What Do Levels Mean?

October 3, 2013 at 7:49 pm 148 comments

Level 1

CPS just reassigned levels to each CPS school.  From what I’ve read, some have gone up (news for celebration, as Senn, Amunden, and Roosevelt have shown improvement) as well as Brentano elem, which parents are working together to support.

Lake View High School has been downgraded to Level 3, which comes as a surprise.

Matt Farmer, local grassroots pro education, anti-reformer, down-to-earthy kinda guy wrote a HuffingtonPost article noting what seems to be a lack of rhyme or reason to the method, as some schools that are relatively decent scoring are Level 3 while others that look pretty bad are not.  See his article here:


One of our favorite sometimes posters, Todd Pytel, teacher at Senn wrote this up last year about the Level caclulations, that could help make some sense out of it.  See below.

I commented on Facebook last night that Level should be just 1 measure that parents look at among others, but as a friend of mine pointed out, not everyone is going to dig into school data like I am and that 1 number can really sway parents.  I’d like to learn more about Lake View’s shift to see what’s driving the math behind it.  Also curious if anyone is aware of any other noteworthy shifts in Level?  If so, post them below.


For high schools, at least, the total points are split 50/50 between achievement and trend. Also, the trend benchmarks are themselves given as absolute changes, not relative ones. Consequently, there are roughly two kinds of schools that can score highly…

1) Highly selective schools. These schools should get nearly all of the achievement points on the basis of their student population, so they’re starting with 50%. If they can improve even a little bit on a few measures, they’ll hit Level 1. There are no trend points subtracted for losing ground.

2) Middle and lower-middle tier schools with rapidly “improving” student bodies. These schools can score a ton of trend points by improving on previously poor performance and probably pick up enough achievement points to score well.

Conversely, the system makes it extremely difficult for other kinds of schools to score well…

3) Upper middle tier schools with stable student populations. These schools are unlikely to score all of the achievement points without the super-competitive students of the top tier schools. At the same time, they have relatively decent scores already and will likely not see huge improvements that will net them many trend points. This kind of school will probably not go to Level 3, but would struggle to ever hit Level 1.

4) True neighborhood schools with highly disadvantaged students. These schools will struggle to score any achievement points at all. And without the benefit of special programs bringing in stronger students, even their trend points will be limited. Even with outstanding leadership, such a school could not improve its meets/exceeds number by 5% year after year, for example. This kind of school might hit Level 2 for a while with excellent leadership, but eventually will run out of realistic trend points to make and drop back to Level 3.

All that being said, I think the Level system is a reasonably accurate measure for parents of “where you want your kid”. I don’t, however, think it’s a very accurate measure of the quality of leadership and staff within a building. A highly selective school can basically tread water and score Level 1 (though I’m not claiming they do). And a really well-run neighborhood school serving a tough population will nearly always be stigmatized with a Level 3.

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148 Comments Add your own

  • 1. cpsobsessed  |  October 3, 2013 at 7:58 pm

    ie. Amundsen ACT 16.5 – Level 2
    Lake View ACT 18.1 – Level 3
    Senn ACT 17.3 – Level 1
    Roosevelt ACT 15.6 – Level 2

    So Lake View, with the highest ACT has the lowest level rating. So they must be… improving less rapidly but starting at a higher place?

    Roosevelt, conversely working at a lower level but improving at a brisk pace?

    I guess the point being, it’s not good to use just ONE measure to assess a school, whether it be test score or level.

  • 2. cpsobsessed  |  October 3, 2013 at 8:02 pm

    Morgan Park (alleged home of gangbangers) ACT18.2 Level 2. Wow, those gangbangers are actually studying or something!?

  • 3. SoxSideIrish4  |  October 3, 2013 at 9:09 pm

    Chicago Ag, which has an average ACT score of 20.4, an attendance rate of 93.1%, and 58.1% of its kids meeting or exceeding PSAE standards is a Level 2~ That is just so WRONG and CPS knows it.

  • 4. southie  |  October 3, 2013 at 9:14 pm

    Morgan Park HS:


    Up to level 2.

  • 5. southie  |  October 3, 2013 at 9:15 pm

    MPHS – Gangbanging is not alleged there. Think “convicted.”

  • 6. cpsobsessed  |  October 3, 2013 at 9:19 pm

    Then those are some fairly impressive convicts, seriously.
    How is the ACT score higher than lake view?

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 7. edgewatermom  |  October 3, 2013 at 9:44 pm

    I am curious as to which metrics parents give the most weight to when looking at these scores. I would think that the ACT scores probably give the best overall score, but I really do not know. It is really interesting to see the AP/IB success rate, which varies considerably from school to school.

    Speaking of comparing school to school, does anybody know if there is an easy way to bring up data for several schools at once to compare? Obviously we can bring up the report card for each school and compare that way, but I am just curious if there is a better way.

    In the past, I thought that we could bring up elementary schools’ ISAT results by grade, but I don’t see that anymore.

  • 8. cpsobsessed  |  October 3, 2013 at 10:00 pm

    By grade was always in the big excel file in the cps reseach/data link, I think.

    But you used to be able to see the past 3 years of scores for each school, easily.
    The site looks nice and is more graphic but I miss the data.

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 9. Elliott Mason  |  October 3, 2013 at 10:11 pm


  • 10. neighborhood parent  |  October 3, 2013 at 10:29 pm

    for elementary schools, i use the ISBE website. it allows the deep dive into each grade level and it offers a comparison chart that allows comparison of numerous schools at once.


  • 11. HS Mom  |  October 3, 2013 at 10:55 pm

    @7 “I am curious as to which metrics parents give the most weight to when looking at these scores”

    Yes, the ACT is one consideration. The other is the graduation rate. When a HS has lower than average graduation this means that half the freshmen will not be there senior year. Jumping over to the college enrollment rate, a 50% means that half of the half make it on to college. In essence, a kid has a 50/50 chance of getting in with the wrong crowd (if you define not graduating HS the wrong crowd).

  • 12. Counterpoint for discussion  |  October 4, 2013 at 1:00 am

    Gangbangers have rank and intellectual differences. Chief’s, Inca’s, and General’s are very smart. Their kids are also generally smart. The soldiers are the uninspired minds. So yes, gangbangers can have high ACT’s.

  • 13. Iheoma  |  October 4, 2013 at 6:03 am

    Interesting Topic. I love the linked Huff Post article on the stupidity of the 3 point scale in the first place. I think that there is a level of “politics” that goes into the rankings as well. I don’t think that I look for conspiracies at every corner, but I’m thinking about how interesting it is that Ray a school with a strong longstanding reputation went from 1 to 2 last year during a period when it was the only school in the area that could possibly be an “accepting” school – even though there wasn’t a significant change in test scrores from previous years. Neighborhood went from tier 4 to tier 3. This year school is still level 2, it’s got kids from closing schools but the neighborhood is back to tier 4. Don’t get it at all.

  • 14. pantherparent  |  October 4, 2013 at 8:34 am

    I hate to be cynical (rare, here, I know) but I see this as just another tool for the mayor to play politics with education. They can put a school as Level 3 for 5 years, without reason, and then say “See. It needs to close. Oh, and we’ll open a charter to replace it.”

  • 15. cpsobsessed  |  October 4, 2013 at 8:56 am

    I’m kind of anti-conspiracy-theory (probably sometimes naively so) but do you (ie people) really think that cps arbitrarily assigns the level rankings?

    I acknowledges that the formula may be goofy, and as we saw with the school closing numbers, sometimes a human needs to see if something is throwing those numbers off. But my sense if that a calculation of some sort is being used?

    If so, what would be their motivation in making schools like roosevelt with relatively lower ACT scores a level 2? Why not just stick with the test scores?

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 16. SutherlandParent  |  October 4, 2013 at 9:03 am

    Some people take the Level system very seriously—more seriously than I think they should, really. It’s a handy-enough gauge, but there are some serious flaws in defining a school strictly by its level.

    Our neighborhood school was at Level 2 for a couple of years, and a lot of people were very upset about it. There was a great deal of public comment at LSC meetings about how we had “slipped” behind other, nearby schools, and a lot of complaining on the playground.

    But I think we’re close to the #3 category described above—a very stable, solid school that will struggle to keep our test scores high enough to show continuous improvement unless all our teachers do is drill and kill for tests. As a parent, I don’t want that.

    But, we’re back up to Level 1 this year, so take THAT, Mt. Greenwood Elementary 🙂 (Kidding!!)

  • 17. Charla  |  October 4, 2013 at 9:05 am

    @6 How many MPHS kids actually took the ACT? Add that to the fact that the scores are augmented by the students from the gifted program – throw those kids out of the scoring pool and MP’s ACT is actually fairly $hitty. The closest non-CPS public high school, Evergreen Park High School, has a 21.8 Composite ACT… and it’s not that great a school.

  • 18. pantherparent  |  October 4, 2013 at 9:20 am

    @15 Why not ask them for the formula? And while your at it, ask them for the exact formula on how they calculate tiers. And then ask for the utilization plan and how they arrived at per pupil spending numbers.

    The one thing to remember is in Chicago, it’s ALWAYS political.

  • 19. cpsobsessed  |  October 4, 2013 at 9:52 am

    Yeah, I will inquire. Tier calc info is on the OAE site. I think the utilization plan calc info was posted also but I couldn’t handle processing it.

  • […] school went from a Level 1 "excellent" school to "Level 3 "probation" status this year, CPS said. What Do Levels Mean? CPS Obsessed: CPS just reassigned levels to each CPS school.  From what I’ve read, some have […]

  • 21. David Gregg  |  October 4, 2013 at 10:09 am

    The CBOE did approve a new rating system for next year. The ‘trend’ data on which schools like Lake View were slammed and upon which other schools like Senn rose to a Level 1 is going away. There has correctly, I think, been recognition that improving schools should be rewarded for their year-to-year growth. But as my colleague Todd points out, when a school’s metrics stabilize following rapid growth years/demographic shifts, the school is then downgraded due to the loss of trend points. And in Lake View’s case, their metrics actually went down, albeit not by much, so they lost trend points and then some – enough to sink them to a Level 3.

    There is an attempt with the new policy to improve upon the ways in which schools are evaluated (i.e. schools like LVHS would not suddenly and perhaps unfairly move from Level 1 to Level 3 due to a slight dip in metrics). More emphasis will be placed on individual student growth on standardized tests over time – for the whole school and for ‘priority groups’ where traditional achievement gaps are found. While still an imperfect measure, it does make more sense than the existing policy where, for instance, the average ACT scores for this years class of juniors is compared to those of prior years.

    The new policy will also have 5 ‘tiers’ rather than the existing 3 ‘levels’. A poor choice of words, perhaps, given the potential confusion with the neighborhood ‘tiers’ used for SE admissions?

    Aside from the above changes, other metrics seem to be essentially the same.

    From the CPS website: http://cps.edu/News/Press_releases/Pages/PR1_09_27_2013.aspx

    This school year marks the last year of the current Performance Policy, which will be replaced in School Year 2014-2015 (SY14-15) with the new School Quality Rating Policy (SQRP). The new system for measuring accountability across all schools was approved by the Chicago Board of Education in August. The SQRP is grounded in both research-based metrics and educator and student feedback. This five-tiered system sets rigorous expectations for all schools regardless of type, and places a greater emphasis on student growth. Metrics include student attendance, Freshman On-Track scores, college enrollment and persistence, educator and student surveys, and academic growth, with an emphasis on growth for priority groups. The weighted emphasis on student growth and multi-tiered ratings will help guide the District in how best to provide helpful supports and interventions to improve performance among low-performing schools.

    Your thoughts?

  • 22. lindaschmidt2  |  October 4, 2013 at 10:54 am

    @20 – “…will help guide the District in how best to provide helpful supports and interventions to improve performance among low-performing schools”

    In my many years of experience with CPS, I have never seen the District actually do this. Unless by “interventions” you mean closing the schools down. Or turning them over to AUSL. Or perhaps breaking large schools into small schools. Truly, it’s just been constant churn, one so-called solution after another, and every man (or school) for himself. Please tell me why anyone should believe that this isn’t just more politics as usual.

    I also have to say that the most troubling aspect of this is the direction that CPS is moving in with regard to high-stakes testing. I don’t think most parents even understand just how much testing is going on currently and the impact that it is already having on the classroom. As you state, more emphasis will be placed on student growth on standardized tests. This is not a good thing.

  • 23. RL Julia  |  October 4, 2013 at 11:04 am

    Where can I find the link to see who is level x and who is level y?

  • 24. cpsobsessed  |  October 4, 2013 at 11:29 am


    this Catalyst article talks about it more and also has a spreadsheet that lists each school this year and last year on Level.

    @David Gregg, thanks for much for commenting. I’ll take a readthrough…

  • 25. kiki  |  October 4, 2013 at 11:52 am

    why is everyone freaking? You got to know that next year they will once again change the metric, again, and then do it again the following year. When is anything static in CPS: grades, testing requirements, school closure criteria, funding, blah blah ad nauseum…..

    Sometimes I wonder if it’s worth staying in the city for this nightmare of a system.

  • 26. Chris  |  October 4, 2013 at 12:03 pm

    “Sometimes I wonder if it’s worth staying in the city for this nightmare of a system.”

    If you are staying in the city *only* for access to CPS, one might wonder if you are doing it wrong.

  • 27. Christopher Ball (@skepticismwins)  |  October 4, 2013 at 12:19 pm

    Todd’s summary is excellent. I somewhat disagree, however, with his conclusion that “All that being said, I think the Level system is a reasonably accurate measure for parents of “where you want your kid”.”

    If the choice is between a level 1 and level 3, I agree. But when trying to decide on a school between level 1 and level 2 (should you have such a choice), I don’t think it is helpful. My school went from Level 2 to Level 1 two years ago. I didn’t notice any change in instruction or teachers. Rather, new 3rd graders boosted the scores.

    More troubling is the use of value-added scores for elementary schools. CPS has yet to release the 2013 VAS, but last year In 2012, a majority of the VAS reading scores were statistically insignificant. 183 schools with statistically insignificant results were credited with negative value-added reading scores, and 166 with statistically insignificant results were credited with positive value-added reading scores. In total, then, 349 schools had unreliable value-added scores for reading. Only 90 schools had reliable positive results and 93 had reliable negative results. Similarly, in math, 262 had unreliable scores, and 132 had reliable positive scores and 149 had reliable negative scores. Policy is being set on demonstrably bad data.

  • 28. Seth Lavin  |  October 4, 2013 at 3:37 pm

    I know people are kidding around with references to students at Morgan Park being “gangbangers” (and I know you’re making the opposite point, CPSO), but I wish commenters on this site would stop entirely with stereotyping “bad” schools and the kids in them.

    I’m a parent of two little boys, but I also teach at a Chicago high school. Every year I tell my students there are people in the world who’ve already written them off– decided who they are and what they’ll achieve based on where they grew up, where they go to school, and what they look like. It’s depressing, it’s prejudiced, and it makes the obstacles even higher for my students and kids like them. Let’s not have this board be a safe space for that kind of talk.

    Happy Friday,

  • 29. Christopher Ball (@skepticismwins)  |  October 4, 2013 at 4:18 pm

    @10 Neigborhood Parent: Unfortunately, the IIRC site will not be updated for the public until 30 Oct. even though the data has been available to school personnel since July. No one knows why. ISBE embargoes the data until then.

  • 30. Kan Doo  |  October 4, 2013 at 5:07 pm

    “…but I also teach at a Chicago high school. Every year I tell my students there are people in the world who’ve already written them off”

    And a part time motivational speaker?

  • 31. HS Mom  |  October 4, 2013 at 5:20 pm

    @29 Seth – the violence in this city is nothing short of a war zone perpetrated by teens who have written themselves off. You know teenagers and all the good and bad that influences them. I think it both inevitable and important that these issues come up in discussion.

  • 32. Todd Pytel  |  October 4, 2013 at 5:24 pm

    @27 (Chris) – I agree. My phrase “reasonably accurate” is too strong an endorsement. As you said, there’s going to be a real difference between Level 1 and Level 3. But between Level 1 and Level 2 it really depends on the underlying numbers. “Somewhat meaningful” would have been a better descriptor. That’s still more than can be said for the scores as an evaluation of leadership and faculty, for which I think they have no value whatsoever.

    David – thanks for posting the PP update.

  • 33. HSObsessed  |  October 4, 2013 at 6:35 pm

    Does anyone know where I can see the actual formula that was used to calculate this years’ levels, specifically for high schools? The data that Matt Farmer’s article links to (“the numbers are in”) is a big sheet with tons of data, including four years of data for each school’s PSAE meets/exceeds numbers, average ACT scores, freshmen on track, drop out rates, attendance, AP enrollment, AP success, and more. The sheet also includes this year’s new Level numbers. So I assume that all those data elements went into the level designation, but I don’t know how they were weighted.

  • 34. John  |  October 4, 2013 at 7:40 pm

    @33 http://www.cps.edu/Performance/Pages/PerformancePolicy.aspx

  • 35. Todd Pytel  |  October 4, 2013 at 8:11 pm

    @33 (HSObsessed) – Check out the Performance Policy Calculator spreadsheets at the bottom of the page John linked for you. Your answers should be there, though it may require quite a lot of work to get to them. The Performance Policy calculations are rather involved, and much of the underlying data has its own set of implications worth analyzing.

    While the validity and value of the current level calculations is open to dispute, I absolutely disagree with the assertions of earlier posters that the levels are simply political. How the Board chooses to *act* on those calculations is certainly influenced by politics. But the calculations themselves are well-defined and verifiable.

  • 36. cpsobsessed  |  October 4, 2013 at 8:13 pm

    I was able to speak to CPS today about how the levels are calculated and about Lake View in particular.

    Find a school
    Select your school
    Performance Policy Report
    You will see the calculation for each school. Here is LVHS:


    A school needs a certain % of points to reach level 2 (44%) and 1 (66.7%.)

    Lake View *just* missed the Level 2 cutoff, with 43.7%. So a very slight difference in just one score would have kept them in Level 2. they may have just gotten into Level 1 last year and just missed Level 2 this year – so most likely more like a Level 2 school that is in fluctuation.

    The school made some very big leaps in last year’s test, and wasn’t able to quite meet those or grow those. They got more kids taking AP classes (good) but less % with “AP success” not good. So is it better to get more kids to push themselves at the expense of lower initial scores? I don’t know – probably worth seeing what the school says about it. Attendance rate is stable but hasn’t grown and that has hurt them (is that controllable by the school? I don’t know.)

    So point being, it’s pretty easy to see why schools landed where they did. This 1 score is taking a lot of factors into account, so it’s worth a deeper look at where a school’s score came from and whether it is score or growth-related.

  • 37. cpsobsessed  |  October 4, 2013 at 8:22 pm

    @35 Todd: I agree, based on viewing a school’s page, it’s math, not politics. Now I suppose that the cutoffs could be political/human choice?

  • 38. cpsobsessed  |  October 4, 2013 at 8:33 pm

    CPS did confirm what the Senn teachers kindly laid out above – that the scoring system will change next year.

    For one, growth will be based on the same cohort of kids, rather than comparing this year’s 9th graders to last year’s 9th graders.

    In addition, there will be 5 Levels, for better differentiation, so a school like Lake View isn’t lumped in the same group as a school that has say, 17% of the points needed.

    Cps says they’d see LVHS as a school that may need some directed efforts to improve, versus schools that need more large scale efforts to make and impact on the student population. the new 5-level system should allow for that more discrete differentiation.

  • 39. cpsobsessed  |  October 4, 2013 at 8:56 pm

    Mired in the data here, trying to reconcile Lake View vs Roosevelt.
    Lake View gets twice the points as Roosevelt for “Current Status” meaning level of current success (ie good scores, attendance, low dropout rates etc.) whereas Roosevelt is still lower on scores on an absolute basis, but made big gains in attendance, fewer drop-outs, and more “freshmen on track to graduate” (whatever that means.)

    So Roosevelt, making good strides. You can’t get better test scores in a school unless you get the kids in the building…

  • 40. WendyRYH  |  October 4, 2013 at 9:18 pm

    In addition to not measuring school leadership and faculty as mentioned above, I would add these Levels really don’t tell you much about the type of instruction that’s happening in a school. CPS has some Level 1 schools that have a really progressive literacy curriculum in place and some that use a more traditional curriculum. We have some Level 2 schools that are employing really progressive methods of teaching and some Level 1 schools that are doing a ton of test prep, etc. I am not saying the Levels are meaningless because they do tell us how well students are doing on standardized tests but they don’t measure other important skills that we want our children to develop. Not sure if it was noted above but when CPS moves to the 5 tier system next year they are replacing the ISAT with the NWEA.as the one standardized test they will use to rate schools.

  • 41. Todd Pytel  |  October 4, 2013 at 9:21 pm

    @39 (CPSO) – “more freshmen on track to graduate (whatever that means.)”

    It means the percentage of freshmen at the end of the year that will be promoted to sophomore status. In practice, this means that students have failed no more than a single semester of a single core class in their freshman year.

    This is a genuinely important statistic. Student success in freshman year is strongly correlated to the school’s graduation rate and to the overall academic health of a school. If a student is on track at the end of freshman year, they are overwhelmingly likely to finish high school and make respectable academic progress.

  • 42. cpsobsessed  |  October 4, 2013 at 9:25 pm

    Help, I’m actually looking at formulas in the Excel file. Send help!

    I was trying to figure out why top elem schools get all the points for growth when they’re not really growing in test scores (because at places like decatur there isn’t much room to grow.) An elem school gets automatic growth points for each score once it meets these thresholds. So the selective schools, likely magnets, and schools that are “fully gentrified” (meaning large share of kids with college educated parents) will likely continue to maintain Level 1 status without having to continue to grow (which again, makes sense.. I was just wondering how some of these schools could be expected to continue improving and why they were getting all the growth points when I didn’t necessarily see growth occurring.

    ISAT Meet/Exceed Reading 74.2
    ISAT Meet/Exceed Mathematics 64.2
    ISAT Meet/Exceed Science 90
    ISAT Exceed Composite 76.1
    ISAT Exceed Highest Grade Level 20
    Attendance Rate 95

    And on a bright note for my sanity, the CPS.edu is going down at 10pm tonight until tomorrow evening, so I am going to rest my brain!

  • 43. GOMP  |  October 5, 2013 at 6:55 am

    @#28 Seth–My thoughts exactly. Continuing to bash an improving neighborhood school accomplishes what? Absolutely nothing. The top students at MPHS last year received scholarships to Northwestern and University of Chicago among others. Good things happen in lots of schools, even those that are primarily minority schools.

  • 44. HS Mom  |  October 5, 2013 at 9:08 am

    @39 CPSO “Mired in the data here, trying to reconcile Lake View vs Roosevelt”

    The levels may be by the number but it certainly does make a difference. I think most people will not consider any level 3 school at all. Without knowing all that is written here, I would think that there must be some reason Lake View is level 3. Thankfully, this is all going to change next year but I don’t blame the Principal for appealing it.

  • 45. JLM  |  October 5, 2013 at 2:02 pm

    Interesting that Lake View HS dropped to Level 3 shortly after the principal complained that she wasn’t sure how long the school would be able to offer the newly touted STEM program due to budget cuts.

  • 46. local  |  October 5, 2013 at 2:27 pm

    Yea. Just look, too, how the USNWR college rankings influence the college search/choice.

  • 47. SoxSideIrish4  |  October 5, 2013 at 5:40 pm

    28. Seth Lavin | October 4, 2013 at 3:37 pm

    ‘I know people are kidding around with references to students at Morgan Park being “gangbangers” (and I know you’re making the opposite point, CPSO), but I wish commenters on this site would stop entirely with stereotyping “bad” schools and the kids in them.’

    No one was kidding with references to MPHS having ‘gangbangers’~that’s the reality of the school. It has a gr8 academic center and IB program that few from the ward take advantage of bc its dangerous climate.

  • 48. Christopher Ball (@skepticismwins)  |  October 5, 2013 at 7:20 pm

    There isn’t much puzzle to why Morgan Park HS scores so relatively well. The IB gifted program boosts the ACT average.Lakeview got slammed on the trend for AP success.

    If performance data was adjusted for selective admissions, it would be a different story.

    Garbage in, garbage out.

  • 49. DeMarr Nelson  |  October 6, 2013 at 9:57 am

    I think all you people who be hating on MPHS do not understand how ourb school works. We have god teachers who try to help us out with life not neccessarrily abt everything in the classrooms. If you racist people understood that than you would be impressed and amazed. FYI I am a proud COLLEGE STUDENT at Olive Harvey, so yes, we DO go to college after doing our time at MPHS. ANY QUESTIONS?

  • 50. scores  |  October 6, 2013 at 10:43 am

    Teachers constantly told us,” no university will even look at you with a score below a 25..”

    Ridiculous part- we all believe it!
    School avg. 27.5, 100% college acceptance

  • 51. HSObsessed  |  October 6, 2013 at 5:32 pm

    OK, now had a chance to look at more data, thanks John, Todd and CPSO. I still don’t know the exact formula, but can eyeball how they got the levels based on the individual school reports. Instead of focusing on the levels given, I think it’s more beneficial anyway to look at the school’s actual past four years’ numbers to get a feel for where the school is and where it’s going. For those who want the convenience of levels, however, 5 levels starting next year instead of 3 will be better, a little more fine tuned. Of course, this data doesn’t reflect a few of the points I believe matter a lot to parents (and kids), including the safety factor and level of college enrollment of graduates.

  • 52. HS Mom  |  October 6, 2013 at 5:41 pm

    49 – DeMarr – I think that’s great. Best of luck to you. I’m sure there are many more success stories like yours. Lot’s of schools improving. I’m impressed!

  • 53. SoxSideIrish4  |  October 6, 2013 at 5:55 pm

    49. DeMarr Nelson | October 6, 2013 at 9:57 am

    Glad things are going well. Enjoy college!

  • 54. HelenW  |  October 6, 2013 at 9:02 pm

    Does anyone have any info on these three clowns…I mean finalists?

    ” Northside College Prep High School has narrowed its field of principal candidates to three finalists who will meet with members of the Northside community at a public forum Oct. 9.

    Those vying for the school’s top job, vacated by Barry Rodgers in June are: Laura LeMone [Benito Juarez], Kelly Mest [Lindblom] and Brian Tennison [Von Steuben].”


    I wonder if they even considered candidates outside of CPS. Some outside talent in the schools might help out this system. I hope the “winner” is smart enough to drop the IMP program.

  • 55. Iheoma  |  October 7, 2013 at 6:01 am

    Why use “clowns” to describe the candidates? Did you have a negative experience with them in earlier evaluation rounds? That said, Kelly Mest is the assistant principal at Lindblom. Very smart and accomplished lady who has been trained in many important ways by Lindblom’s principal, Alan Mather. Mr. Mather was the assistant principal at Northside College Prep when the school openned and remained there until he became the principal at Lindblom. I’m actually sad to see Ms. Mest’s name on that list because I don’t want her to leave Lindblom. For you to characterize her as a clown was remarkably uninformed.

  • 56. CPS Teacher  |  October 7, 2013 at 8:12 am

    I’m glad people have called out the racists assumptions in the categorization of Morgan Park High School as a haven for “gangbangers” (hate that word–such arrogant and ignorant racial connotations to it). Morgan Park has gangs? Shocker. It also has a pretty strong IB program and a lot of reasons to attract decent students. Within CPS, Morgan Park has a pretty strong reputation as a good school. Very few CPS high schools (except maybe the 100% selective enrollment ones) don’t have gang problems within the school. Oh, and students in gangs can get good ACT scores. The ACT is largely about what you’re born with (reading ability, command of language), not what you learn in school.

  • 57. CPS Parent  |  October 7, 2013 at 8:25 am

    56. – “The ACT is largely about what you’re born with (reading ability, command of language), not what you learn in school.”

    If teachers believe this to be true we have a problem. Perhaps he/she is a lower grade teacher and doesn’t actually know what’s on the ACT or what it was designed for.

    Here’s the Wiki:

  • 58. Questioner  |  October 7, 2013 at 8:31 am

    When will the 400 additional students be added/admitted to Walter Payton College Prep? Fall, 2014? I cannot recall when the expansion will be competed?

  • 59. Counterpoint for Discussion  |  October 7, 2013 at 8:38 am

    The question is what do levels mean?

    Answer: Marketing tool and budgetary influencer.

    As far as the other stuff being discussed, how dare someone say that they don’t want this blog to be a “safe place” for XYZ speech. Last time I checked the POTUS and the NSA had not declared martial law over free speech. Free speech blogs are what keeps America afloat in an age of political correctness that rewards/promotes those that fit into a category rather than attain a measurable achievement.

  • 60. SoxSideIrish4  |  October 7, 2013 at 8:39 am

    57. CPS Parent | October 7, 2013 at 8:25 am

    Agreed. If a teacher really believed that~that is really uniformed and hopefully not a HS teacher. I’ve never heard a hs teacher say anything like that w/regard to ACT.

  • 61. SoxSideIrish4  |  October 7, 2013 at 8:43 am

    58. Questioner | October 7, 2013 at 8:31 am

    The building of the annex will start in the summer and completion of same is set for Dec 2015.

    59. Counterpoint for Discussion | October 7, 2013 at 8:38 am

    Yes Levels are truly a marketing tool.

  • 62. cpsobsessed  |  October 7, 2013 at 8:54 am

    Can you guys clarify what you mean by “marketing tool”? To me, marketing is trying to sell people on something,so I don’t see how by having so many level 2 and 3 schools, cps could consider themselves “marketing” those schools to anyone. If anything, it seems to limit parent interest in high schools….

    It’s a formula that uses quantitative inputs. I see it as a comparison tool (albeit a far from perfect one because of the inherent drawbacks of using One Score to compare schools when there are so many variables that impact whether a school is “good.”

    I can see it being a reverse marketing tool in that having level 5 schools under the new plan will make it easier for cps to justify closing/re-launching some schools…

    Can you clarify?

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 63. HS Mom  |  October 7, 2013 at 9:20 am

    @56 A) How do you know the race of posters discussing MPHS? Assuming all posters here are white could be considered racists.

    B) Any other term that you would like to see used for “a person affiliated with a gang”.

    Gangs are a real concern for everybody and should be addressed in the context of school choice. People who have high school age kids know what problems can occur. These concerns need to be communicated to parents with young children. Speaking from a personal level, I would never have guessed even through freshman year all the bonehead decisions my teen and his peers could and have made. Things could be a lot worse – instead of looking at top tier colleges, he could be dropping out. Someone mentioned that they do not want to go to a school where their child may be asked to join a gang. That is a very real concern and problem. If a teen, willingly or not, is involved with a gang there is always a question about safety, if they will willingly or not pick up a gun or if they will become a victim directly or by being in the wrong place at the wrong time or by hanging out with a friend of a friend.

    It is not the “norm” to go to school with gang members and settle for schools with a huge drop out rate. Deciding not to participate does not make one racists even though some want to call parental concern disparaging labels.

  • 64. Chris  |  October 7, 2013 at 9:40 am

    “For [HelenW] to characterize [NSCP Principal candidates] as a clown was remarkably uninformed.”

    It’s worse than that. It’s just facile and dumb. If there is some actual problem with them as principal candidates, perhaps Helen would share; but given that the insult was accompanied by a bleg for info about them, we are left to assume that there’s not any actual basis for being insulting.

  • 65. JMOChicago  |  October 7, 2013 at 10:42 am

    The current level formula does not measure what parents think it measures. What parents are looking for is a measure of, “Which school is going to ensure that my child is growing academically and socially each year, and have a wonderful chance of getting into a SEHS, and then college, and then not be living in my basement when they are 30”?

    The CPS Levels formula does not tell you that.

    For example, the Elementary formula uses 8 numbers…7 of those numbers are based upon one test…the ISAT. (The last one is related to attendance.)

    Two of the numbers are “value-add” formulas which are too volatile to be used as credible measures of school quality.



    The “trend” calculation compares different academic years. This may work for schools with stable populations year-to-year, and penalize schools with high-mobility rates (usually neighborhood schools with a higher percentage of students who move between neighborhoods frequently.)

    Trend does not compare how a students performs when they begin at a school to how much that same student has improved after being at the school. THAT would be a better measure.

    Matt Farmer’s article points out the discrepancy between the actual numbers and test scores of a school and the rating that they are given…where one school that posts much better test scores is ranked at a lower level than another school with worse test scores.

    And comparing schools with very different admissions policies (and counseling out ability) is also not comparing “apples to apples.” SE schools need to be compared to other SE schools. Lottery/application admissions schools to other lottery/application schools. And year-round open enrollment schools need to be compared to other year-round open enrollment schools.

    Parents who rely on Levels for choosing a school are not doing their due diligence. There are some Level 2 (and occasionally a Level 3) schools that are really amazing schools. Because the Levels tell you VERY little about the actual work of teaching and learning going on within a school.

    But in a District that has made uncertainty an art form, parents are desperate for something to cling to in order to feel like they are aren’t just groping around in the dark in regards to CPS decisions.

    Don’t fall for that.

  • 66. Family Friend  |  October 7, 2013 at 10:46 am

    I am sure the staff at Juarez don’t want to lose Laura LeMone — all the administration there has been instrumental in the transformation of that school.

  • 67. cpsobsessed  |  October 7, 2013 at 10:59 am

    FYI, this nice-graphics report is the document that is intended to allow parents to assess a school. While it leads with level, it includes a range of other information.
    Or course the CPS made just has Level, which is how One-Score numbers tend to get used.
    But as JMO says, using level alone is short-changing yourself in terms of options. Hopefully the new 5-level will make the comparison more meaningful (ie, I expect level 1 to be all SE schools perhaps?) But I’m not quite sure. Something about the mix of score level AND growth has a way of making some of the final level ratings look wonky.

    Ie here is Morgan Park:


  • 68. Counterpoint for discussion  |  October 7, 2013 at 12:39 pm

    To 62: The Level is a “marketing tool”, the same way “Blue Ribbon School” is a marketing tool. The school is rewarded with a better level when the analytics are measured. Just Google “Blue Ribbon Schools marketing” and you’ll understand the comparison.

  • 69. Chris  |  October 7, 2013 at 12:55 pm

    “Hopefully the new 5-level will make the comparison more meaningful (ie, I expect level 1 to be all SE schools perhaps?) But I’m not quite sure. ”

    Maybe at the HS level only SE will be New Level 1, but for elementary it won’t.

  • 70. JMOChicago  |  October 7, 2013 at 12:57 pm

    There is also something at play here that I expect some of us don’t talk about very much. And that is the struggle to explain to other parents why our family has chosen to go to a particular school. (I know, I know! It shouldn’t matter. But I’ve observed this.)

    We’ve been there. At the park. At a block party. The conversation begins: “So, where do your kids go to school?” And the minefield unfolds. Do I semi-apologize for my child going to a charter school? Do I over-explain the benefits of our neighborhood school in order to prove that I’m not a parent who has totally checked out on being concerned about my kids’ education? How will I be perceived if I’m a private school parent in a crowd of public school parents?

    Levels give some parents (not all) a sense of “okay-ness” with some very hard choices in a tough/confusing situation. And that is not necessarily a bad thing. We really need to believe the kids will be alright.

    I think more information that helps parents to understand the pro’s and con’s of different schools is so very, very needed. But I don’t think that simplistic and sometimes misleading levels and/or categories (SE vs. Charter vs. Magnet vs. Neighborhood) is it.

  • 71. JenFG  |  October 7, 2013 at 12:57 pm

    My neighborhood school was slapped as Level 3 two(?) years ago. For the LSC meeting, our principal brought in two gentlemen who were in charge of the formula. He pointed out that we made AYP, had growth each year, were one of the highest-performing schools in the network but the only one at Level 3, etc. He also noted that if we had something like a tenth of a point higher in (already good) attendance and one other tiny change (that I can’t remember), we would have been at Level 2. The gentlemen nodded along, called the situation “an anomaly” that would be addressed as they tweaked the formula, but that there was nothing they could do about it. The interim Network Chief said he was sure the school would be fine by the next year. And we were. But still…we carried that Level 3 label for a year, and many parents won’t look beyond it.

  • 72. ChicagoMomofBoys  |  October 7, 2013 at 1:13 pm

    @ 70: School levels have never played a part of any discussion I’ve ever had regarding Chicago schools (outside of this board) and I’ve had MANY over past several years. My son attends our neighborhood school, which is Level 1 and has been for quite some time. Yet, in my social circle, people are more interested in engaging in the public vs. private or neighborhood vs. magnet or SEES vs. non-SEES debates. Our school’s Level 1 status doesn’t seem to carry an ounce of weight in these conversations. However, it probably would be a hot topic if it were Level 3.

  • 73. SoxSideIrish4  |  October 7, 2013 at 3:11 pm

    67. cpsobsessed | October 7, 2013 at 10:59 am

    The link you provided for Morgan park HS was for 2012~this is the performance policy for 2013 http://schoolreports.cps.edu/PerformancePolicyReport/Performance_Policy_2013_schlid_HS_609725.pdf

    Last year MPHS was a level 3~that was truly a political move.

  • 74. cpsobsessed  |  October 7, 2013 at 4:09 pm

    Yes, unfortunatel those are the most recent on cps.edu. Data is in for the measures but they have not yet accumulated the progess reports.

    I’m sorry, I still can’t understand how levels are being construed as political moves when they are data-based.

    I am defending this not on behalf of cps, but as a data person.

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 75. edgewatermom  |  October 7, 2013 at 4:18 pm

    I agree with cpso. You can disagree with the formulas that they use, but I really don’t see how you can say that the levels are political. It is all just data entered into formulas.

  • 76. Christopher Ball (@skepticismwins)  |  October 7, 2013 at 5:01 pm

    I think JMOChicago @65 explains the ‘political’ or ‘marketing’ aspect of the levels. CPS leads parents to believe that the levels provide meaningful information about the quality of a school’s education when the level calculations are based on limited data and not corrected for differences in admission policies and student achievement upon entering. CPS is, in effect, misleading parents about school quality.

  • 77. CPS Parent  |  October 7, 2013 at 6:25 pm

    76. Christopher Ball (@skepticismwins) You and JMO assert there are faults in the methodology but what is the “political” angle or “marketing” purpose? In your case, is it that anything that CPS does to evaluate school/teacher performance is part of the scheme by the mayor (and his “cronies”) to reform education and therefore intrinsically political?

  • 78. cpsobsessed  |  October 7, 2013 at 8:47 pm

    Here is a good DNA article about Lake View.
    They were hurt by 2 factors:
    2 year ago ACT scores were unusually high (the class happened to score well) and the class after that did not do as well. So trending didn’t look good.

    They had 2 makeup days due to the strike where attendance was low. They say CPS said those wouldn’t count towards attendance but they did count it in the end.

    So even just without those makeup days, they’d be Level 2.

    I realize one of the problems with using ACT – it’s a one year measure, unlike ISATs. If there is one year of kids who are unusually smart, with ISATs, their scores count every year. With ACTs, you get class by class fluctuation.

    Anyhow, hopefully parents will still give it a look.

  • 79. cpsobsessed  |  October 7, 2013 at 8:50 pm

    Also, Blue Ribbon Schools – can’t agree that it is anything like Levels. There are no Black Ribbon schools. Schools get nominated or nominate themselves. They can’t get un-blue-ribboned. The selection is subjective. It can’t be used to objectively compare a data set.

    It’s like saying getting 1600 on the SATs (or whatever the top score is these days) is like being a member of the Golden Key Honor Society. (does anyone remember that?) It was a resume booster. I’m exaggerating a bit. I’m sure Blue Ribbon School is more meaningful, but I can’t see the comparison at all to Levels.

  • 80. Even One More CPS Mom  |  October 7, 2013 at 9:01 pm

    On the new CPS school pages, does it show the “exceeds” numbers anywhere for ISAT scores? I can’t seem to find that information. I found the older version more useful.

  • 81. cpsobsessed  |  October 7, 2013 at 10:21 pm

    Find your school. select:
    Reports / Performance Policy Reports. The 4th measure is ISAT exceeds.

    Sample here for Prescott:


  • 82. JMOChicago  |  October 7, 2013 at 11:29 pm

    No, I don’t believe that levels are political or intended for marketing. I just believe that the formula doesn’t measure what they’d like it to measure and they really haven’t known what to do about it.

    There is no good measure without a credible/reliable “handicapping” system and which isn’t tied to specific student results year to year. We have too much mobility as a District to tie to specific students; too many variables that can affect educational outcomes that have nothing to do with quality of classroom experience; etc. Value-add is ridiculously bad. You can zoom from the lowest to highest point value in a single year, and the plunge again.

    No single formula will ever be adequate for a District as large, diverse, complicated and mobile as CPS. But they feel that they need SOME way to rank schools, so they attempt it anyway.

    You need to dig under the Levels to see what is actually going on at a school. And understand a bit about what factors other than classroom learning are affecting test scores. Just looking at Levels and nothing else will generally yield little useful information.

  • 83. cpsobsessed  |  October 8, 2013 at 9:00 am

    Perfectly said, JMO!

    Mulling it over, I don’t know how I feel about attendance being in there. It’s been removed from the SE equation and we all agree that makes sense. To what extent can a school have a big impact on attendance? Should schools be spending their time begging students to show up?

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 84. Chris  |  October 8, 2013 at 10:50 am

    “does it show the “exceeds” numbers anywhere for ISAT scores?”

    “Find your school. select:
    Reports / Performance Policy Reports. The 4th measure is ISAT exceeds.”

    That’s only composite ‘exceeds’. Is the component ‘exceeds’ findable anywhere?

  • 85. cpsobsessed  |  October 8, 2013 at 10:56 am


    From this page, choose column School Level and row Overall to get a spreadsheet of all schools with the subject scores.

  • 86. CPS Parent  |  October 8, 2013 at 1:18 pm

    83. cpsobsessed Attendance probably says more about the overall atmosphere in a school compared to any other measure.

    For SEHS admittance I think attendance was removed, at least partially, because some elementary schools cheated to keep parents happy. I know ours did.

  • 88. Counterpoint for discussion  |  October 8, 2013 at 2:26 pm

    What do levels mean?
    Measurable differences between schools.
    How are they used?
    For resource allocation (money) and to market a school to the community.
    ie: Look at us, we’re doing such a great job because look at our level.

    The flip side then says after a level downgrade…. Levels are not an accurate measurement of a schools quality.

    Sorry folks, it’s truely all marketing.

  • 89. attendance as a factor for SEES admissions  |  October 8, 2013 at 2:51 pm

    Re: attendance as a factor in SEES admissions. My recollection is that CPS stopped using attendance as a factor following the wave of swine flu (H1N1) in CPS during the 2009-10 school year. I’m not sure whether it was because lots of applicants missed school, or because they wanted to discourage kids going to school sick and spreading it. (Perhaps some combination of both?)

  • 90. cpsobsessed  |  October 8, 2013 at 2:57 pm

    That”s correct. I just heard cps mention the swine flu episode recently as the basis for removing the attendance requirement.

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 91. edgewatermom  |  October 8, 2013 at 7:19 pm

    I am so glad that they removed attendance as a factor for SEHS. Honestly, I wish that schools would not give out “perfect attendance” awards. If kids are sick (and chances are VERY good that they will be sick at least 1 school day) it would be much better if they could stay home.

    If they are going to include attendance in the equation for levels (or whatever the new term will be), I wish it would just be a minimum threshold that they have to make to get the points.

    I may be biased in all of this though because my kid has medical issues that guarantee that she will miss a few days of school per year.

  • 92. Christopher Ball (@skepticismwins)  |  October 8, 2013 at 10:53 pm

    @77 The performance ratings, by the very slip-shod nature of the underlying analysis, cannot be used to reform education. As JMO and I have said, the data says very little about school quality in any realistic or helpful way.

    Politically, CPS and any mayor claim that they are holding schools accountable by publishing annual performance ratings when they are in fact doing no such thing. The ratings are calculated such that SE schools do no need to show that they have substantially improved their pupils’ education but a neighborhood school from a middle or low-income area must do so. That’s like saying that the person driving a 911 is a better driver because he out-raced someone driving a Focus.

    Marketing-wise, level 1 schools tout their apparent accomplishment and CPS boasts that whatever policy de jour produced great schools. Worse, mayors and CPS CEOs claim that they are providing parents with information to choose schools wisely.

    Yet, the performance ratings cannot tell a parent whether the school offers art, music, foreign languages, lab sciences, or other meaningful educational opportunities. It doesn’t tell a parent whether 8th graders leave prepared for HS algebra or able to compose thoughtful essays. Or whether 12th graders learn calculus or can properly write a research paper.

  • 93. CPS Parent  |  October 9, 2013 at 7:35 am

    92. Christopher Ball (@skepticismwins) For a smart guy it’s amazing how you can never go beyond your own dogma.

  • 94. Margo  |  October 9, 2013 at 9:49 am

    Sorry @93…Christopher Ball is correct. The SE schools get the “highest performing” students year after year. They are going in with exceptionally high EPAS scores, and yet, those scores are not seeing the same growth that you see in some other neighborhood programs. For all purposes, we should see higher ACT averages than they actually post. We do not see enough “perfect scores” considering where students come in. I have seen way too many students coming in from the higher performing elementary schools who are not prepared for high school.

  • 95. CPS Parent  |  October 9, 2013 at 10:13 am

    94. Margo The kids who are going to SEHS are high performing already – they are not multiple grade levels behind like the majority of CPS kids. It makes sense that there would be less “growth” in test scores which assess grade level knowledge for this cohort.

    Kids who are grade levels behind need to be accelerated so that they can at least function at some baseline level when entering the job market or start post-secondary education. This is why an assessment of progress or “growth” is so important for most CPS schools. In a normally performing school district this would not be an issue.

    I stand by my post @93.

  • 96. cpsobsessed  |  October 9, 2013 at 10:16 am

    I stand by CPS Parent. The top SE elem schools have meets/exceeds close to 100 percent. How would that show improvement?

    Not saying the formula is perfect by any means, but I agree with the general concept for the most part.
    I think it’ll be better with 5 levels though.

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 97. Seth Lavin  |  October 9, 2013 at 4:54 pm

    There are so many ways to show improvement beyond 100% meets/exceeds! I’d be much more interested in a school that moved a cohort from 10% exceeds to 50% exceeds, for example, even if it started and ended with 100% meets/exceeds. For that matter I’d also be much more interested in a school that moved a cohort from 60% meets to 80% meets than one that started and ended with 100% meets (and no movement to exceeds).

    Also, new NWEA scores and growth reports are designed to make clear what each student gains each year, regardless of where they start. You can find NWEA data for schools with 100% meets/exceeds to see how kids are growing if ISAT data isn’t making that clear.

    As JMOChicago is always pointing out, measurements that show a school’s impact on each kid– regardless of where that kid starts– are the most meaningful. They’re hard to find, but they’re worth finding!

  • 98. CPS Parent  |  October 9, 2013 at 5:57 pm

    97. Seth Lavin Regarding – “I’d be much more interested in a school that moved a cohort from 10% exceeds to 50% exceeds, for example, even if it started and ended with 100% meets/exceeds”.

    Are you saying that as a teacher or as a parent? As a parent I don’t understand why I would be less interested in a school that is already at 100%. Given that the meet/exceed benchmark is a a low threshold why would I want my kids in a with lower performing cohort?

    For me the growth in meets/exceeds is the indicator of how effectively students are being brought up to grade level, if at all, and that seems to me to be the primary goal for the system. By high school the average CPS kid is only in the 34th percentile or so (17 on the ACT). Take away the top ten high schools (out of 150 or so) and the average is probably at around 25%. There are thousands of kids who are probably in the 1-10 percentile range. The future is pretty dim for them as far lifetime earnings is concerned.

  • 99. anonymouse teacher  |  October 9, 2013 at 8:44 pm

    I’m not sure if my thoughts on this exactly reflect the specifics of meets/exceeds and the 10 to 50 vs. 100 conversation.
    I think it is really very important to expect and demand that our highest performing students make great growth gains (not just our lower ones) and one point I take away from this conversation is this: sometimes we see a school with 100% exceeds or close to it and think, wow, they are a great school. When in reality, we don’t really know that. You’d have to look at the specific breakdowns at where each kid was at the beginning of the year and then at the end.
    I think this is where I agree with Seth. Of course parents have to consider where the rest of the student body is in terms of performance and I don’t think anyone would argue otherwise. But that’s just one piece of the puzzle. If a school can move lower performing students significantly, my questions for them would revolve around “and how do you deal with high performing students?” If a school has teachers that know how to differentiate, even in the current situation with too large class sizes and absolutely no support, then there’s no reason not to believe that those same teachers can’t move a higher performing student along too. I would want to know how they will do that, especially if the bulk of the student body is in a very different place academically than perhaps my own child, but I wouldn’t write them off immediately.

  • 100. HSObsessed  |  October 10, 2013 at 1:24 pm

    Just learned this disheartening fact: the average ACT score of a veteran CPS teacher is 19. (Reported today on Twitter by Catalyst, quoting Tim Knowles, who I thought was with CPS but may be with U. Chicago at this point.)

  • 101. cpsobsessed  |  October 10, 2013 at 1:41 pm

    That was their ACT taken during high school?

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 102. HSObsessed  |  October 10, 2013 at 3:10 pm

    Yes, it was a tweet, so no details given, but I’m assuming they got that from the individual applications/transcripts of current veteran teachers? Maybe one of the education journalists can hop on that factoid and do a big expose.

  • 103. Chris  |  October 10, 2013 at 3:19 pm

    “That was their ACT taken during high school?”

    That’d be the only thing that makes sense.

    Also, that’d be heavily from teachers who took it before the re-centering. The changes made bt 89 and 90 moved the average up from 18.6 to 20.6. So, a teacher who’s mid-40s or so who got a 19 has the equivalent of a 21.

  • 104. Seth Lavin  |  October 10, 2013 at 4:01 pm

    @HSObsessed: The “teacher ACT of 19” factoid is one that’s been bouncing around for awhile. The source, as far as I can tell, is this report from something called the “Illinois Education Research Council.” See page 25. The data is from 2006: http://www.siue.edu/ierc/publications/pdf/IERC2008-1.pdf. I’ve wondered about the quality of the research since it usually only gets mentioned by conservative publications (Daily Caller, etc.), though I trust Tim Knowles a lot. He never worked for CPS. Went straight from Boston to UEI.

    @99 (anonymouse)– I agree 100% with everything you’ve said.

    @97 (CPSParent)– I’m saying this both as a teacher and parent. I think we’re misunderstanding each other. I’m saying in a case where a school has 100% meets OR exceeds (which is how the composite ISAT results are reported), you can still open up the data to find out how many kids MET standards vs. how many EXCEEDED standards. I’d be much more interested in a school with 100% meets or exceeds that moved an additional 40% of kids from meets to exceeds than one that stayed at 100% meets or exceeds but didn’t move any new kids to exceeds.

  • 105. HSObsessed  |  October 10, 2013 at 5:52 pm

    @103 – Wait, so you’re saying I can add 2 points to my own ACT score from 1984 to adjust to equivalent current scores? Sweet!

    @104 – Thanks for the info/link.

  • 106. cpsobsessed  |  October 10, 2013 at 6:19 pm

    Haha, so HSO, gonna try for harvard now?

    I dont have much concern about the ACT scores being in the average range.
    I don’t know that having a high ACT score nec makes one a good teacher.
    I’d probably prefer the hs teachers be a bit higher I suppose.

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 107. SoxSideIrish4  |  October 10, 2013 at 6:40 pm

    104. Seth Lavin | October 10, 2013 at 4:01 pm

    ” I’d be much more interested in a school with 100% meets or exceeds that moved an additional 40% of kids from meets to exceeds than one that stayed at 100% meets or exceeds but didn’t move any new kids to exceeds.” I agree with this. Also, for High Schools, I do look at students’ average ACT score, and how many classes taught are honors and AP.

  • 108. Teacher ACT  |  October 10, 2013 at 7:16 pm


    “According to a 2008 report by the Illinois Education Research Council, between 2001 and 2006 the average ACT score of inexperienced teachers in CPS jumped two points, to nearly 22. In the meantime, the average score of district veterans remained virtually flat at 19.”

    AVERAGE is 19, frightening, teachers with ACT below 19

  • 109. cpsobsessed  |  October 10, 2013 at 7:22 pm

    From Ask.com: “So what is a good ACT score? The exam consists of four parts: English Language, Reading, Mathematics and Science. Each category receives a score between 1 (lowest) and 36 (highest). Those four scores are then averaged to generate the composite score used by most colleges. The average composite score is roughly a 21. That is, about 50% of test-takers score below a 21. ”

    So newer youngers teachers are a point above average, veteran teachers 2 points below. Teaching used to not pay very well, so probably not surprising. Net: Teachers have roughly average ACT scores is my takeaway. No?
    You want people with high ACT scores you need to pay them in a way that competes with other jobs they can get and give them a rewarding workplace. Not just cross our fingers and *hope* that high scoring people will seek out the profession.

  • 110. Teacher ACT  |  October 10, 2013 at 7:25 pm

    Except that’s not how it works. Veteran teachers are paid more and new teachers are the first laid off.

  • 111. las  |  October 10, 2013 at 7:28 pm

    Wait the TEACHERS have an average ACT score of 19????
    I haven’t seen an ACT in a long time and could probably score a 19 while asleep.
    Frightening indeed!

  • 112. cpsobsessed  |  October 10, 2013 at 7:42 pm

    @110: but veteran teachers were hired (with ACT scores of 19) when starting and ongoing pay was relatively low.
    New teachers are hired in today at pay that is relatively comparable higher compared to other professional jobs.
    Does that make sense?

    So what other professions would we speculate have an average ACT score of 19-21? (noting that this is the average score.) Isn’t this going back to that “C student” discussion? The people powering the country?

  • 113. anonymouse teacher  |  October 10, 2013 at 8:09 pm


    This is an interesting article written by a U of C lab teacher.

  • 114. Zanes Dad  |  October 10, 2013 at 11:03 pm

    If the ISAT scores used to calculate these performance levels include IEP and ELL students, then the levels seem to be pretty useless to me unless every school has the same percentage population of IEP and ELL students sitting for the test. Which they don’t. In which case, you can’t compare the ratings of two different schools, you can only see how the school (in isolation) is doing compared to previous years.

  • 115. SoxSideIrish4  |  October 11, 2013 at 9:29 am

    114. Zanes Dad | October 10, 2013 at 11:03 pm

    Each school shows how the difference between IEP & nonIEP and ELL and nonELL students~so you can compare the ratings of schools that way.

  • 116. HSObsessed  |  October 11, 2013 at 10:03 am

    I’m sorry, an ACT score of 19 is low for a professional in a knowledge field. A decently bright 8th grader can score a 19. Of course, the ACT scores of veteran CPS high school teachers could well be somewhat higher; one would certainly hope so, since they need advanced knowledge of their subject.

    I’m pretty sure that teachers’ entry level salaries have been quite generous for decades, thanks to the union. I definitely remember that a new CPS teacher in the early 1990s had a higher salary than a new architect with a graduate degree working in a large studio. I’ve been scoffing since at the notion of teachers being underpaid, especially given the 12-week summer vacations CPS teachers enjoyed at the time.

  • 117. Chris  |  October 11, 2013 at 10:12 am

    CPSO: “veteran teachers 2 points below. ”

    NOT necessarily. Many/most of the veteran teachers took the exam when the average was “19” (actually like 18.6), so it’s about the same.

    HSO: ” Wait, so you’re saying I can add 2 points to my own ACT score from 1984 to adjust to equivalent current scores?”

    Yep. Remember how no one (like 10, nationwide) got 1600 on the SAT? And even a 1570 was super rare. Now, even with a 3d section to blow, it’s like 300 who get a 2400, And something like 1200/yr who get 36 on the ACT

  • 118. cpsobsessed  |  October 11, 2013 at 10:22 am

    @HSO: I thought when the strike was going on that I’d read that at some point in the past the unions really pushed to bring the salaries up from fairly crummy levels (given that in the past, women-heavy careers tended to pay less.) I don’t remember when this was though. It could have been as long ago as the 70’s, so probably few older teachers included in that mix.

    The difference with teaching is that the upside potential is more limited, isn’t it? A starting architect may start lower than a teacher, but has the opportunity to make a lot of money down the road.

    It’s hard to gauge “well paid” in such a big school disctrict. Pay for a kindergarten teacher at Hawthorne vs, say an 8th grade teacher at a school with a big “at risk” population are such different jobs.

  • 119. HSObsessed  |  October 11, 2013 at 10:22 am

    @117 – Cool!

    I learned some interesting data info recently from my CPS data contact that I thought I’d pass on: The Explore test, Plan, and ACT are all basically the same thing. The Explore is taken by 8th graders and HS freshmen, Plan is taken sophomore year, and ACT in junior and senior years. So when you see your kid’s 8th grade Explore test results, you can get an idea of where they’re headed in terms of their ACT scores three years into the future.

    So my comment above about reasonably bright 8th graders being able to score a 19 is based on average Explore test score data from CPS. I note that the average 8th grader in 2012 at Franklin and LaSalle magnet schools had an Explore score of 19. That’s the average kid at a magnet (not test in) school.

  • 120. HS Mom  |  October 11, 2013 at 10:25 am

    @117 – Chris

    I don’t understand what the connection is. Because more people are getting perfect scores, the test is easier and therefore old scores do not equate to this new easier test? Better scores does not correlate to better educated students that study/learn more and prepare for tests. Wouldn’t lower scores indicate that material is not mastered whether it’s now or in the past?

    Scores at or below 19 in the field of education – not sure I am comfortable with that.

  • 121. cpsobsessed  |  October 11, 2013 at 10:33 am

    @HSO, the with those scores on the different tests, a 19 in 8th grade is on the same scale as the ACT? So a 19 on explore means that the 8th grader has the same knowledge as a Junior who gets a 19 ACT?

  • 122. HSObsessed  |  October 11, 2013 at 10:55 am

    @121, yes. They use the same questions on Explore as the ACT. Obviously, the 8th grade kids hit the section that seems too hard for them earlier while taking the Explore, since most of them haven’t learned the stuff that they will have learned by junior year.

  • 123. las  |  October 11, 2013 at 10:56 am

    The explore test has a maximum score of 25
    The plan test a maximum score of 32

  • 124. las  |  October 11, 2013 at 11:00 am

    The ACT covers more advanced material than the Plan and Explore, ,and the Plan more than the Explore test. They do not cover the same questions at all.

  • 125. HSObsessed  |  October 11, 2013 at 11:03 am

    It was my understanding that the questions on Explore/Plan don’t go as far as the ACT since the 8th graders aren’t expected to know that material, but basically, the questions on the earlier exams are the same type of questions, and one can consider a score on the earlier tests the equivalent as the same on the ACT. It makes sense to have lower maximums on the earlier tests, since the hardest questions are not included.

  • 126. cpsobsessed  |  October 11, 2013 at 11:06 am

    I guess my real question is: Assuming CPS teachers have an average ACT score of 19, does that mean they have the general knowledge level of an 8th grade magnet student??

    The average score for IL is 20.9.

    So if an old “19” is more like a current-day “21” I’d say the CPS average mirrors the Illinois average. Given the size of the CPS teaching staff, falling at average doesn’t surprise me.

    Would you guys expect the teaching ACT score to exceed the state norm?

  • 127. HSObsessed  |  October 11, 2013 at 11:11 am

    The acronym EPAS Gains that you see on the HS Performance Policy report (like the example linked to @73) refers to Explore/Plan/ACT (score?) Gains. This is a measure of well high school kids are learning by comparing the increases in the scores on those three tests. If there were no relationship between the tests, it would be kind of useless to compare them over time, I would think.

  • 128. HS Mom  |  October 11, 2013 at 11:20 am

    @126 – notice that states like Illinois testing 100% of students have much lower ACT averages. A 19/21 is in line with students that are not college bound.

  • 129. las  |  October 11, 2013 at 11:26 am

    That’s my understanding as well HSO and I agree with everything you’ve stated. My post was in response to someone asking if all 3 tests contain the same questions.

  • 130. HSObsessed  |  October 11, 2013 at 11:28 am

    @126 – Since 2001, all Illinois students are required to take the ACT, whether bound for college or not. So I’d think the average college-bound high school graduate’s ACT (today) would be at least 1-2 points higher. I guess I would want the average veteran CPS teacher’s ACT to be at least meeting the average college-bound student’s. Having said that, test scores truly are limited in usefulness: life experience, teaching experience, subject-specific knowledge, common sense, patience and wisdom are all not captured on any of the tests.

  • 131. Mark J  |  October 11, 2013 at 11:32 am

    las is correct that you cannot compare the absolute score between Plan/Explore/ACT. The content is similar is most areas but the questions will be more difficult on Plan than Explore and on ACT vs Plan, plus the ACT will include subjects like Algebra II and Trig which the other two tests will not.

    It is probably safe to assume that the percentile scores should be a reasonable predictor of the other tests assuming a similar population of kids are taking the tests each time. But as far as absolute scores, you would expect a higher point score on ACT than Plan and higher on Plan than Explore if you scored at the same percentile each time.

    Even though the questions on the ACT are “harder”, that does not mean the ACT score would be lower relative to the max (you would hope the kids learned some new things in the few years between tests). You must stick to percentiles and ignore the general point score.

  • 132. Chris  |  October 11, 2013 at 11:35 am

    HS Mom: ” Because more people are getting perfect scores, the test is easier and therefore old scores do not equate to this new easier test?”

    Dunno if the test is easier, but the same percentile rank gets a higher scaled score now than it did in the 80s.

    My only point is w/r/t the (alleged–tho seems well sourced) average ACT score of CPS teachers, and it is this: That 19 is not as bad as it looks, because a lot of the teachers took the test at a time when a 19 was slightly above average.

    That said, I also think that judging teachers (as opposed to test-prep tutors, and even then, that’s more marketing than anything) based on their test score from when they were 17 is silly. Do I think that all of our teachers should be from Lake Wobegon? Of course, but that’s not realistic.

    Also, remember that only a few states require all kids to take the ACT. There are more kids taking the ACT in Illinois than in any of the bigger (CA, TX, NY, FL) states–and the scores are nationally scaled **only among those who take the test**. On a *national* basis, most of the bottom third of HS grads don’t ever take the ACT, but in Illinois, they do, so we get a skewed view of what an average score means–it’s not an average of all students, it’s an average of all students in some states, and the college-hopeful in other states.

    When I was in HS, my HS/city/state had quite high SAT scores; it was totally about selection bias, as really the only kids taking them were those seriously considering going to college at least 2 states away–that is, the higher achievers. If *everyone* took the exam, of course the HS/city/state average would be much lower.

  • 133. HSObsessed  |  October 11, 2013 at 11:44 am

    @131 – OK, I don’t need to argue since my limited information came from cornering my CPS data guru during his off-hours while he politely tried to make excuses to get away from me 🙂 but I think what you’re saying is still consistent with what I’m saying. The tests get “harder” each year in that more difficult questions are included, giving kids a chance to reach higher maximum score levels. It’s like moving up stages on Super Mario Brothers, basically.

  • 134. cpsobsessed  |  October 11, 2013 at 11:54 am

    Well the IL ACT score is the best among the states that require 100% to take it, so that is good! Also, the US average is 21.1 (vs. IL 20.9) and that is among 52% of kids (ie college bound, presumably) so we’re in fairly decent shape as a state, actually.

    I agree with Chris in @132.

    Haha: And I think you just summed up the learning theme of Quest…
    It’s like moving up stages on Super Mario Brothers, basically.

  • 135. cpsobsessed  |  October 11, 2013 at 12:11 pm

    Does anyone know what % of CPS teachers are black/hispanic by any chance?
    As with most tests, there is a racial gap on the ACT (Asians once again kicking butt.)

  • 136. HS Mom  |  October 11, 2013 at 12:12 pm

    Chris – OK I see your point. I wonder if the % rank changes because there are many more students taking the test now than in the 80’s. I assume that the jump in ACT for my own child is due to more sophisticated and complex learning (taught by the CPS teachers in discussion, I might add).

    I’m trying to wrap my mind around the 19 number given that the 21 for new teachers is actually bringing that number up. High school performance certainly does not outweigh classroom performance, just a matter of credentials I guess.

  • 137. Chris  |  October 11, 2013 at 2:21 pm

    “I’m trying to wrap my mind around the 19 number given that the 21 for new teachers is actually bringing that number up.”

    I’ll say it again:

    For anyone who graduated from HS before 1990, a 19 on the ACT is *the same* as a 21 from anyone after.

    So, if you are comparing the 21 ACT of a 25 yo with the 19 ACT of a 45 yo, they performed (essentially) **the same** on the test as a percentile rank.

    Further (aka, deeper in the weeds), since it was only relatively recently that states required ACT for all, a 50%ile from 1985 is actually a *better* result than a 50%ile today, because the test cohort was higher achieving on the whole than it is today, bc in 1985 very few non-college bound/attempting students took the test, while today, thousands with no college plans or expectations do.

  • 138. cpsobsessed  |  October 11, 2013 at 2:33 pm

    @Chris, so NET: the scores are at roughly the average level?

    From CPS.edu:
    23,300 teachers in CPS
    White 49%
    Af Am 25%
    Hispanic 18%
    Asian 3%

  • 139. Chris  |  October 11, 2013 at 2:44 pm

    “so NET: the scores are at roughly the average level?”

    Without full, by age, breakdown of CPS teachers, seems so.


    Average ACT for people over 40 = 19 (or so)
    Average ACT for people under 40 = 21 (or so)

    So, new (and younger, but not necessarily *young*) teachers, if averaging out to about 50th %ile, should average 21, and the more experienced teachers should average 19, if averaging out to about 50th %ile.

    “[demographic breakdown]”

    That would imply that the average score for a comparable ‘national-average’ cohort would have a lower than overall average score, even before considering the change over time of the national cohort (that is, the increase in ACT takers who are not intending to apply to any college).

  • 140. cpsobsessed  |  October 11, 2013 at 2:50 pm

    Interesting Factoid: Principals skew much more African American than the teacher population:

    Principals total: 587

    African-American: 48.2%

    White: 30.8%

    Hispanic: 16.7%

    Asian: 1.0%

  • 141. cpsobsessed  |  October 11, 2013 at 2:56 pm

    Ok, so looking at the ACT site, I would ballpark the average score from college bound kids (states where not everyone tests) to be around 22. (national average is 21.)
    Illinois, if we balance the older/younger teachers is probably around 20.

    So 20 vs 22 average (roughly).

    Also, don’t move to Mississippi.

  • 142. anonymouse teacher  |  October 11, 2013 at 5:36 pm

    So, I did some asking around today at my school. I suppose people could be lying, but the lowest ACT score I heard was 23. The highest was 34. (teachers non-scientifically surveyed on my part ranged between age 26 and 54, and I asked around 15 teachers total) Most were in the 25-27 range. (My building has several people with more than one graduate degree in fields other than education, a few have PhD’s, several NBCT’s, and some left private industry to become teachers seeking work balance–which they didn’t really find–but that’s a different story) But again, saying the average ACT score for any group of people still only gives you the average. That isn’t saying the same thing as most teachers have a score of 19-21. Its the average of the total.

    Personally, I think it needs to be more difficult to gain entrance into a teacher program, but if that happened, eventually when enough teachers retired, there’d be a shortage. If universities said, for example, that all candidates had to have an ACT of 23-24 to be admitted into a teacher program, not nearly enough people would be trained as teachers and voila, massive shortage. Right now we have a plethora of teachers, but that would quickly change. Too many people simply are not interested in becoming teachers.

    Regarding the tie between race and academic performance, there has been a lot of local attention paid to the dropping percentage of minority teachers in CPS. There has also been a lot of attention paid to the fact that the harder entrance exam for teachers has been instrumental in barring more minority teacher candidates from education programs. It used to be that schools were required to keep a balance of minority to non-minority teachers but since that ended, things have changed a lot. Obviously, there are many high scoring minority teacher candidates out there, but the achievement gap is reality.

  • 143. Christopher Ball (@skepticismwins)  |  October 11, 2013 at 7:44 pm

    @ 96 97: I’d add this: who cares what the meets or exceeds percentage is? I have no idea what the cut scores (old or new) that determine those percentages mean. To make valid comparisons across schools, I want to know what the mean, median, mode, and range is for the scores themselves. Two schools can have 100% of test-takers exceeding “expectations” but that tells me nothing about the relative quality of the two schools. The data on scores would.

    A school that averaged 236 in 3rd grade would be “better” than a score that averaged 210 if the medians were close to means. But if the hi range for the 1st school goes to 320 and the low is at 140 and the median is 190, I know that a small group of smart students is boosting up the average for the 1st school. If the 2nd school has a median 200 and a hi of 300 and a low of 180, I know that it does better with most students than the 1st school.

    ISBE and CPS keep feeding us over-aggregated data that hide what is happening at a school level.

    The NWEA MAP results would be helpful if I had a sense of what was on the MAP, but I don’t. There are no publicly available sample MAP questions. And I’d have more confidence in the reporting if someone could show how MAP outcomes would compare if they were using 2PL and 3PL models rather than a Rasch model and could justify the unidimensional assumptions.

    Re ACTs, how do we know what their ACTs scores were? Does CPS ask for them as part of the application process? No one gave a crap about my SATs after college. And unless you were going to graduate school or a job at one of the (many now-defunct) investment banks or consultancies, no employer even cared about your college GPA. (Lots of HR offices knew that GPA didn’t predict job performance.)

    @116 “I definitely remember that a new CPS teacher in the early 1990s had a higher salary than a new architect with a graduate degree working in a large studio”

    That doesn’t mean much. Architecture is a rich kid’s game. The pay is nil to low for some time out of school. I was shocked at how many bright people were getting paid peanuts in the 1990s, even working for I.M. Pei.

  • 144. local  |  October 11, 2013 at 9:23 pm

    “It could have been as long ago as the 70′s, so probably few older teachers included in that mix”

    When was it that women started gaining admission into law school, business school, med school, dental school, etc.? Not really so long ago. The professions open to women were mainly teaching, librarian, social worker, nurse, food service and retail management, and such. If you were a smart cookie, those were the open careers. Young people might not remember this.

  • 145. HSObsessed  |  October 12, 2013 at 4:45 pm

    I uploaded to Google docs a table that has the 2010 to 2012 average Explore scores for 8th graders in CPS schools. It’s sorted by 2012 scores, highest to lowest.


    One thing I find useful in these numbers is that it’s the average score of all the kids taking the test, not just what percentage either meet or exceed a certain score.

    I included the number of students taking the test in 2012 in the last column because I think schools with large numbers of kids who are getting high averages are doubly impressive, especially for neighborhood schools. For example, Edison’s score of 21.5 is great, but they only had 22 students take the exam, all of whom tested into the school. On the other hand, Healy is a neighborhood school in Bridgeport that had an average score of 19.2, with 127 test takers.

  • 146. HSObsessed  |  October 12, 2013 at 4:54 pm

    Sorry, formatting was messed up in that link @145.


    Try this one.

  • 147. 2nd grade parent  |  November 19, 2013 at 10:00 am


    Looks like LVHS won their appeal on their Level 3 status…..

  • 148. HS Mom  |  November 19, 2013 at 10:22 am

    @147 – that’s a very good thing. Good to know they finally came to their senses.

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