No miracle in Chicago

Chicago Public Schools didn’t improve on Arne Duncan’s watch, concludes a new report by  the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club. From Greg Hinz of Crain’s Chicago Business:

Titled “Still Left Behind,” the report freely uses terms like “abysmal” to describe the true state of public education in Chicago. . . .

Half of the students drop out by high school, and of those who remain until 11th grade, 70% fail to meet state standards, the report says. In fact, “In the regular (non-magnet) neighborhood high schools, which serve the vast preponderance of students, almost no students are prepared to succeed in college.”

Former Chicago CEO Arne Duncan, now U.S. secretary of education, claimed in 2006 that “the share of CPS students meeting or exceeding state standards had leapt 15 points in one year.” But the test had changed, the report concludes.

. . . while the test employed locally reported that the share of 8th graders meeting math standards grew from 32% to 71% from 2005 to 2007, the national test, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education, showed scores effectively flat, moving from 11% to only 13%.

Chicago high school students, whose test wasn’t changed, showed no progress.

A spokesman for Duncan responded that more eighth graders are performing above the state average, and ACT scores increased by a point from 2001 to 2008.

Andrew Coulson of Cato & Liberty  doubted claims of progress even before the Civic Committee’s report. Using 4th and 8th grade math and reading score changes on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, he compared Chicago to other large cities around the nation.  Chicago students did no better than others in urban districts from 2002 to 2007, when Duncan was in charge.

HuffPo’s Bill Sweetland wants more specifics on how the tests were changed, leading to the illusion of progress.

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  1. Ponderosa says:

    Oy, another ambitious Ivy Leaguer who uses one job to create a spurious image of accomplishment and then moves on to a different job before anyone can see it’s just an illusion. Duncan should admit he doesn’t really know what he’s doing and yield to a truly sage expert.

  2. Duncan should admit he doesn’t really know what he’s doing and yield to a truly sage expert.

    What, like all of Bush’s appointees?

  3. Read what people in Illinois have been writing. The story of school reform has been charter schools. Piles of research, several consecutive studies, have shown that Chicago charter schools are outpacing their peers. But – and this is where a little local knowledge (or reading the Chicago Tribune from time to time) comes in handy – charters have been limited in number by state law. This last year, there were 30 charter schools operating on 67 campuses. Fewer than 10 percent of district students attended those schools; thus the overall stagnation of district-run schools will shroud any progress made by the charter sector.

    Make no mistake about it. Charter schools in Chicago are an overwhelming success, and Duncan oversaw that expansion for several years. Duncan’s failure in Illinois was that he did not possess the political skills to get the cap removed from Chicago’s charter schools (and he wasn’t alone in that respect). Technically, that cap is still set at 30, though legislation has now been sent to Gov. Pat Quinn’s desk that would raise the cap in Chicago to 75.

    Charters have been the seed of hope for a reform of Chicago’s schools. And finally, assuming Gov. Quinn signs that legislation, they’ll be able to more quickly expand, and perhaps then you’ll see a marked improvement in the district’s overall performance numbers.

  4. Ponderosa says:

    Mike, I’m a GOTV volunteer for Obama. I just fear he’s been hoodwinked by Duncan and other self-styled “successful education leaders”.

  5. Richard Aubrey says:

    Be a shame if, for some reason, things improve immediately after he left.

  6. thaprof says:

    He will fit in very well with the other empty suits that comprise the Obama administration.