City students show ISAT gains

  • By Paul D. Bowker
  • Education reporter
  • September 16, 2008 @ 7:11 AM

Standardized test scores at city elementary schools rose for the seventh consecutive year and hit “historical” levels never seen before, Mayor Richard M. Daley and Chicago Public Schools officials announced yesterday.

According to preliminary data, 67.8 percent of students in grades 3-8 met or exceeded standards on the Illinois Standards Achievement Test administered last spring. The composite score, which includes science, reading and math results, rose 1.3 percent.

In 2001, the district‘s composite average was 38.4 percent meeting or exceeding state standards.

“A seven-year winning streak is unbelievable,” says Arne Duncan, CPS chief. “This is just an extraordinary day.”

Last year, 78.7 percent of students statewide met or exceeded state standards.

This year's statewide average has not been released. But it's likely to be higher than the CPS average.

“It’s going upwards, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have challenges,“ says Daley.

The mayor announced the CPS scores at a news conference at E.F. Young Elementary, 1434 N. Parkside Ave. The number of passing students there has nearly tripled in seven years, from 18.7 percent in 2001 to more than 54 percent in 2007.

School-by-school scores within Chicago will be released sometime in October, says Celeste Garrett, CPS spokeswoman.

Preliminary figures also show the percentage of Chicago students exceeding state standards rose, from 11.4 percent last year to 13.1 percent this year. The percentage rose in all three tested areas -- math, science and reading.

“Those steady gains over multiple schools are moving us in the right direction to close the achievement gap,” says Chicago Board of Education President Rufus Williams.

The city’s reading scores rose, even as reading scores fell statewide. 60.1 percent of Chicago fifth-graders met or exceeded standards in reading this year, up from 52.5 percent.

Barbara Eason-Watkins, CPS chief education officer, and Crystal Bell, principal of Flagg Elementary, attributed that to reading specialists who are working with teachers and students.

Scores for all racial and ethnic groups increased, CPS officials report. Fifty-eight percent of African-American students met state standards, up from 54.2 percent, and 74.4 percent of Hispanic students met state standards, up from 72.0.

“This is not just one school, not one community,” Duncan says. “Every single area of the city improved. … It‘s amazing to me how much progress we‘ve made despite limited resources. We have to have a breakthrough this year (from legislators) in Springfield.”

The city’s preliminary figures do not reflect scores of students classified as  English Language Learners, who do not speak English as their first language.

Paul Bowker, a Chicago-area journalist with 25 years of experience, covers Chicago Public Schools for the Daily News.