Chicago's public schools have made little progress in raising student achievement during the last several years, according to a new nonprofit report.
The study, from the Civic Committee of The Commercial Club of Chicago, finds that substantial gains on the Illinois State Achievement Test are mainly the result of changes in the test, with only modest improvement in real student performance at elementary and middle schools.
On the Prairie State Achievement Examination, more than 70 percent of high school juniors fail to meet state standards, and fewer achieve scores that indicate college readiness on the national ACT exam in math, reading and science.
"It is clear that the vast majority of Chicago's elementary and high schools do not prepare their students for success in college and beyond," said R. Eden Martin, president of the Civic Committee. He called for an independent auditor to ensure the credibility of published reports on student achievement at Chicago Public Schools.
CPS spokeswoman Monique Bond said district officials were not surprised by some of the assessments. While the report did highlight some gains on the ISAT, she wrote in an e-mail, those do not indicate adequate progress.
"Even the smallest gain will never be enough," Bond wrote. "Small steps are worth noting, but we must do more to provide our educators with the tools to make stronger gains."
Those tools, she wrote, include improving teacher training, evaluations and incentives, as well as "giving principals more autonomy to run their school business" and implementing data-based systems to identify at-risk students.
The Civic Committee, comprised of senior executives in Chicago, issued its first "Still Left Behind" report in 2003. That study found that the Chicago school system was "radically dysfunctional," mired in politics and lacking competition from affordable, high-quality schools.
The committee is a supporter of Mayor Richard M. Daley's Renaissance 2010 campaign, established in 2004 to launch new, experimental schools in Chicago. Many of them are charter schools, funded by taxpayer dollars but exempt from state and local education policies.
The new report, released yesterday, calls for expanded autonomy and flexibility in the public school system, along with funding for charter schools that matches that of traditional public schools.
"Chicago should offer school families more and better choices," the report says. "Established charter schools, according to CPS reviews, consistently perform better" than traditional schools their students would have attended.
Rosemaria Genova, spokeswoman at the Chicago Teachers Union, questioned how the study's authors could reach that conclusion as data on charter schools remains elusive.
She pointed to a recent study from the Consortium on Chicago School Research, in which University of Chicago researchers omitted an analysis of charter schools because they did not have access to information on their teachers. She also argued that traditional public schools, not charter schools, lack adequate funding.
"It's easy to say something's working when nobody can get a look at what's on the inside," Genova said. "You can't compare charters to traditional schools when the resources aren't the same and we don't have access to information and transparency."
According to CPS records, district officials spent $11,033 per pupil during the 2008-09 school year. The district's total operating budget was $4.9 billion. Of 666 CPS schools, 67 were charters.
Staff Writer Adrian G. Uribarri can be reached at 773.362.5002, ext. 12, or adrian at chitowndailynews dot org.