 8:19 am

    How much harder is it for students to “exceed” rather than “meet” standards? I don’t have a clear understanding of how academically challenging it is to get either rating. Does CPS explain this somewhere?

  • 4. klm  |  June 30, 2011 at 8:37 am

    Great statistical information, thank-you! I’d be interested how these schools compare to ones in the suburbs, ISAT-wise. I know that in years past, I compared Lincoln and a few other CPS schools to ones in the North Shore and they really competed well, often surpassing “exceeding” ISAT %ges even in places like Glencoe and Kenilworth. There’s a reason the big “mansions” going up incertain areas of the city have big signs in front advertising “Lincoln School District”, “Bell School District”, as a selling point. Obviously, it’s possible for CPS neighborhood schools to educate students well, it’s just sad that socioeconomics seems to glaringly play such a large roll. It appears that more “great” CPS neighborhood schools keep coming down the pipline, so let’s hope that the momentum can keep going into later grades!

  • 5. Grace  |  June 30, 2011 at 9:11 am

    Looking at the “exceeds” spreadsheet, including ELL

    Most charters have phenomenal jumps in the exceeds category.

    UNO Zizumbo went from 8.1% exceeds / 124 students in 2009 to 25.3% / 190 in 2011.
    UNO Torres: 12.9% / 124 to 37.4% / 190
    U of C Donoghue: from 17%/100 to 29.6% / 108
    CICS Avalon So Shore: from 8.8%/114 to 25% / 108

    But some very good schools did not have the same jumps.
    Fifth grade
    Bell went from 65.2% / 210 in 2009 to 66.8% / 220 in 2011.
    Clissold 16.1% / 277 to 17.9% out of 251
    Kellogg 29.3% / 58 to 38.2% / 68
    Sutherland 29.8% / 168 to 30.7% / 192.
    I don’t believe there are that large a number of fifth graders at Clissold, however, and that may be skewing the scores. I can’t see why Sutherland made such a small gain.

    Also the number of students posted at both Keller and Lenart is wrong by about 50%. Each school has 1 class per grade and so can’t have 60 kids in a classroom. That should have affected the percentages, I would think, somehow.
    Keller fifth grade went from 87.1 / 62 in 2009 to 93.3 to of 60 in 2011.
    Lenart fifth grade went from 66.2 / 68 to 87.5 / 64.

    Wonder what is behind the biggest jumps. Are kids getting that much smarter that quickly? Was there a change in scoring the ISATs?

  • 6. Grace  |  June 30, 2011 at 9:22 am

    Kelly, great questions.
    Julie Robbins, CPS, seems to be the one to talk to about assessments. She is “Capital P” pleasant.

    Btw, I’d like to know how Scantron and ISAT scores compare across CPS. Last year was the first year that CPS students took the Scantron tests, 3x, and I have yet to figure those out! Please post if you learn anything useful.

  • 7. HSObsessed  |  June 30, 2011 at 9:38 am

    @2 Hawthorne Mom – There was indeed an adjustment made from 06-07 in the nature of the ISATs and how scores were reported, but not since then. So, we now have five years of data from 07 to 11 that are consistent. As long as you look at changes within those years, you shouldn’t factor in any kind of dumbing down factor.

    @3 Kelly – Good question about how much harder it is to exceed rather than meet, and I don’t know. I’m assuming there needs to be a certain higher threshold of correct answers. I did read recently that kids need to be in the “exceeds” range in order to be on track for challenging pre-college material in high school. That’s why I like to look at exceeds only instead of meets-or-exceeds, especially for higher grades like 8th, because it gives an idea of how many kids are going toward a pre-college track in high school.

    @5 Grace – I’ve noticed that the “total tested” number given is always roughly twice the number of actual students. This is easy to see on magnet schools, which have set numbers of classrooms and they fill every spot (unlike neighborhood schools with much more fluctuation). So a school like LaSalle I, which has two classes per grade level and about 30 kids in a class, has about 60 kids taking tests in each grade, but the “total tested” numbers show up as 120 (or slightly less if you look at the charts that don’t include ESL — which I used, BTW).

  • 8. JD  |  June 30, 2011 at 9:54 am

    Chopin (purple) is not a citywide magnet. It’s a neighborhood school.

    Chicago Academy (green) is not a charter but rather an AUSL school (with no attendance boundary, so it functions like a charter).

    Owen (black) is a citywide magnet school, not a neighborhood school.

    Greeley (blue) is not a citywide magnet. it’s a neighborhood school (albeit, like Chopin, a neighborhood school that enrolls lots of students from outside of its boundary).

  • 9. Grace  |  June 30, 2011 at 9:55 am

    Thanks H-S. I still wonder why CPS would double the number of students tested, and what accounts for big jumps in many charters, and little change in a lot of schools with a good track record.

    Quite honestly, I’d like to have a CPS expert in assessments come to our neighborhood and give parents a primer on how it all works. Did you know, for example, that starting in the fall a CPS 8th grader could take the Explorer test, the first of 3 Scantron tests, the first of 2 benchmark tests, the ISAT, a public, a Catholic and/or a private high school entrance exam, and a CPS Algebra exit exam? If they don’t pass the exit exam, they can re-take it in July. And don’t forget mid-terms and finals. Not that I’m com.laining, but test fatigue is a real problem.

    On another topic, Substance News set a reporter to the LaneTech meeting on admissions changes to selective and magnet schools.

    If you want to read it:

  • 10. jc  |  June 30, 2011 at 10:10 am

    I’m a newbie to all these, but why are Mayer and Prescott both seem to be in decent neighborhoods have such low scores? Prescott especially have great parents reviews on What’s the disconnect there?

  • 11. cps grad  |  June 30, 2011 at 10:20 am

    I just looked at the CPS excel spreadsheet. There is something wrong with the sort feature. When you alphabetize the schools, the scores don’t match up. This is true on several of the other spreadsheets on the site also. VERY FRUSTRATING!

  • 12. cpsobsessed  |  June 30, 2011 at 10:24 am

    I know – had the same sorting problem! I was freaking out about my neighborhood school’s score being so low until I figured out what the problem was.

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 13. cps grad  |  June 30, 2011 at 10:27 am

    This would explain the discrepancies in # of tested and weird gains/losses from grade to grade. I discovered this when I was shocked by the low scores of my neighborhood school… a consistent top 50 in the state ISAT wise. I then I looked at a few of the other spreadsheets that had political districts listed incorrectly after I sorted. If you scroll down on the original file without sorting, the data seems to be correct (at least for the schools I looked at).

  • 14. Stressed Out  |  June 30, 2011 at 10:36 am

    @ Grace – You are right, Keller does only have one grade per class and the composite score on the file shows 60 students. But if you look at a breakdown of math and reading you’ll see that it is listed as 30 students in math with a percentage exceeding of 65.5. The reading has 30 students with a percentage of 100 exceeding. These are for5th grade.

  • 15. anon  |  June 30, 2011 at 10:42 am

    I really think it is such a disservice to make blanket statements about the ISAT, such as the test is easy. Yes, for high SES such a statement may be true. However, if you are Limited English Proficient this is a very difficult test. Taking 6-8 of these tests in one to two weeks is difficult for students and makes the test more daunting. Look up practice tests online, and assume the actual test is definitely harder, and much longer. This test is no piece of cake. The test matches up very well with grade level math curriculums. The reading test assumes a very high fluency rate. The results are skewed for a variety of reasons, but they have been skewed for years, so at this point the problem can’t be fixed without incurring many penalties related to NCLB. In the end, this is just one measure, and there are many areas of learning this test does not measure.

  • 16. HSObsessed  |  June 30, 2011 at 11:08 am

    @8 – I tried to be careful, but you’re correct about Chopin, Owen and Greeley. I’ll correct their colors and reload the doc as soon as I can.

    @10 – I have noticed that about a very small number of schools, including Mayer, that their scores seem to remain surprisingly low, given that they’ve had new programs and new demographics. I’m not sure what the story is there.

    @11-12 – Since the CPS sheets are so enormous, I always copy out data and then work with it. Kind of painful, but easier to manipulate in a simpler spreadsheet.

    @15 – I looked at a sample ISAT online a year or two ago. I remember that I felt it was very appropriate for the grade level it applied to, not too hard, not too easy. I felt like my kid wouldn’t be struggling during most of the test, but there were also questions that would be challenging to get right. The sample test I saw was not just a question or two, but an entire test, so I didn’t assume that the actual ISAT was any longer or harder. At that time, CPS was still paying for essay answers that were evaluated and scored by humans (imagine that! costs more $ and therefore eliminated a year or two ago) and it was interesting to see the sample answers given by actual kids and the scores given to them.

  • 17. klm  |  June 30, 2011 at 11:19 am


    I live in Lincoln Park. It’s sad, but Prescott and Oscar Mayer are 2 schools where virtually nobody in LP sent their kids. Oscar Mayer has changed to Montessori (new teachers, new administrations, etc.) now, so some in the neighborhood are considering preK-lower grades at the “new school”. In effect, these 2 schools traditionally have had such horrible reputations (I won’t elaborate, but for good reasons most people would say, not simple pettiness or snobishness) that very few (if any) people in the neighborhood even considered sending their kids there, so there’s not the “socioeconomic bump up” effect one might expect. Prescott still remains a “no go” school among all those I know that live in its attendance boundaries (not that they are happy about it).

  • 18. Junior  |  June 30, 2011 at 11:48 am

    What Hawthorne mom characterizess as a “4%” increase is actually a 46.5% increase in the number of schools above the 50% exceeds level.

    This does seem significant to me, but I too am very skeptical about the use and abuse of ISAT scores from year to year, as I think sometimes the test moves more than the students do.

    Perhaps we should look at other measures though. What’s the system-wide increase in number of students who exceed standards? If there is little movement systemwide in the number of students, while some individual schools are kicking butt, then I’d chalk it up to demographic changes. On the other hand, if we’re seeing more students exceeding standards on a systemwide basis in one year, then I’d chalk it up to changes in the test/scoring. I think real substantive change in this area happens very gradually — not the type of change you’d see jump year to year, unless there are other factors involved or dramatic systemwide changes.

  • 19. Hawthorne mom  |  June 30, 2011 at 11:53 am

    This is what I meant by it getting easier and easier to pass the ISAT. Last year, they reduced the number of questions needed to meet standards and have done so every few years for a number of years.

  • 20. Hawthorne mom  |  June 30, 2011 at 11:54 am

    @18, 4% is what the newspapers and CPS itself has stated as the statistical change.

  • 21. mom2  |  June 30, 2011 at 12:11 pm

    HSObsessed, I am wondering about the location of these schools and the concern (as you mentioned) about having enough good high school choices for those students once they reach that age. Assuming that the exact same number of kids that exceed expectations are those that would seek out a college prep high school (of course that could grow or shrink), and assuming the nearly all of these students would prefer to attend a high school within 5 miles of their current elementary school (not that this is the case for everyone, but close), how many spots will we need at a college prep high school and where would they need to be located?

  • 22. Junior  |  June 30, 2011 at 12:25 pm

    Just shows the ignorance of reporting statistics in our society. You could call going from 8.6% to 12.6% a 4% change — and you would be absolutely INCORRECT.

    Just like if the state of Illinois changes the tax rate from 3% to 5%, it is not a 2% increase in your taxes. Your tax bill does not go up 2% — it goes up 66.7%.

    If someone reports it otherwise, they either are just plain wrong or are spinning it for their purposes.

  • 23. JD  |  June 30, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    In terms of in-area vs. out-of-area students enrolled at Prescott and Mayer…

    Prescott’s #’s and %’s of neighborhood students enrolled hasn’t changed all that much since 2001, when 84 of 327 students enrolled (27%) resided within the Prescott boundary.

    2002-03: 80 of 306 (26%)
    2003-04: 77 of 288 (27%)
    2004-05: 81 of 260 (31%)
    2005-06: 69 of 221 (31%)
    2006-07: 65 of 209 (31%)
    2007-08: 78 of 245 (32%)
    2008-09: 74 of 226 (33%)
    2009-10: 74 of 197 (38%)
    2010-11: 71 of 205 (35%)

    Today appprox. 191 public school students (PK-8th) reside within the Prescott boundary, and of those, two-thirds are enrolled in a public school other than Prescott. In 2001-02 only 141 public school students resided within the Prescott boundary, so there has been a slight increase (+50) in neighborhood students choosing public schools, but a small decrease (-9) in the number of in-area public school students choosing Prescott.

    At Mayer roughly the same percentage of students enrolled reside within in its boundary–37%–but the numeric changes are different.

    In 2001-02 approx. 221 public school students resided in the Mayer boundary; today it’s 361, and 60%+ of those students are enrolled at Mayer.

    In 2001-02 124 of 760 students enrolled in Mayer (16%) resided within the Mayer boundary.

    2002-03: 108 of 714 (15%)
    2003-04: 111 of 706 (16%)
    2004-05: 99 of 684 (14%)
    2005-06: 99 of 614 (16%)
    2006-07: 83 of 524 (16%)
    2007-08: 94 of 520 (18%)
    2008-09: 113 of 561 (20%)
    2009-10: 196 of 603 (33%)
    2010-11: 221 of 595 (37%)

    The Montessori program hasn’t boosted Mayer’s total enrollment much, but it appears to have significantly increased the number of neighborhood students enrolled.

    If the neighborhood families that began to enroll at Mayer in increasing numbers in 2008-09 stick with Mayer through 8th grade (and not all of them will), Mayer will soon be majority in-area enrolled.

    Nettelhorst remains a sort of benchmark school re: in-area enrollment growth; 132 in-area students enrolled in 2001-02 (or 28% of its enrollment then of 472) vs. 457 in-area students enrolled today (or 66% of its enrollment now of 693).

  • 24. Grace  |  June 30, 2011 at 12:49 pm

    @ H-M Thanks much for the link. Did a little reading. Looks like massaging might have been going on for a few years.

    @ 22 Junior, thanks for that clarification. Have you looked at the CPS spreadsheets, including ELL? Do you see how much higher the scores have bounced at many of the charters?

    Just throwing it out there — Would anyone be interested in attending an info session where a few experts explained ISATs?

  • 25. jc  |  June 30, 2011 at 1:10 pm


    Thank you for the information, unfortunately as they are, they certainly shed some lights on the situation around those two schools. Seems like Mayer’s turning, ahead of Prescott, despite the fact the latter has a seemingly more vocal parents groups ( Talk about inflated/filtered ratings though on…sigh.

  • 26. Burr Mom  |  June 30, 2011 at 1:46 pm

    Woo hoo! As an involved mother of Burr students, I was thrilled to see Burr high on your list. It’s a great school, and we’re always happy to see it recognized. Our new principal starts July 1, and we think he’s going to be great. He graduated from the prestigious and progressive New Leaders program. Parents and teachers are very excited about him. Fyi, last time I checked, we still have a few spots in our tuition based preschool program if anyone is interested.

  • 27. Junior  |  June 30, 2011 at 1:52 pm

    And if you want to see truly impressive stats about Burr, check out the “value-added” scores on the CPS site. By that measure Burr is one of the best schools in the system. Definitely one of the most underrated/unsung schools around.

  • 28. Hawthorne mom  |  June 30, 2011 at 2:31 pm

    Oh, I see my mistake. It is a 4 percentage points jump. Not a 4% jump. Any increase is good, of course. Though I have a problem when yes, more kids are “passing”, but less questions are now “required” to be considered passing. More kids should be passing the ISATs if they are required to get less correct.

  • 29. JKR  |  June 30, 2011 at 2:56 pm

    Does anyone know how the ISAT’s are normed? Is that a question for The Assessment Office?

  • 30. HSObsessed  |  June 30, 2011 at 2:59 pm

    @18 Junior said:

    “What’s the system-wide increase in number of students who exceed standards? If there is little movement systemwide in the number of students, while some individual schools are kicking butt, then I’d chalk it up to demographic changes.”

    I looked at that exact data for 3rd graders exceeding, and I see that CPS 3G as a whole went up 3 percentage points, whereas the top 50 schools went up 9 percentage points. Not sure what can be concluded, especially as it looks like there is in fact more tinkering going on with what it takes to meet or to exceed, much to my chagrin. Maybe the 3 percent increase can be explained sheerly by the lower standards. Ugh. It’s fun to look at statistics until it’s time to actually draw conclusions from them!

  • 31. HSObsessed  |  June 30, 2011 at 3:06 pm

    To be even more precise, I should have actually said:

    I looked at that exact data for 3rd graders exceeding, and I see that CPS 3G as a whole went up AN AVERAGE OF 3 percentage points, whereas the top 50 schools went up AN AVERAGE OF 9 percentage points …

  • 32. klm  |  June 30, 2011 at 3:33 pm


    There are always parents that LOVE their kids school no matter how bad test scores are and how few kids are reading at grade level, etc. I think that’s one of the biggest problems in urban public education: Almost all people agree that there’s a real problem with “schools” collectively, but THEIR kids’ school is somehow great (depite what seem like objective issues like low ISATs, etc.). Look what happens every time CPS decides that a school is too far gone to save, so it decides to close it down and start over: Parents and students are often protesting and angry that CPS is closing the school (“Save our school! Don’t let CPS shut us down! A girl from down the block went there and now she’s in COLLEGE, so how’s it not a good school?”, etc.), down and trying to improve the educational outcome and life chances of the kids involved.

  • 33. HSObsessed  |  June 30, 2011 at 4:15 pm

    Here’s my little spreadsheet, now revised to correct the color-coding of three schools. Chopin is a neighborhood school (black), Owen is a citywide magnet (purple), and Greeley is a neighborhood school with a regional gifted center (blue).

    So the revised breakdown is 8 test-in only schools, 12 citywide magnets, 31 neighborhood schools, 7 neighborhood schools with gifted centers, and 5 charters.

  • 34. CPSDepressed (was copyeditor)  |  June 30, 2011 at 4:15 pm

    klm, I hear you. As a taxpayer, it ticks me off that we have to keep underperforming, underenrolled schools (like Hamilton and Prescott) open just because some parents believe that they are great no matter what the numbers show.

  • 35. Here we go again...  |  June 30, 2011 at 5:32 pm


    Hamilton has 350 students enrolled for the 2011-2012 school year and just posted its highest ISAT scores ever.

    It’s time to move on.

    Thanks for your support though!

  • 36. Hawthorne mom  |  June 30, 2011 at 7:27 pm

    What I found heartbreaking was the sheer # of schools with less than 20% exceeding standards.
    Call it my own standards, but for my own children, meeting state standards is absolutely not good enough.
    #15, I taught mostly ESL kids for a long time. And yes, the test is incredibly difficult for them because of language issues and often the many other issues that come along with that. But for any child not living in poverty and who speaks English as their first language, given that so few answers are required to be correct to “meet standards”, and that guessing is not penalized, it is reasonably easy to pass this test.

  • 37. Hawthorne mom  |  June 30, 2011 at 8:55 pm

    I was so excited that one of our Rogers Park schools had 50% exceeding, until I looked further and found the numbers quoted above do not include ESL kids. When you include the ESL population, the percentage of exceeding drops quite a bit. Look at the link, but then go to the section that includes “all learners”.

  • 38. HSObsessed  |  June 30, 2011 at 9:49 pm

    Here’s a nice overall analysis of the ISATscores in general, from the Chicago News Coop. The Trib and Sun-Times coverage has been beyond lame.

  • 39. cpsobsessed  |  June 30, 2011 at 9:59 pm

    From the Chicago news coop article – I feel good knowing that J-C B agrees with HSObsessed!
    “Jean-Claude Brizard, chief executive of CPS, said the district “can feel good that we’re making positive strides with the meets number, but the real test is exceeds.” “

  • 40. mom2  |  June 30, 2011 at 9:59 pm

    HSObsessed or anyone else – Does anyone have a simple way to get the answers to #21 above? Just curious if CPS has ever done some forward thinking by looking at statistics such as that and actually planning for their future needs.

  • 41. cpsobsessed  |  June 30, 2011 at 10:20 pm

    You’re right HSO, that really was a good article and good use of data.
    Some things that were interesting to me:

    Neighborhood schools and charter schools seem to be neck and neck. On the one hand, I think charter have taken more lower-income kids so far, correct? On the other hand, they operate as magnets so you’d think there’d be a selection affect. Maybe these 2 things cancel each other out? But as the article points out, it’s hard to make a case for a longer CPS school day when it doesn’t show up in test scores (neighborhood vs charter.) Logically speaking, a longer day HAS to be better, right? Or is more of a mediocre thing still just mediocre (Not saying all of CPS is, but we’ve acknowledge that CPS lacks what it takes (for many many reasons) to get some kids up to Meets levels. Can they do it with more time? Or not?

    The horrifying “achievement gap” between white vs black and hispanic students. If I’m reading that chart correctly, over 40% of white kids are exceeding state standards vs less than 20% of black/hisp kids.

    What was up with this year’s 3rd graders? They were freaky smart? I know within a school I’ve seen test scores fluctuate quite a bit if you look at one grade. Sometimes there is a cohort of smart kids who skew the results, sometimes it is just influenced by the smallish number of kids per grade. Being a researcher, I’d emphasize looking for trends, as someone mentioned above, versus making conclusions on a grade going up or down a lot. I wish they’d line up the cohorts. For instance last year’s 3rd grade was 25% exceeds while this year’s 4th grade (so same kids) is about 15% exceeds. So 10% of the same kids stopped exceeding?

  • 42. HSObsessed  |  June 30, 2011 at 10:25 pm

    @39 – thanks, I think CPSObsessed has become everyone’s “go to” source for ideas and quotes. 😉

    @40 mom2 – sorry, I meant to respond to you before. That’s a great question and I’d love to do the study, but I’d need to know how to do a GIS data overlay. I can hardly handle Excel! However, I’m sure CPS staff do these kinds of things. I know they have reams of data and they selectively disclose what they wish to disclose.

  • 43. cpsobsessed  |  June 30, 2011 at 10:38 pm

    I’m dying to see what sound bytes Rahm’s people pull out of these test scores!

    I don’t know if I’ve mentioned that about 2 years ago Huberman was adding an analytic position to each area office, to sort through test scores to figure how to take action based on the information. My dream job! Unfortunately I found out a day after the official posting date ended (in CPS (maybe all govt jobs) job postings have an open and close date. So I called all over creation to CPS human resources, etc. Nobody knew anything about anything. Someone finally suggested I call each area office. I spend hours on the phone trying to find numbers, get a human, get a fax number. Some had filled the spot, others knew not of what I spoke, others sounded oddly evasive. I managed to fax off a few resumes but never heard back from anyone anywhere. I was left banging my head against the wall at the giant bureaucracy that we trust to educate our kids and speculating that I might be better off in corporate America after all. I wonder if those jobs disappeared with Huberman?

  • 44. Grace  |  July 1, 2011 at 7:54 am

    @43 You know, RH and Duncan had been looking at adding data crunchers to specific school districts, like Chicago, NYC, New Orleans. If you google, I’m sure you can find stories related to Gates’ funding of these kinds of positions. It’s a big part of the push to privatize, as is New Leaders for New Schools. That, cps obsessed, may be why you got the run around. Not only the size of the bureaucracy, but the political nature of it.

  • 45. Grace  |  July 1, 2011 at 8:21 am

    H-M mom, I am still puzzled as to why charters’ scores have seen such a jump and why other schools with a good, long track record have held mostly flat.

    Each year, ISBE & CPS lowered the number of questions that a student needs to answer correctly in order to “meet expectations” on the ISAT.

    Would I then be correct in assuming that, in the first years, ISBE & CPS might have removed the more difficult questions from ISAT scoring?

    If so, then the schools and kids “on the bubble,” the ones who were already doing fairly well, would get a boost. But the kids who are among our city’s most disadvantage probably would not see much of an improvement, as their scores would not have been impacted by removing the most difficult questions, as they likely would not have been able to answer those correctly.

    But since more questions were removed in subsequent years, ISBE & CPS could decide to remove those questions that were now among the easier ones. And this would help boost the disadvantaged schools and kids who had traditionally been among the low scorers, and often this includes charters.

    If my theory is correct, it might explain why Chicagoans won’t see an increase in the traditional public schools with long-established good track records, like Kellogg, Sutherland, or Clissold, because they were already getting those “easier” questions correct.

    But we would see a boost in the scores of the schools with the most challenging students, like charters.

  • 46. Grace  |  July 1, 2011 at 9:15 am

    Rebecca Vevea’s story and Juan’s charts — excellent.

    Barbara Radner, Dir. of the Center for Urban Education, say 25% of instructional time is lost on test prep. Wow.

    Arne Duncan’s Race to the Top awarded big grants to states that adopted Common Core standards, which require different and much more rigorous tests. The Dept. of Ed recently gave very big contracts to Pearson and Scantron to develop more tests for the Common Core standards, and Duncan is pressuring Congress to act before fall to lower the NCLB state-test-score requirements that schools must meet.

    As Barbara Radner said, there will be a whole different generation of standardized tests coming in 2014. It’s a worry, given what happened in NYC.

    In NYC, they had altered their scoring of state tests to such a degree that scores were ridiculously high, but it got Bloomberg a third term.

    After the last election, NY state made big changes to increase rigor, however, and test scores in NYC plummeted — along with Bloomberg’s popularity. But there has been no slow down in privatization in NYC.

    Rahm may be managing expectations among Chicagoans. It could account for why Rahm wanted the ISAT story buried.

    We had come to expect another version of Mayor Daley’s big press conference at a school playing out on the evening news. But CPS kicked the story out on on a Saturday, the slowest news day of the week, and without Rahm present.

    Btw, has anyone been given the scores of their child’s Scantron test?

  • 47. Hawthorne mom  |  July 1, 2011 at 10:07 am

    I completely expect Chicago’s test scores to drop precipitously once we get a test that aligns better with the common core standards and when Illinois can’t tinker with the # of questions needed to “pass”. When we are subjected to comparison with other cities with the same exact measuring stick. My guess? About 40% of the city will end up Meeting standards and less than 10% will exceed. From all my years in teaching and from what I have seen in city schools all over Chicago, I don’t think we are actually doing better than that.
    Anyone ever seen The Wire? When the cop who left the force begins teaching in Boston. And he attends a PD day where he’s listening to the test score reports and he says to himself, “juking the stats” (just like he had seen the police force change the way they reported the #’s to make it look like crime was going down in order to influence things politically). My opinion, CPS is EXACTLY the same.

  • 48. CPSDepressed (was copyeditor)  |  July 1, 2011 at 10:26 am

    Hawthorne Mom, you’re exactly right.

    If you normalized the numbers, you should have half the kids meeting standards, 25% exceeding, 25% below. Any distribution different than that is either due to something really good or really bad with the school or district, or due to game playing – or both.

  • 49. klm  |  July 1, 2011 at 10:52 am

    I’m not always sure what “teaching to the test” means. Obviously, it’s seemingly self-explanatory, but I’m not sure it means in practice. If teachers are reinforcing math and reading skills to improve test scores, then I’m kinda’ in favor. A certain amount of “rote” learning is necessary for most kids (certain sight words, multiplcation tables, etc.), but too much roteness leads to an inability to problem solve, etc. From what I can remember about achievement tests, yes, one can spend some time to familiarize oneself with the format, learn what to do when you don’t know that answer (eliminate the obvioulst ‘wrong’ answers then put something), etc., but there’s not really any way somebody who’s below grade in math, science, reading, etc., can be “prepped” into a high score without actually knowing something about the subject. If teachers are reinforcing grammar rules, math facts, science facts, and so on, I don’t understand how that’s so bad. Can anybody explain or comment?

  • 50. cps Mom  |  July 1, 2011 at 11:07 am

    KLM agree with you. All these tests are forcing kids to study at all grades, no? It does need to be a good test. Studying for ISATs and entrance exams means that you are doing exercises in class, study guides, on line practice and maybe even some extra tutoring. Things that one might not normally do otherwise.

  • 51. CPS parent of 4  |  July 1, 2011 at 11:19 am

    @klm —

    In first grade, I thought the same way as you do; what is the real harm? Tests are a fact of life.

    CPS teachers would be best able to answer your question, but I’ll take a stab. Here’s what I guess. The pressure to get good scores is highest at schools that don’t have decent-to-high scores. Some experts argue that this cheats kids out of a comparable education that includes time for writing, art, music, etc.

    From the beginning of the school year to the end of the school year, even after the March ISATs — my kid’s Reading class had test prep work sheets to do each morning.

    Tedious for the teacher and the kids. The work sheets were “extremely easy” my kid says, and they didn’t match up with what was being taught in class or the textbook.

    Also, students who need the help — based on a benchmark test or on the prior year’s ISAT — go to their home room for test prep during lunch and recess twice a week, starting in January.

    I have heard of a parent who put his child in a Catholic school to avoid all the testing.

  • 52. ChicagoGawker  |  July 1, 2011 at 11:36 am

    RE: @29, Grace and others who are asking how the ISAT is normed and what exceeds standards really means- I asked this question on here a few months back and someone explained that ISAT is nationally normed, but I confess I don’t understand how and how that relates to ‘exceeds standards’. Dumb question: Do you get a nationally normed percentile for your child’s reading and math scores on the ISAT report? (Have never seen one) For example the Terra Nova and IOWA tell you the national stanine they are in and the percentile. Is anything over the 50 %tile on the ISAT considered exeeds standards? I would definitely attend a seminar that explained the ISATs

  • 53. CPSDepressed (was copyeditor)  |  July 1, 2011 at 12:12 pm

    I’m torn about the testing. The tests do cover basic skills, and there are schools where there would be no teaching if there was not teaching to the test, and we all know that. So the emphasis on testing has probably increased the learning that goes on in the worst schools.

    The over-emphasis on testing crowds out teaching about critical thinking and self-expression, and then CPS plays games with the scores to make them look good for NCLB, so I take increases in scores with a grain of salt. I suspect that it’s the vast middle where the greatest cutbacks in non-test-related subjects have taken place.

    That’s why I don’t take an improvement in scores as proof that the school day is just fine, thank you. Are kids learning things they need to know for college or for life that are not scored?

    I know a professor at UIC who complains that his students all expect practice exams and get very, very upset if there is something on the test that was not explicitly covered in class.

  • 54. RL Julia  |  July 1, 2011 at 2:04 pm

    Hawthorne Mom, I was also thinking of the Wire! As for the jump – I’m suspicious on how these numbers were calculated – especially given the pressure on schools to keep that meets/exceeds number up thanks to NCLB. I don’t know what’s going on here – but I am pretty certain something is. Read the Vevea article – what I’d like to see is that neighborhood (and turnaround schools) get the longer school day. Wonder if that would make more people consider their neighborhood school? As for people being loyal to their kid’s school – well familiarity (and entropy) are powerful forces. Its hard to be objective about such things. Also – there are so many things that kids learn in school that arent’ covered on the ISATs…. Right now, I think this information is all based on the SAT10 score (which is the nationally normed part of the ISATs is only like the first 40 questiosn of the test (or something like that). …

  • 55. CPS parent of 4  |  July 1, 2011 at 2:42 pm

    Oh … the SAT 10s — nationally normed but only the first 40 questions … I was told that final ISAT scores rarely vary from the Sat 10s.

    Any idea if true?

  • 56. Sped Mom  |  July 1, 2011 at 5:20 pm

    We’re lucky. My student gets the ISAT because CPS requires it, but also the Iowas because the school believes it’s a more true assessment measure. Plus, they don’t spend lots of time being tested except for the ISAT and Iowa each year. So, we watch the Iowa and our independent testing outside the school.

  • 57. another cps mom  |  July 1, 2011 at 5:39 pm – compare schools in CPS

  • 58. another cps mom  |  July 1, 2011 at 5:47 pm

    Clissold: Doesn’t Clissold lose a bunch of students each year at 5th grade (or thereabouts)? Is that when the special Montessori program at Clissold ends? An interesting quirk?

  • 59. another cps mom  |  July 1, 2011 at 5:52 pm

    Haha. The Wire. It’s a great primer for Chicago and CPS. A cpsobsessed posting/thread on The Wire education series would be interesting.

  • 60. another cps mom  |  July 1, 2011 at 6:01 pm

    “For instance last year’s 3rd grade was 25% exceeds while this year’s 4th grade (so same kids) is about 15% exceeds. So 10% of the same kids stopped exceeding?” That’s really important, but I never see it tracked with ISAT. Don’t know enough about testing to figure it out. Many CPS schools also have extremely high mobility among students (switching schools), which must impact the testing #s.

  • 61. bagg  |  July 3, 2011 at 10:16 am

    In 7th grade, dd took the Iowa and ISAT. In 8th grade, dd took the ISEE, CPS Selective Enrollment and Catholic school entrance cam. dd said ISAT was the easiest of all the tests.

    Sped Mom, I too agree that Iowa is a better nationwide assessment of skills.

    ISEE is taken by those students that do well in school and thus it was interesting to see how dd ranked. I have heard that it’s not unusual for IL students that normally obtain 90% on ISAT receive 50% on ISEE.

  • 62. Grace  |  July 4, 2011 at 8:14 am

    bagg — I’m a dunderhead, and not familiar with the ISEE.
    What school / organization gives that?

  • 63. bagg  |  July 4, 2011 at 10:45 am

    ISEE is the Independent School Entrance Exam which is required by various Independent Schools like Parker, Latin, Lab, etc. Cost for test is approx $89. More info can be found here:

  • 64. Grace  |  July 4, 2011 at 1:14 pm

    @63 — thanks for info. @ 43– Found something about those data-head positions that might interest you. They appear to be Harvard-trained.
    Happy 4th.

    All the News that’s Fit to Print and What the New York Times Leaves Out

    From web site of Susan Ohanian, who discussed a NYTimes education story.

    “This is a supplement to Sam Dillon’s front-page New York Times article entitled, “Behind Grass-Roots School Advocacy, Bill Gates”, May 22, 2011.

    Mr. Gates is creating entirely new advocacy groups. The foundation is also paying Harvard-trained data specialists to work inside school districts, not only to crunch numbers but also to change practices. It is bankrolling many of the Washington analysts who interpret education issues for journalists and giving grants to some media organizations.
    –Sam Dillon, The New York Times, front page, May 22, 2011

    Notes from Susan: What Good News: Sam Dillon at the New York Times has discovered that “local teachers who favor school reform” are actually operatives for a national organization, Teach Plus, financed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

    What Bad News: For years, a number of us have been screaming about Gates buying up education policy but nobody would listen.

    But let’s celebrate what has happened. This story revealing Gates funding everything from the development (and evaluation) of Common Core Standards to the promotion of the public school-bashing “Waiting for ‘Superman'” film was front-page news in the paper of record. And until this happened, the Gates’ Foundation’s wealth has put it beyond criticism–except by those of us marginalized as the lunatic fringe. In a spirit of collegiality, I offer a few notes to flesh out Dillon’s account.

    Read more at her web site.

  • 65. Grace  |  July 4, 2011 at 1:52 pm

    Sorry the quote was so long: To sum it up, the data specialists are designed to crunch numbers and to change policy.

    Wonder why they didn’t want any fanfare over the increase is ISAT scorses?

  • 66. CPS medear  |  July 4, 2011 at 6:19 pm

    You will find new “interns” or “fellows” who are also doing this type of data and policy work in CPS and other school large, urban school districts. All with ties to the “school reformers.”

  • 67. cpsemployee  |  July 4, 2011 at 9:17 pm

    @55 who said, “I was told that final ISAT scores rarely vary from the Sat 10s.”

    This is not true. I am the data cruncher at my school and we disregard SAT 10 scores because they are so different from the final scores. Students who have percentiles in the 70s or even 80s on SAT10 can end up with a “Below” on the final. Rarely is it the other way around however; meaning I don’t often have a child with a very low SAT10 who then ends up with a Meets or Exceeds.

  • 68. Chicago Gawker-  |  July 4, 2011 at 11:49 pm

    61, how did your dd’s ISAT percentiles and IOWA percentiles compare when she took them both the same year? Were they close? I’m just trying to figure out how they compare. Would someone who scored 94 percentile on IOWA be likely to score the same on ISAT?

  • 69. CPS parent of 4  |  July 5, 2011 at 8:01 am

    @ 68 You could compare your child’s Scantron and ISAT scores from this past year.

  • 70. bagg  |  July 5, 2011 at 10:00 am

    @68, my dd (and her friends that took both Iowa and ISAT), scored higher in ISAT. We knew several kids that scored in the 90%+ in Iowas and received 99% in ISAT. On a side note, these kids also received the maximum # of points on the CPS Selective Enrollment test.

    I consider my dd as smart, not gifted. IMO, these CPS tests just seem ridiculously easy.

  • 71. ChicagoGawker  |  July 5, 2011 at 12:15 pm

    Actually I wonder if the high percentile rankings achieved on these tests by kids who are good students, but realistically not brilliant, is a reflection of the deplorably low achievement of the national group they are normed to. In other words, the state of achievement of the 25th to 75th percentiles, the vast majority of kids in this country is low. So, it’s not so hard to score high when you are compared to a not very high achieving majority. My kid struggles with math and flunks tests in school, I was astounded to see on this year’s IOWA she is at stanine 6 and working comparably to the average 5th grader, and she just finished 4th. If my kid is a stanine 6 in math, then… This also tempers my excitement at her stanine 9 in language arts.

  • 72. Junior  |  July 5, 2011 at 12:23 pm

    Personally, I think it’s great the amount of money and effort Gates Foundation devotes to education to challenge policies. Outside of health-care delivery, I can think of no other field that needs to have its practices and policies challenged more. And yes, data crunchers are absolutely needed to make sure that education policy is based on objective measures and not someone’s personal opinions. You can find practices in all sorts of fields — from medical treatments to baseball strategies — that been revolutionized simply because someone decided to actually measure the validity of “expert” claims.

    Is Gates Foundation simply out for corporate gain by influencing education policy? Hardly. Look at the Foundation’s major areas of activity — AIDS research/treatment, fighting malaria/disease in Africa and education policy. Hardly a list of priorities to help Microsoft’s bottom line. Truth is that Gates is an acknowledged leader in philanthropy who helped coax many of the Silicone Valley billionaires to give large sums of money away.

    I appreciate the fact that Gates Foundation has given money to the teachers’ unions, as well as to groups opposing the unions. They definitely have ideas they are pushing, but it seems that those ideas are determined by belief in their ability to achieve measurable succes, not by adherence to ideological dogma. Do the research — let chips fall where they will.

    Defenders of the status quo love to attack the bogeymen who are taking over educational policy. I guess that’s much easier than engaging in debates about ideas.

  • 73. Grace  |  July 5, 2011 at 12:47 pm

    Hi Junior, one of the reasons this forum works so well for so many is that folks here tend to engage deeply in specific debates about practices and ideas, and we make the effort at least to respectfully hear others’ opinions.

    There is no denying the pervasive and well-coordinated influence of the Gates Foundation on education reform. The PAC, Stand for Children, led by Jonah Edelman, has received millions from the Gates. The Pritzkers, Sam Zell, Ken Griffin and other wealthy Chicagoans quickly added about $3 million to its coffers to influence our Springfield politicians regarding legislation that severely weakened the teachers union in many ways.

    The Gates Foundation is not the only one pushing reforms, as the NYTimes has reported. And while the Gate Foundation may not be thinking of profit in this instance, there are many other edu-preneurs, a bit lower down the chain, who are engaged in the privatization of schools who are thinking of exactly that.
    Gates, Broad, Sam Walton’s foundations, New Schools, New Ventures, and many others are working to promote charters. The CPS Board of Ed is heavy with people who have worked for or invested in or whose wife or spouse has worked for charters and contract schools.

    Now they want to raise our property taxes by $100 million. They have the power to raise our property taxes, but not the power to get the TIF money due CPS. Or the lottery money.

    Time will tell if the new property taxes will be used to open up more charters, enriching a few of the mayor’s supporters.

  • 74. Junior  |  July 5, 2011 at 3:43 pm

    I am not a huge charter proponent or detractor. One thing that I know is that the existence of 10% charter schools is not primarily what is wrong with Chicago Public Schools — and the extraordinary time and energy that some groups spend fighting the concept of charters is really disproportionate to what benefit/harm charters have the capability to create. I think we can all agree that there are vested interests on both sides of the issue that have little to do with the best interests of children. In the particular case of the Gates Foundation, I really don’t see profit motive — I do see some ideological belief, which may be right or wrong — and a general desire to shake out some new ideas.

    Whatever the motives of the people involved — and it’s counterproductive to focus too much on motives over data and ideas — I do agree that we need more accountability for charters. I think they need to perform or be un-chartered (and I feel likewise about non-performing teachers). To me, the benefit of charters is (1) that parents can select an environment that feels right for their particular children, (2) that more differentiated educational approaches can be offered, and (3) most importantly that new approaches can be tried, tested and (if successful) serve as models for our traditional schools.

    There is a lot of hoopla about charters being about union-busting. To me that’s just some paranoia on the unions’ part, for a couple of reasons: (1) charters are a very small fraction of the system (and limited by the state) and (2) teachers at charters have the right to organize (and in many cases they are unionized). But if the traditional teachers feel threatened by the very existence of charters — well, maybe a little healthy competitive spirit is not a bad thing.

    Back to the Gates Foundation — I think their emphasis on data collection and crunching is precisely the kind of rigor that needs to be brought to the debates about charters. Every school — charter or otherwise — needs to be evaluated and held accountable to high standards. Let’s not forget — there really is no model charter school — every charter is free to organize itself around its own principles and practices. I think the existence of such experimental grounds is a good thing. But they, like all schools, need to be held to scrutiny so that we all ultimately know what works and what doesn’t.

  • 75. sped mom  |  July 5, 2011 at 10:16 pm

    Some of the best scrutiny of CPS charter. School data comes from Rod Estvan of Access Living, IMO. Check it Out.

  • 76. Grace  |  July 6, 2011 at 6:43 am

    I admire R. Estvan’s thinking.

    Everyone is aware by now of the Stanford study on charters — 83% perform as well or worse than traditional public schools.
    So much for innovative ideas.

    There is no real oversight on how the tax dollars are spent. Certification for charter principals is not required in Illinois. Check out the ISBE school report card on charters for details.

    Also, from PURE — Parent United to Reform Education..

    “The evidence against charter schools grows. For example, though this new Tribune analysis last week was headlined “Tests Raise Questions about Longer School Day,” it was really just more evidence that Chicago’s charter schools are not doing well: “The fact that charter schools and neighborhood schools performed nearly the same, despite charters’ additional classroom time, suggests the impact of more time is unclear.” Apparently it does not suggest to the staunchly pro-charter school Tribune that the impact of charters is unclear…

    For more evidence that charter schools are not as great as Arne Duncan says, check out the fantastic new charter school fact sheet prepared by our PAA founding member Sharon Higgins, one of PAA’s charter school experts. And for Public Schools Action Tuesday, please read and share this position paper as well as the charter fact sheet with your friends and elected representatives.

  • 77. Grace  |  July 6, 2011 at 7:01 am

    If you click on one of the last links in the write-up, you’ll find brief points on charters’ performance across the US.

    Pertinent to us is this from the NY Times, 8/13/2010.

    In 2007, the latest year for which the data was available, “half of Chicago charters ran an average of $700,000 in deficits in recent years, with some of the shortfalls reaching $4 million.”

    That is despite contributions to charters from our wealthiest citizens of about $21 million.

    The latest ISATs show very little difference between charter schools’ performance and traditional schools, despite charters having a longer school day.

    Btw, we should have updated data on this, it’s been nearly 4 years.

  • 78. cpsobsessed  |  July 6, 2011 at 7:26 am

    Thanks Grace. I think I’ll start a Charter School post later today so we can keep a focused, ongoing discussion.

    I don’t know why, but something about the articles against them always brings out the counter-arguer/devil’s advocate in me. I think I feel the way Junior (@74) does when he says:

    “To me, the benefit of charters is (1) that parents can select an environment that feels right for their particular children, (2) that more differentiated educational approaches can be offered, and (3) most importantly that new approaches can be tried, tested and (if successful) serve as models for our traditional schools.”

    I’m often surprised by the vehement opposition to them in our city, given that many of them get a lot of external funding. Why would we turn that down if they’re doing at least a comparable job? etc, etc.

    I’ll put a post up later and I really want to check out the links you posted (so I can argue with them.) 🙂

    Thanks again for sharing information.

  • 79. Grace  |  July 6, 2011 at 9:10 am

    I’d welcome a new thread, as it is a big topic.

    I think the general feeling among parents may be that with charters, parents are getting an education for their kids that is new, innovative, and free.

    But those are our tax dollars, taken from our neighborhood, magnet, gifted, selective schools.

    Doesn’t it bother you when the NYT finds that half of all Chicago charters run a deficit of $700,000 each — and some a $4 million deficit?

    The Trib has reported that some charters pay inflated salaries for administrative positions for friends or relatives w.o. credentials. Salaries that are much larger than their counterparts ould make in a traditional public school.

    Next you read that most of our charters are on either 2-year or 4-year academic probation. (ISBE) Then you read that CPS is spending $5.7 million to turnaround a failing charter school.
    But charters were billed as the answer to our failing traditional schools, weren’t they? Now CPS is bailing one out, and spending millions extra to do it.


  • 80. Sped Mom  |  July 6, 2011 at 9:15 am

    Why opposition? So many reasons. Because they discriminate against many children with disabilities is one of mine. Because they skim higher functioning students/families from the general public school. Because their teachers are less experienced and they tend to burn out their teachers. Because they lie and spin their data. Because they are using the public dime and aren’t accountable. An on and on. I view public education holistically, not just what’s best for my kids. Of course there are a few exceptions one can find. But not many. I think one’s view of charter schools depends on how much one knows and understands the public education system and how important justice is to one. Focus on improving the general neighborhood public school is the answer (& sure, keep the SEs for some folks). I think it was Hawthorn Mom who listed what that would take.

  • 81. LR  |  July 6, 2011 at 10:04 am

    Your spreadsheet knocked my socks off! Our neighborhood school is Budlong. Only one family on our street sends their kids there. I never even set foot in the place because I heard that it is bad. Unbelievable. This does spark my curiosity.

  • 82. anon  |  July 6, 2011 at 10:55 am

    @76 – your stats are misleading. 83% is national. Illinois schools show significant improvement over their public school counterparts. Instead of hearing a spin on numbers, I would love to hear from charter school families that have chosen their school over the neighborhood program. There is obviously a demand and value to some. These schools do not have enough space for the demand – they do not need to sell themselves.

  • 83. Grace  |  July 6, 2011 at 1:55 pm

    Hi @ 82 — The Stanford study on charters is well known. ,
    And I guess a reporter would have specified that Stanford did a “national” study on charters. But I didn’t because I expected that most readers here are already somewhat familiar with it, as it is so well regarded. Bit harsh to call that misleading, and the number still stands.

    The latest ISATs showed no appreciable difference between the performance of Chicago charters and traditional public school. two. Despite longer hours.

    Feel free to correct me, however, Love to look at studies and data – I’d be happy to read it.

  • 84. Grace  |  July 6, 2011 at 3:58 pm

    Today’s commotion on the cheating scandal in Atlanta city schools is reminiscent of the D. C. scandal, and is relevant here b/c ed reformers push their agenda of privatization and de-professionalization of teaching “for the kids.”

    Rod Estvan has once again said something useful on this … regarding reformers who create illusions for the future rather than hope for the future when they set very high expectations for some of our poorest children.

    Rodestvan said 27 minutes ago

    “What can you say but that the situation in Atlanta is a nightmare in relation to how far up the food chain the test cheating story goes. I guess I could dance on the graves of the data/ test driven school reform approach supported by the Atlanta business community, the Gates, and Broad Foundation. But frankly I find the scope of this story to be depressing. Clearly if it could happen in Atlanta it could happen in Chicago.

    In fact a major fiasco like Atlanta is really possible here too, and in part it is possible because much of the media here in Chicago wants to cheer on school reform and play up positive results which seem in some cases improbable without question. As in Atlanta Chicago’s business community has bought into much of test driven school reform and many very level headed business men and women buy into claims of success of schools, traditional and charter alike without much question. It is highly unlikely that if they were investing millions in a startup company they would accept claims without a pretty careful review of balance sheets.

    The lesson from Atlanta to Chicago is not every or even the majority of poor urban children will be amazingly successful and graduate from college in most of our life times and we should not pretend that is going to happen. What we are doing is creating illusions instead of hope for the future. Expectations for our children in Chicago need to be high but realistic. As the Atlanta Journal-Constitution article describes cheating was driven by targets established for schools and the district. What do we all think will happen here if we get pay for performance linked to test score improvement? Isn’t it possible that both teachers and administrators will in some cases be driven to cheat to get financial incentives, I think so.

    We also have the experience in America of corporations pushing it to make profit expectations to the detriment in some cases of the long term health the firm because of how CEO and executive contracts are written. There are many, many mine fields out there.”

    Rod Estvan

  • 85. HSObsessed  |  July 6, 2011 at 6:07 pm

    I was pretty disheartened to read the Atlanta story, but not surprised, I guess. Any time the stakes are high in any test, there is an incentive to cheat: Students peeking at a classmate’s answers has been around forever. What is new to me nowadays is that it’s not the students who are cheating, but teachers and principals. They’re the ones being held accountable for failing to meet the impossible standards of the ill-conceived No Child Left Behind law, so again, I understand the motives, but still, it’s so sad.

  • 86. junior  |  July 6, 2011 at 8:14 pm

    When I see people cherry-pick and abuse data, it makes me suspicious and makes me devalue anything they say. When people say that 83% of charters perform at or worse than neighborhood schools, it tells me they are spinning data. You could take the exact same study and say that 63% of charters provide equal or significantly better performance. Both statements are incomplete and biased — but which statement you make tells me which side of the ideological bias you come from. I have long been aware of the biases of many posters on this board and of groups like PURE, and I choose to take what they say with the appropritate grain of salt.

  • 87. cpsmama  |  July 6, 2011 at 10:42 pm

    On the subject of teacher cheating – when one of my kids was at a highly-ranked SEES years ago, there was chatter amongst some parents whose kids had witnessed teachers walking around the room during ISATs or Iowa Tests, pointing to questions and “silently” letting students know to “re-look” at their answer to that particular question. I doubt if that was an isolated incident -it probably happens more than we’d like to think -particularlywhen

    Re: student cheating- in my experience (via my kids), many students at SEHS’s cheat regularly. I’m talking stealing & copying tests, googling & texting during tests,sharing answers and good old-fashioned cheat sheets up the sleeve.

  • 88. Hawthorne mom  |  July 6, 2011 at 11:14 pm

    One principal I worked with, while berating her staff for allowing incomplete answer sheets, announced to everyone she was taking the tests “upstairs” to finish them. She didn’t even try to hide it. Oddly enough, that is not even close to being the most unethical thing I’ve ever seen an administrator do.

  • 89. Grace  |  July 7, 2011 at 7:32 am

    Good point, jr. Just to clarify.
    If a charter performs as well as a the traditional school it replaced, we put a lot of effort into an expensive reform that made no improvement.
    If it performs less well, then it is clearly not the solution.
    so that leaves 17% across the US that do what they are supposed to do, improve outcomes for students.
    That may be an ideology, but I think it is somewhat objective — looking at dollars spent and results and seeing what the ROI is.

  • 90. Grace  |  July 7, 2011 at 8:12 am

    I am open to hearing your arguments, jr.. and reading your stats, and I enjoy a little of the give-and-take. We all post here with our individual experiences in education — our own and our children’s. And this forum allows for a respectful exchange of those views. I don’t devalue your opinions b/c they don’t match up with mine. I hope to learn from your, and other’s, posts.

    I’m wondering if you think it is a bit harsh of you to dismiss all of my views (and I do have so many !) b/c we disagree on the Stanford study of charters, or that 2011 ISATs find no difference between Chicago charters and traditional public schools performance?

  • 91. Grace  |  July 7, 2011 at 8:22 am

    Here is a comment that I want to share regarding Obama’s proposed cuts to Medicare and Social Security.

    July 7th, 2011
    12:55 am
    I am an eighty-four year old man in Mobile, Alabama. I am the grand son of a confederate soldier by whose side I once stood. His was a country and culture of a bygone era. Mine has been a country and culture of progressiveness and world leadership. I lived through the great depression of the thirties and witnessed the toll it took on our country. I watched as FDR struggled against the Republicans and all other odds to gradually lead our nation out of the morass of misery. He fought the Republicans every step of the way, and in his second term the Republicans created through insistence on a balanced budget conditions that plunged this nation into another depression out of which we were delivered because of WWII.

    Today, we are witnessing a replay of an irrational and irresponsible Republican party, which is par for their historical course. Seldom have the Republicans initiated any program or plan which would benefit the average American! Now this gang in the Congress is without very much experience or political savvy, and irresponsibly care little if the United States were to default on it obligations. Were I not writing a comment in the NYT I would declare the Senator from S.Carolina and the Congress lady from Minnesota to be asinine and stupid with regard to remarks made about defaulting on obligations. Curiously, I wonder if the 2010 elections were being held today how many neophytes in Congress would be elected. You know the ole saying, “stupid is as stupid does!

    My affection, admiration and respect for President Obama is transcendent. Absolutely, one of the finest Presidents in my lifetime. However, we did not elect him President in order to dismantle the great social programs which are reflective of the great and exceptional nation of which we are so justly proud. We do not insure our greatness by vitiating our vision! We do not reinforce our strength by relinquishing our principles!, and we do not move forward by turning back to a day gone by!

  • 92. Grace  |  July 7, 2011 at 8:48 am

    Now that’s what I would call an ideology, jr..

  • 93. ChicagoGawker  |  July 7, 2011 at 11:02 am

    How about Solomon in W. Rogers Park -88% meets or exceeds! Not a trendy school in an upscale ‘hood, but look at those scores.

  • 94. ChicagoGawker  |  July 7, 2011 at 3:34 pm

    More precisely than “Not a trendy school in an upscale ‘hood”:56.8% of students at Solomon are low income.

  • 95. Mayfair Dad  |  July 8, 2011 at 9:01 am

    @ 94: Take a look at Courtenay, too. High poverty, great results. Smaller schools with dynamic principals. A smaller ship is easier to steer. (This is why I always questioned why our neighborhood school needed an addition – at 925 kids, already too unwieldy to reinvigorate. “We don’t need to get bigger, we need to get better.”)

    Now I’m sure there are plenty examples of smaller schools underperforming too – take a look at the principal. When they blend two underutilized schools to create one larger school, it probably makes sense from a real estate/cost standpoint but academically?

  • 96. ChicagoGawker  |  July 8, 2011 at 10:10 am

    Yep, Solomon is a small school, as well.

  • 97. cps grad  |  July 8, 2011 at 3:21 pm

    @93 –Technically Solomon is in Peterson Park/North Park. Although not far from West Rogers Park, it is actually closer to Saugansh and up until a few years ago kids in Saugansh Park went to Solomon rather than Sauganash School. The neighborhood might not be trendy, but it is solidly middle class neighborhood with almost exclusively single family homes and very safe.

    Interesing fact– Prior to the formation of LSCs many CPS did not have their own principal. At that time Solomon and Saugansh shared a principal who would spend 3 days a week at one school and 2 days at the other school.

  • 98. Hawthorne mom  |  July 8, 2011 at 4:22 pm

    Solomon is a good school with a principal that has a reputation for being ruthless, in the best sense of the word, about each individual student’s progress. She’s known for going through each teacher’s class list, looking at their scores, and asking, “now what are you doing for this kid or that kid”, on a very, very frequent basis. Frequent as in several times a quarter.
    But a less than 60% poverty level rate puts it squarely in middle class territory, as #97 said. I would consider that, when compared to the city as a whole, as being on the higher end of the economic spectrum. It also has many Asian American immigrant families who value education.

  • 99. ChicagoGawker  |  July 9, 2011 at 9:18 am

    @98 I also have heard about the close attention the principal at Solomon gives to ea. student’s progress. A principal can do this in a small school. Can it be replicated in a large school? I think It’s true that this school’s small size is only 1 factor in its success, but a significant one This school does not deal with widespread entrenched parental apathy, and its kids probably don’t all come hungry and having never held a pencil or seen an adult read. On the other hand, I suspect that most of the parents aren’t highly educated like at Blaine etc.

  • 100. chi mom  |  July 19, 2011 at 9:04 am,0,296761.story

    More school discussion

  • 101. AngryJ  |  July 21, 2011 at 1:50 pm

    Is anyone else annoyed at our Mayor sending his kids to Lab School? This makes me so angry! URGH!

  • 102. Hawthorne mom  |  July 31, 2011 at 5:18 pm

    I think it is really important, when looking at scores, to make sure one is looking at the set that includes the ELL kids as well as the one that excludes them. Some schools are putting out solid scores with their kids whose first language is English, which is great. But reality is, schools don’t just have English dominant kids….they have a mix. And the scores, when you include the ELL kids drop quite a bit, as one would expect. And since by about 3rd grade, most classrooms are not segregated by language dominance, the lower performing ELL kids do pull down instruction for the group as a whole. It is just a fact of education in a multicultural system. Certainly, there are advantages of diversity that go beyond scores as well, but schools can’t go around saying their test scores are awesome when they are leaving off a huge portion of their population.

  • 103. Jeanne  |  August 1, 2011 at 10:10 pm

    Anyone know what the school-level value-added scores are? Obviously a positive score is good and a negative score is bad, but anyone know in more detail what they mean or how they are calculated?

  • 104. Angie  |  August 2, 2011 at 7:24 am

    @102. Hawthorne mom: “And since by about 3rd grade, most classrooms are not segregated by language dominance, the lower performing ELL kids do pull down instruction for the group as a whole.”

    Can you explain this segregation by language dominance, please? Is it just for Spanish-speaking kids? What happens to children whose first language is not so widespread? For example, if there’s just 1 or 2 kindergarteners in class speaking a particular language, and none of the school personnel knows it?

  • 105. HSObsessed  |  August 2, 2011 at 11:18 am

    @103 Jamie — Yes, click below for more information than you’ll ever need to understand how Value Added Scores are calcuated. The one-page FAQs sheet might be all you need.

    In a nutshell, VA measures students’ improvement from one year to the next, while controlling for 10 factors, including benchmark initial test scores, gender, race/ethnicity, ELL status, income levels, and more. Basically, it levels the playing field for schools at one extreme or the other in terms of having student populations that are either very advantaged or very disadvantaged.

  • 106. HSObsessed  |  August 2, 2011 at 11:19 am

    @103 JEANNE, not Jamie, sorry.

  • 107. Hawthorne mom  |  August 2, 2011 at 9:25 pm

    The state of Illinois is obligated by law to provide a classroom teacher fluent and instruction in that first language in students’ first language if there are either 19 or 20 ( I forget which) total students per grade in a school. Otherwise, they are obligated to provide ESL services.(and this would be the case in schools where there are many different language….though I’ve seen schools with 500+ ESL kids and one ESL teacher, which, obviously, is an impossible situation.) Schools figure out pretty quickly who speaks what language at home. All students submit a language survey, and any teacher worth their salt will recognize a second language issue with one phone call home.
    So, first of all, it is important to recognize that schools nationwide consistently violate the bilingual education mandate. But when it does happen, what is currently referred to in Chicago as a “bilingual” classroom, it only happens for a certain number of years. Typically schools try and rush students OUT of bilingual classrooms within about 3 years. And if I remember right, there may be an actual limit to the number of years students can remain in bilingual rooms. The idea is this: Year One, about 80% instruction in 1st language, 20% in English. Year Two, 60/40% and Year Three 30/70%, Year four…..all English. Or thereabouts.
    So, this means, that if a majority of a school’s population enters in Kindergarten, those kids will likely receive instruction in that “bilingual” classroom until 3rd or 4th grade, where most will transition out of the program at that point. Those children then enter classrooms where all instruction is done in English at about 3rd or 4th grade. But, often, they are not really ready to leave the support of a bilingual room. Or, their teachers spoke great Spanish (or whatever the first language was) but barely spoke English, so next to no instruction was done in English or it was done very badly. (I have seen this a lot…..there is such a severe shortage of Spanish bilingual teachers….that they recruit anyone with the 1st language skills…though I’ve also seen teachers whose first lang. is English and who barely speak Spanish and voila! They are the new 1st grade bilingual teacher!) Or there are other extenuating circumstances that affect language acquisition (poverty, sped needs, etc….).
    So, if you have a group of English dominant kids who have been segregated from the bilingual kids (again, bilingual is used in Chicago to mean ESL) for 3-4 years, throw them all together, the bilingual kids often have very serious language deficits. These language deficits show up in reading comprehension when more difficult texts that are not supported by pictures are introduced. (typically the end of 2nd or beginning of 3rd) Kids who struggle with language in general may be able to decode (sound out) very difficult words, but they will struggle heavily on the comprehension end of things. There can and often is a 2-4 year grade level gap between the kids who are reading on level (most typically your English dominant kids, since they are advantaged that way) and your bilingual kids. In a 4th grade room, it is not uncommon to see bilingual kids lagging behind at a 1st or 2nd grade reading level in English. Then introduce Science or Social Studies or Writing and the disparities are glaring.
    Please understand, not ALL bilingual kids are behind. But in my experience, and if you look at the huge test score differences when accounting for ELL learners or not, you see the data.
    I’d have trouble sending my kid to a school in the older grades with a large ESL population. I love ESL kids and have done a lot of work with them. But the achievement differences are large, and I can’t imagine my kid in 6th grade, for example, having to go back over how to write a paragraph or even how to write a sentence when she should be ready to write 3 page papers.
    When there are just a handful of kids who speak a certain language, they are entitled to ESL services, but again, they may or may not get that…..and even if they do, they often only get them until their oral language is satisfactory. ESL teachers often talk about language like an iceberg. The oral language is what is seen “above the surface”. Written language or reading is much, much more difficult to be fluent in and is all “below the surface. A kid can sound like a native speaker, but lack the skills needed to read or write effectively simply due to language issues.
    Sorry this was so long!

  • 108. Hawthorne mom  |  August 2, 2011 at 10:21 pm

    Seriously, please forgive the mess I made of my grammar and sentence structure up there! I have been writing student evaluations for hours and am exhausted!

  • 109. Angie  |  August 3, 2011 at 1:49 pm

    @107. Hawthorne mom: Thanks for the explanation. So, it seems to me that the kids who speak rare languages would actually have an advantage because they are forced to communicate in English from the very beginning. It would be even better if the ESL kids could actually start to learn English in preschool, but will the CPS find the funds for it? Probably not.

  • 110. RL Julia  |  August 3, 2011 at 2:13 pm

    They have an advantage in terms of acquiring English but are at a disadvantage because they (as well as pretty much all ESL students) are half way to being bi-lingual and they end up basically monolingual in English instead.

    I really don’t understand how pretty much the rest of the world manages to get people speaking (and often reading and writing competently) in more than one language but the US treats it like brain surgery.

  • 111. Hawthorne mom  |  August 3, 2011 at 4:41 pm

    There has been tons of research done on how best to educate bilingual kids. Most scholars agree that it is best for kids to learn to read and write in their first language. Then they need to learn to read and write in the second. So, it isn’t necessarily an advantage to just be thrown in a classroom in what we call a “sink or swim” model. Personally, I think the bigger issues are: classes are simply too big, the school day is too short (what is wrong with requiring kids to attend an additional hour or so each day after the regular school day to get small group instruction in English? Of course, it is a $$$$ issue), there are so many poverty and crime issues that are entangled in many immigrant, 2nd language communities and CPS systemically is truly a mess and ESL kids get screwed because the adults can’t figure out a way to seamlessly make education work for monolingual kids, let alone bilingual kids.

  • 112. NSdad  |  August 2, 2013 at 9:41 pm

    OK so I have no idea where to post this so I will post it here and if someone else has an idea where else to post to let parents know please advise.

    So, My son took the Algebra Exit exam for 8th grade. He got a score of 270 out of 415 with 300 being the pass mark so he can take Geometry in 9th grade. 328 is the high pass mark.

    He has a 504 since he fills out the test booklet but has a proctor transfer the information to the answer booklet.

    When we got these results we nearly fainted. This is a kid that scores 99 percentile on every math test since 3rd grade. Tests including several national tests like ERB’s, Standford test, he has an Educational test in 5th grade that put him in High school level math. He has been in Advanced Math since day 1 and took Algebra in 7th grade and got an A and Geometry in 8th Grade and got an A. He is also a straight A student at a private school known for math and is going to Northside College prep for 9th.

    After calling CPS I was told by the Department of Student assessment that there is nothing wrong, he just failed the test.

    I told her this is simply impossible!! They said they can do nothing and this year’s test was “really” hard.

    So , I called the Office of Mathematics’ and science and the person, after several emails, ordered the answer booklet. Guess what…..the whole multiple question sections was not filled in by the proctor!!!

    They ordered back the exam booklet that my son writes into and it was filled out correctly.

    After they rescored the test he passed.

    I am only putting this here in case someone else’s kids failed but used a proctor. I asked this department to have ALL the cases of kids that took this test with any proctor be reviewed if they did not pass this test.

    I am still in shock at the incompetence. Never received an apology etc. Some kids needs proctors for test taking and should not be penalized due to someone else incompetence.

    So if you know someone that kid did not pass and has a 504 or IEP and uses a proctor of any kind have them review the test. Many people where calling at the same time I was according to the person in this department.


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