As CPS prepares to close a record number of schools, the fate of students and communities is in question.
Two ways to measure student mobility
Last year, Sandoval Elementary in Gage Park and Pulaski Fine Arts Academy in Logan Square posted similar mobility rates on their state report cards: 26 and 21 percent, respectively.
But a closer look at data for these schools from the Consortium on Chicago School Research shows how this official method for calculating mobility can mask the extent of the problem in some schools.
Pulaski experienced an influx of 11 newcomers during the year for every 100 students already enrolled, while Sandoval got an influx of only two newcomers for every 100 enrolled students.
Consortium researchers note that mid-year newcomers have the most impact on a school and, to account for that, include this figure as one measure of mobility. The Consortium also measures the percentages of students who stay and leave the school over the year.
"A teacher who has to deal with students joining the classroom in the middle of the year faces very different problems than a teacher who is losing a few students," says researcher Marisa de la Torre.
To accommodate new students, teachers must adjust their instruction by reintroducing concepts and spending additional time getting new students acclimated and, if they are behind, bringing them up to speed.
In contrast, the Illinois State Board of Education uses one measure: the number of kids who transferred in and out during the year as a percentage of average daily enrollment. Officials concede this formula may double count individual students who transfer more than once—which happens in some CPS schools—and say the formula is not likely to change.
"We have not seen a reason to," says a state board spokesperson. "Our formula was developed as a result of many hours of deliberation by school superintendents, principals, teachers, business people, parents and researchers when [state] report cards were first mandated."