School Choice & Charters

Business Group Gives Chicago Schools Poor Grade

By Catherine Gewertz — July 01, 2009 1 min read

The corporate heavyweights who were big-time backers of Arne Duncan’s turnaround efforts in Chicago have issued a report saying that they haven’t delivered much to crow about, and that high school performance, in particular, is “abysmal.”

Ouch. Not what Arne wants to hear as he crisscrosses the country encouraging folks to do more of what he just did in Chicago.

The report, issued yesterday by the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago, finds that the much-ballyhooed elementary school test score gains had more to do with changes in state tests and “weakening” of state standards than with real gains in student achievement. And even the marginal gains they do represent “dissipate” by high school, the report said.

Half of the students at non-selective-enrollment high schools drop out, the report said, and of those left to take the 11th grade test, more than 70 percent fall short of state standards, a trend that has been static for the last few years. Fewer than 7 percent of the students in Chicago’s non-selective-enrollment high schools meet ACT’s college readiness benchmarks, the report said.

I’m awaiting comment from the Education Department.

See what Greg Hinz of Crain’s Chicago Business (hat tip) has to say about it here.

Longtime Chicago small-schools activist and blogger Mike Klonsky weighs in here, and This Week in Education’s Alexander Russo does so here.

UPDATE: In response to an email from EdWeek, the Ed Department issued this response: “Under Arne Duncan’s leadership, the Chicago Public Schools made significant gains across a range of indicators: elementary test scores and attendance, high school graduation and college-going rates, and high school ACT scores as well as advanced placement participation. While we still have a long way to go, it is absolutely misleading and irresponsible to suggest that there has not been progress. The Civic Committee report ignores the hard work of hundreds of thousands of students, parents and educators who are working hard every day to improve the quality of learning in Chicago.”

A version of this news article first appeared in the High School Connections blog.