Best (and Worst) Of 2008

CPS put out this list of accomplishments for 2008 that I thought you might like to see -- the official version of events to say the least. My own informal review of 2008 includes another year of sketchy doings on the ISAT and PSAE (equivalencies, anyone?), the sudden withdrawal of the Pride HS proposal, the failed effort to revamp education funding, ongoing youth violence, etc. Best and worst of 2008? Share your favorite high and lowlights here. I'm sure I'm missing some big ones.

For more

information contact:

Jeanie Chung


Office of Communications



Fax: 773-553-1622



Dec. 31, 2008


Another Year of Strong Progress for Chicago’s



Include 7th Straight Year of ISAT Gains, Study Lauding District for


Progress’ in Teacher Quality


was a significant year for the Chicago Public Schools, which saw scores on the

Illinois Standards Achievement Test rise for the seventh straight year. ISAT

scores hit an all-time high, with

more than 65 percent of students meeting or exceeding state standards. The

district has also seen gains on the ACT. CPS high school students have gained

twice as much as the state and three times as much as the nation over the past

five years—and in the number of students taking and passing Advanced

Placement courses. On the writing portion of the National Assessment of

Educational Progress, CPS’ eighth-graders also out-gained the nation.


students continue to make progress—not just in test scores, but in the

district’s falling dropout rate, rising first-day attendance rate and

college enrollment rate. The district is recruiting more and better-trained

teachers, and subjecting them to greater accountability. And, thanks primarily

to taxpayer support, many school buildings are in better shape than at any time

during the last decade.


progress didn’t happen by accident,” said Mayor Richard M. Daley.

“It happened because our school leaders and I share a vision in which our

public schools educate every student in every school, regardless of where they

live or what their background may be.”


district marked numerous other highlights in 2008. Two CPS high schools:

Northside College Prep, 5501 N.

Kedzie Ave., and Walter Payton College Prep, 1034 N. Wells St.,

were selected among the top 100 high schools nationwide by U.S. News and World

Report. Both are repeat selections.


CPS’ efforts to think outside the box, the district unveiled two new

initiatives aimed at improving performance. “Green for Grades”

gives 20 high schools students financial incentives for bringing home As, Bs

and Cs, while the Chicago Teacher Advancement Program (TAP), piloted in the

2007-08 school year in 10 schools and in 10 more this school year, focuses on

performance awards, enhanced training, common planning time and career

enhancement for teachers and other school staff.


year began with current U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings

in Chicago along with President George W. Bush to highlight

Greeley Elementary, 832 W. Sheridan Rd., a Blue-Ribbon School.

Coincidentally, Spellings was back again in December to celebrate the


of Chicago TAP.


on the success of turnaround efforts at Sherman and Harvard elementary schools,

where staff at low-performing schools are replaced while students remain, CPS

undertook a record number of turnarounds in 2008: four high schools and four

elementary schools. Two of the high schools, Harper and Orr, are each being

turned around at the same time as two of their feeder elementary schools.


need for change in these schools is urgent,” Duncan said. “We can’t wait to

provide better education options for our children. We have to find a way to do

it now.”


were only part of the story for the record 34 new schools this year. CPS also

opened five new elementary magnet schools—Disney II, 3815 N. Kedvale

Ave.; LaSalle II, 1148 N. Honore

St.; Sir Miles Davis, 6730 S. Paulina Ave.; Kershaw, 6450 S.

Lowe Ave.; and Oscar Mayer, 2250 N. Clifton Ave.—and a new regional

gifted center at Coonley, 4046 N. Leavitt St..

The district has worked hard at improving teacher

quality, and a study released in June by the Illinois Education Research

Council indicated that those efforts are paying off. “Chicago, especially, has made remarkable progress in

bolstering the caliber of its teaching force,” stated the report, titled,

“Leveling Up: Narrowing the Teacher Academic Capital Gap in Illinois.”

“The district has shown that not only is it possible to improve teacher

quality, but that by hiring new teachers who have strong academic

characteristics, it is possible to do so over a relatively short period of

time.” The number of teacher vacancies in CPS at the start of the school

year hit an all-time low of three percent.


record percentage of CPS graduates from the class of 2007 enrolled in college

the subsequent fall: 50 percent, compared to 43.5 percent from the class of

2004, the first year CPS began tracking enrollment. The graduating class of

2008 also earned a record $157 million in competitive college scholarships.


with these successes, CPS’ Department of College and Career Preparation

continues to push forward with new programs aimed at getting more students

enrolled in college. Spring break 2008 saw the department’s first Spring

Break College Tours, which sent ten busloads of students to visit colleges from

the Ivy League to the Chicago

area. It also opened College and Career Centers

in 64 high schools across the city, staffed with counselors other department

staff and equipped with computers, printers and college applications and

information. The department also continued its efforts to improve student

completion of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.


Office of High School Programs also continued to work at addressing the dropout

problem. The office created a new program called Graduation Pathways, focused

both on identifying and helping at-risk students, particularly freshmen, before

they drop out and helping those who have left the system to return and pursue

their diploma.


the first goal, Graduation Pathways established Freshman On-Track Labs in

selected schools, with full-time staff to help freshmen make the transition to

high school and improve academic performance and attendance. Each school also

receives a “freshman watchlist” identifying students who may need

extra help to stay on-track. The district also unveiled Freshman Connection, a

voluntary summer program for rising ninth-graders, encompassing academic and

recreational activities and held at the students’ destination high

schools. In addition, students had a chance to visit their new schools as eighth-graders

during High School Investigation Day.


also launched a pilot program allowing high school students to recover credits

online over the summer.


YES (Youth Engaged in Schools) Initiative is another element of Graduation

Pathways, focused on reducing youth involvement in gangs and supporting

students who are re-entering CPS from juvenile detention facilities.


district provided more opportunities for its youngest students this year,

announcing 1,500 additional pre-school slots.


attendance incentives, including a raffle for a car, helped boost attendance

for the spring. More than 85,000 students had perfect attendance from March 1

through April 30: more than four times the number for the same period in 2007.

That momentum carried over into the 2008-09 school year; the first day of

school saw a record-high attendance of 93.7 percent.


with keeping more students in the classroom, CPS also worked to enhance what

those students learned there. Federal grant money and a reallocation of CPS

funds allowed the district to expand its language programs in Arabic, Chinese

and Russian. A district-wide algebra program ensured that more teachers are

certified to teach high-school level algebra to middle-grade students, while

also ensuring that only those students who are prepared to take the course

early are able to do so.


remained, however. The ongoing school funding crisis led to the first

rescheduling of a Chicago Board of Education meeting, moved from Wednesday, May

28 to Monday, June 2, enabling Duncan and Board President Rufus Williams to

travel to Springfield to urge legislators to pass a responsible education

budget. Their efforts were successful, but a long-term solution remains

elusive. The district held an end-of-year rally June 10 at Soldier Field, which

thousands of students attended, focusing on school funding and violence



district continued with efforts to reach out to the larger community. Its

successful Principal for a Day program marked its 10th year with

more than 1,400 volunteer principals, and its offshoot, Teacher for a Day,

expanded from a pilot with 60 participants to 428 “teachers”

systemwide. CPS became the first large urban district to launch a website for

alumni,, which won an

award from the Web Marketing Association, and also launched a new, more

parent-friendly main website,


of the final highlights of the year was Duncan’s selection as Secretary

of Education under President-elect Barack Obama, which Duncan considered, “a

reflection on all of us—our hard work, our teamwork, our willingness to

take risks and make tough decisions, our ability to listen and analyze things

in a thoughtful and open-minded way, to change course when needed, and to build

on what’s working. But most of all, it’s a reflection of our

commitment to making a difference in kids’ lives through their education.”


Duncan and his team deserve credit for providing the leadership to implement

these commitments and to keep student progress going year after year,”

Mayor Daley said. “I’d like to thank Arne for his commitment to our

children and to improving their education. We wish him the very best in his new

job as the nation’s next Secretary of Education.”

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