As CPS prepares to close a record number of schools, the fate of students and communities is in question.
WebExtra: Fewer schools now on probation
Almost 140 schools that were on probation last year are no longer on the list because their test scores rose in 2006, according to CPS data.
Following the delayed release of spring ISAT scores for 2006, CPS recently released the list of 46 elementary schools that will be on probation this year. A comparison with the previous year's list shows that 138 schools are now off probation.
For next year, under guidelines set by the federal No Child Left Behind Act, the district will raise the bar that elementary schools must meet to stay off probation: 55 percent of students will have to meet or exceed state standards on the ISAT, up from 40 percent this year. The district is still deciding whether to change high school standards.
The district is still looking through Prairie State scores to determine which high schools to put on probation. That list may be released later this month.
Next year's lists may come out as soon as this fall, depending on when the district gets ISAT results.
Schools that are now off probation regain more control over their budgets and programs. They also regain absolute authority over principal hiring, at a time when Mayor Richard M. Daley and CEO Arne Duncan have called for the School Board to have more power to intervene when local school councils make what they consider to be poor hiring or firing decisions.
One school that made it off probation is Finkl Elementary in Little Village. Principal Susan Jensen says Finkl is now on an "upward swing." Finkl teachers underwent training to help them teach children how to handle extended-response questions on the reading and math sections of the ISAT. Jensen also credits strong support from her area office and the district's math and science initiative.
"Our science scores went from nothing to [nearly] the 80th percentile over a period of three years," she says. "If I was going to bet in Las Vegas, I would bet in our favor."
These elementary schools are currently on probation, based on 2006 ISAT results:
Elementary schools no longer on probation:
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NOTES: *CEO Arne Duncan has proposed Harvard Elementary be revamped by the Academy for Urban School Leadership, a Chicago nonprofit that works to turn around failing schools.
SOURCES: The list of current probation schools was provided by Peter Ballard with the Office of Research, Evaluation and Accountability. A list of last year's probation schools was provided by CPS Press Secretary Michael Vaughn.