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Chicago high school test scores stall, including those at transformation schools

Sometime over the past week, CPS officials quietly posted the 2009 Prairie State and ACT test scores. They didn’t hold a press conference or even issue a release, as is the custom. And it is no wonder. Scores on both exams stagnated this year.

Sometime over the past week, CPS officials quietly posted the 2009 Prairie State and ACT test scores. They didn’t hold a press conference or even issue a release, as is the custom. And it is no wonder.

Scores on both exams stagnated this year. And the scores for juniors who have been part of the district’s High School Transformation project since their freshmen year were no better, and in some cases worse, than their predecessors.

The district average ACT composite score inched down from 17.3 in 2008 to 17 last year and the percent of students meeting or exceeding state standards on the Prairie State rose ever so slightly, from 27.9 percent to 28.5 percent. The federal No Child Left Behind Act calls for 70 percent of students to meet standards this year.

The results of these exams were supposed to be the first definitive test of High School Transformation, built on a foundation of new, more-rigorous curricula and teacher training.

But the average ACT score for the 13 schools that started teaching the curricula in 2006 remained at 15.5—way below the 20 needed to get into a selective college. (A 14th school—Mose Vines, a small school that was on the Orr campus—was also part of the original group, but the school was absorbed into Orr last year. Orr is now a turnaround school.)

Only two of the transformation schools—Carver Military and Chicago Military in Bronzeville—saw more than a 1 percentage point increase in their ACT score since 2006. But as well, during this time the two schools have implemented a selective admissions process that also changed the caliber of the students entering.

Over the past year, there have been many indications that the $80 million High School Transformation was not the success that officials hoped. The first-year evaluation report pinpointed many implementation problems, such as high absenteeism among students and a need for better-prepared teachers. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which gave the district $21 million for the program, not only stopped funding it, but also pulled their support from future evaluation reports.

However, Chief Education Officer Barbara Eason-Watkins has previously said the district is committed to continuing the project, including supporting the curricula. She also said previously that the ACT and PSAE scores showed some promise.

16 comments

trying wrote 4 years 47 weeks ago

Chicago High School test scores stall, including those at transf

Of course HS transformation isn't working. IDS is a joke. The content is irrelevant to students. The assessments are not comparable to standardized tests. By the time my freshman were finished with Algebra I last year, I never had the time to get to square roots or solving quadratics. We crammed in as much material as possible to get these kids to be familiar with types of questions on our IDS exams. Did they LEARN anything? Ugh. No. I feel like a failure of an educator, but I am continuously reminded of the need for these kids to do well on the IDS exams. Why not just teach the test?

objective catalyst journalism???? wrote 4 years 47 weeks ago

Chicago High School test scores stall, including those at transf

Can Ms. Karp bother to get the facts straight? Why is High School Transformation boiled down to one aspect/component of the entire strategy? There are about 5 other High School Transformation components that hardly get the time of day. Outside of that, there were other small increases as well as decreases in other Wave 1 schools besides Chicago and Carver. It is also patently uncorrect to state that the Gates Foundation stopped funding it...they are funding it this year and the plan was to always "stop" at this point. It was a four year grant. It is disingenous to state otherwise...it's just a sad state of affairs when an outfit that is supposedly knowledgable about school reform spends most if its time dragging good efforts down. Please feel free to comment on how plans were implemented/executed and what went wrong...but what about what went right? Ms. Karp just freely reports unchecked from a totally negative and biased angle and it's a little scary (are there any "counterpoints" on the editorial side?)

Please read Charles Payne's So Much Reform, So Little Change. It is a definitive discussion about the reform efforts in Chicago. It highlights the fact that very few efforts are given a chance to take root and succeed. People underestimate the dysfunction on all levels in the system from the "implementers" on over to the school-level. No one effort is "THE ANSWER". It saddens me as a taxpayer that after an investment in a strategy that in and of itself contains the necessary components but need quite a bit of modification, that people are just willing to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

George N. Schmidt wrote 4 years 47 weeks ago

Chicago High School test scores stall, including those at transf

What's new about these scores? All they show is that by their own measures (ACT and PSAE scores; narrowing the so-called "achievement gap") Arne Duncan and Barbara Eason-Watkins wasted hundreds of millions of dollars and failed.

And of those who are being "failed" by all of this corporate nonsense, the most "failed" by eight years of Arne Duncan were African Americans.

If CPS or the rest of the media in Chicago were asking real questions, these numbers would be the verdict on Arne Duncan as the CPS "Chief Executive Officer" and there would be an immediate clamor, led by the Tribune, to have Barack Obama fire that failure and take a closer look at all the policies he's promoting. That, coupled with a two-year moratorium on high-stakes testing, might begin to undo all the damage that's been done to real schooling of real kids in the real world.

It won't happen, because those with power are wedded to the teacher bashing and privatization agenda they've peddled like leprosy for the past 15 years. And the rest of the USA will be ordered, under pain of not getting "Race to the Top" money, to follow the leadership of Chicago's corporate school reform, the Chicago Boys, and Arne Duncan!

barry morse wrote 4 years 47 weeks ago

Chicago High School test scores stall, including those at transf

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Brian M. Bastyr wrote 4 years 47 weeks ago

Chicago High School test scores stall, including those at transf

Has a school by school breakdown for ACT/ PSAE scres been posted somewhere yet?

online wrote 4 years 47 weeks ago

Chicago High School test scores stall, including those at transf

@ Brian
Yes, there are multiple excel files on the web at: http://research.cps.k12.il.us/cps/accountweb/Reports/allschools.html
Look under the heading titled "Prairie State Achievement Exam (PSAE) Overtime, 2001 - 2009"

Sarah Karp wrote 4 years 47 weeks ago

Chicago high school test scores stall, including those at transf

Dear “objective catalyst journalismâ€

I think that you raise a pertinent point to say that too many school reform efforts don’t get the chance to succeed. Indeed, it would be a miracle for these high schools to be completely changed after only three years of using a new set of curricula, even with intense teacher training. All I was doing was pointing out that there was no change in the average ACT scores over the course of the project. None. CPS officials (and maybe you are one of them) were the ones that told me the PSAE scores of last year’s juniors would be the first test of the project. That is not to say there will not be future tests or that I won’t continue looking at the progress in these schools.

Further, to say other project components besides the curriculum packages are never discussed is unfair. I am well aware that the original project included such initiatives as smoothing the transition to high school and hiring and training better principals. But it is clear that the foundation is and always has been the curriculum packages. In fact, CPS officials have, themselves, abandoned the term High School Transformation and now refer to the project as the IDSes, which stands for Instructional Development System and is the curriculum packages only.

Unless you have evidence otherwise, I have been told that the Gates Foundation did stop funding the program last year. You are right to say the original grant was for $21 million and covered three years, the 2006-2007, 2007-2008 and the 2008-2009 school years. However, if the project was showing wild success, might Gates continue funding it? The fact is, they didn’t.

And Gates very pointedly decided to stop funding the evaluation reports which were supposed to continue for at least four years. The report released by SRI International and the Consortium on Chicago School Research found many serious problems with the implementation of the project, including the inability to deal with chronic absenteeism and continued problems with teacher quality.

Selective High Schools ranked by ACT scores wrote 4 years 47 weeks ago

Chicago high school test scores stall, including those at transf

1. Northside with 99.1% of senior class with ACT composite scores of 20 or better overall average ACT score 28.8

2. Payton with 100% of senior class with ACT composite scores of 20 or better overall average ACT score 28.2

3. Young with 96.6% of senior class with ACT composite scores of 20 or better overall average ACT score 25.9

4. Jones with 86.3% of senior class with ACT composite scores of 20 or better overall average ACT score 24.2

5. Lane with 78.9% of senior class with ACT composite scores of 20 or better overall average ACT score 22.4

6. Brooks with 67.9% of senior class with ACT composite scores of 20 or better overall average ACT score 21.1

Brian M. Bastyr wrote 4 years 47 weeks ago

Chicago high school test scores stall, including those at transf

Has anybody done the math to see what the ACT composite is if you take the Northside Preps and Paytons, etc, out of the mix?

Laura wrote 4 years 47 weeks ago

Chicago high school test scores stall, including those at transf

I'm not sure how IDS works, but I am confident that when the IDS scores are released, they will show how much those students are outperforming their non-IDS peers. How do I know this? I was forced to give IDS tests to all of my non-IDS instructed students, presumably the control group. All five of my classes were to take a two-day reading and writing test. Here is what occurred those days: On day one, the incompetent counselor failed to show up on time to deliver the tests to first period until the end of class (not the fault of IDS). My next period consisted of students who, because of their vocational major, are required to take physics. However, I was mandated to give them a chemistry test, which I did not know until that day. Of course, the students had no idea what to do. One looked down at the test, and then looked up at me, proclaiming: "I see dead people." What else would physics students see in a chemistry test they are forced to take during English? Ironically, there were about six students in that class who were given the pre-labeled geometry test. These were students classified as being in a different class because they are mainstreamed. Because most were in a different major, they were enrolled in chemistry courses and might have succeeded on that test. However, without warning -- therefore, without calculators! -- the CTT teacher and I were giving them a geometry test during their English class. Another one of my classes was given a geometry test, again without calculators. My other classes took the two-day reading/writing.
Perhaps these tests were given to evaluate whether the students could benefit from IDS or to help the corporate contractor design a better curriculum. If for comparison, however, I am sure the IDS students outperformed my students on the tests.

Jason wrote 4 years 47 weeks ago

Chicago high school test scores stall, including those at transf

To: Brian M. Bastyr:

The document at:
http://civiccommittee.org/Still%20Left%20Behind%20v2.pdf

...includes some interesting perspectives on disaggregating the data from the selective schools.

The efforts at the selective schools should be applauded - they're doing a nice job inside their walls. At the same time, though, they are increasing the gap by ensuring that very little academic talent will remain in the neighborhood schools that serve 72% high schoolers in CPS.

To Ms. Karp - Nice article. If somebody is getting defensive, you must be doing something right.

And a question - Is there a connection between these struggles and failed reforms and the district's staunch refusal to hire educators to lead it? After reading the Chicago Magazine article, I'm impressed by Mr. Huberman's history, but I have a hard time believing that we can't identify a candidate with a background in school administration and proven success in school reform.

Marc Sims wrote 4 years 47 weeks ago

Chicago high school test scores stall, including those at transf

Do you think public schools in Chicago can vastly improve without prenatal support?
viewpointchicago@yahoo.com

Horace is the Mann wrote 4 years 47 weeks ago

Chicago high school test scores stall, including those at transf

What's worse is Arne Duncan and the Dept. of Education are now FORCING states into selling off their schools through the "carrot and stick" approach both he and Obama have boasted about. If states do not raise their charter caps, they lose badly needed funding. Essentially, every school child in the state is punished if that state has the audacity to want to properly evaluate the successes and failures of charter-based reform. Does not sound like change from the bottom up to me. Its top-down and borders on authoritarianism. Please read Horace Mann's The Common School Journal if you want to know what real reform looks like. It was written in 1852, but is quite prophetic.

Compare Chicago Schools with real world class public schools wrote 4 years 46 weeks ago

Chicago high school test scores stall, including those at transf

Let us call all these Neo-cons on their ineptness. They score high on BS.

If you want to improve schools without the smoke and mirrors of Ren 2010 (charter schools) Read the technical report published by the National Staff Development Council on what works in real world class schools!
http://www.srnleads.org/resources/publications/nsdc.html

John MAKI LONE wrote 4 years 44 weeks ago

Chicago high school test scores stall, including those at transf

I'm very interested in your iniative of materials avaluation.As in my country (Democratic Republic of Congo) there is a project of teaching reform, i am committed to work on "cultural context and content evaluation in EFL materials" : study of high school level text-books in Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Your guidance to me u*in this process will be signifant for the advancement of the work. First, i would like to ask you to provide me with the model plan for such work.

Thanks.

Regards,

John MAKI LONE
Second Graduate
student at National
Pedagogical University
of Kinshasa/DRC.

John MAKI LONE wrote 4 years 44 weeks ago

Chicago high school test scores stall, including those at transf

I'm very interested in your iniative of materials avaluation.As in my country (Democratic Republic of Congo) there is a project of teaching reform, i am committed to work on "cultural context and content evaluation in EFL materials" : study of high school level text-books in Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Your guidance to me u*in this process will be signifant for the advancement of the work. First, i would like to ask you to provide me with the model plan for such work.

Thanks.

Regards,

John MAKI LONE
Second Graduate
student at National
Pedagogical University
of Kinshasa/DRC.

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