Here and Now 2, Change We Can Measure: The Need for Performing Schools in Chicago's Neighborhoods

Rachel Roseberry

IFF
April 2009

"Change we can measure" is an unmistakable reference to "Change we can believe in," the slogan of a candidate who is now our nation's president. This president has appointed Arne Duncan as his Secretary of Education, and the schools whose change is measured in this report are the ones that Arne Duncan left for 400 Maryland Avenue-the Chicago Public Schools (including charters).

IFF, formerly the Illinois Facilities Fund, describes the schools as a mixed bag, with elementary schools performing better than most high schools and an overall lack of "performing" schools across grade levels. But IFF also points out that the schools have made encouraging improvements since the last report in 2004.

While IFF's purpose is simple - to find out if every child in Chicago has access to a "performing" school - the methodology is slightly more complicated. The city is broken up into 77 different neighborhoods. The public schools in each neighborhood are assessed on the basis of performance (62.5 percent of students at a school must meet the state standard on the Illinois Standard Achievement Test in order to qualify as "performing") and capacity (how many students they can enroll). These public schools are ‘attendance area' schools, meaning they draw their enrollments from their surrounding area or neighborhoods. Then IFF categorizes the 25 worst neighborhoods in Chicago as those with the highest levels of students without access to a performing school.

The report found that 57.6 percent of CPS attendance-area elementary schools were performing, a jump from 42 percent in 2004. However, this still leaves 57,000 elementary students without access to a performing school. The high-school situation is much more dire, with no schools meeting the Illinois standard for performance. Thus many elementary students in a performing school do not have the opportunity to move on to a performing high school. In more encouraging news, CPS reforms have led to an increase of 46,516 spots for students in performing elementary schools since 2004. Additionally, the charter movement has provided 13,845 more performing spots with charters being a "bright spot," albeit a dimly-lit one, for the system.

So, as Arne Duncan continues his nationwide campaign for education reform (see here, here, here, and here), his old schools must listen and continue to search for ways to provide every student in Chicago with access to the best possible education just as other cities, and states like Ohio, must commit to doing the same.

Read the report here.