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Student Performance in Chicago Up, Study Finds

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Test scores and graduation rates have improved in Chicago since the city's sweeping school-reform law was passed, an independent analysis of state and city data has found.

The study--by Designs for Change, a research and advocacy group--examined two sets of achievement-test results and the four-year graduation rate for 1990-93. Since 1991 was the first year that school-improvement plans were in place, the analysis says, 1990 can be used as a baseline for judging progress during reform's first three years.

The analysis examined scores on three standardized tests administered to Chicago students at various grade levels. Of the 25 sets of test results available for different grade levels, scores rose in 18 cases, declined in six, and remained the same in one.

For 15 of the 25 sets of scores, the highest scores occurred in 1993, indicating a pattern of consistent improvement, the study says.

The scores studied include a state test of reading, writing, and mathematics given to 3rd, 6th, and 8th graders every year; the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, which measures reading and math skills for elementary students; and a Chicago reading and math test for 9th and 11th graders.

The four-year graduation rate increased from 47.4 percent for the class of 1990 to 50.7 percent for the class of 1992 and 50.2 percent for the class of 1993, the study found.

Quieting the Critics

Despite the gains, however, Chicago students' performance on the tests and the graduation rate remain "far below the national average,'' the study says.

Donald R. Moore, the executive director of Designs for Change, said he believes a study released last summer by a Chicago research consortium, documenting what kinds of changes schools are making under reform, was a much more signficant indicator of progress than test scores. (See Education Week, July 14, 1993.)

Nevertheless, the new data "should quiet some of the critics who are just obsessed with whether these scores go up or down,'' he said.

D. Sharon Grant, the president of the school board, said she was "glad to see that scores are improving.''

"But,'' she added, "there is definitely more work to be done.''--ANN BRADLEY

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