Study Explodes CPS Progress Claims

All of you University of Chicago haters might have to rethink your feelings with this new UofC study showing that most of the progress claimed by school leaders since 1988 has been an illusion.  This isn't a big surprise among those who pay attention to cut scores and testing changes, but may be a surprise to the general public:

Assessments of Chicago schools are flawed report says NYT: A discouraging new University of Chicago study on academic performance across three eras of reform efforts contradicts impressions created by Chicago Public Schools testing data.

U. of C. report says CPS reforms have failed many students Tribune: For the last two decades, Chicago's public school system has been a laboratory of education reform and experimentation, but it has delivered only marginal improvement in student performance.

Despite School Reform Efforts, Little Progress CNC: The consortium study used a complex statistical analysis of data from each state-administered test over the last 20 years, controlling for changes in the test’s content and how it was scored, said Stuart Luppescu, a lead consortium researcher.

Study: No real progress in CPS grade school reading in 20 years Sun Times: Despite millions of dollars in fixes and programs, Chicago’s elementary grade reading scores have barely budged over the last two decades, a new report by the University of Chicago’s Consortium on Chicago School Researchhas found.

20 years of school reform yields widening achievement gaps, no reading gains WBEZ: If you look at a graph of test scores for Chicago elementary schools, you see a line that goes up and up over the years. Reading scores are soaring, math scores too. Forget that, says researcher Elaine Allensworth.

Study: No real progress in CPS grade school reading in 20 years Sun Times: Despite millions of dollars in fixes and programs, Chicago’s elementary grade reading scores have barely budged over the last two decades, a new report by the University of Chicago’s Consortium on Chicago School Research has found.



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  • If you want to read the actual report go to

    As always I recommend reading the actual report rather than newspaper summaries of reports when ever possible. The consortium study does not discuss the achievement levels of students with IEPs as a subgroup over the 20 year period. It also statistically puts students with very significant disabilities who are not awarded standard diplomas in the category of dropouts, I think that is wrong. The analysis we have done at Access Living over the years using NAEP data, ISAT, PSAE, and the numbers of students given the IAA indicates that on average no progress has been made for this subgroup in reading. We have not examined math data.

    I do think the consortium study puts too much emphasis on students being college ready. Historically poor and minority children have been only admitted to college at the margins there is no reason to believe that this should have changed over the last 20 years. In fact with the decline in the last 20 years of social programs targeting low income families that came out of the Great Society thrust of the late 1960s and early 1970s we have gotten exactly what should be expected.

    Rod Estvan

  • Rod: Why would a study like this not address the students with IEP cohort? What's the logic there?

  • In reply to Anonymous:

    From past discussions with U of C researchers I got the impression that there were concerns about the validity of the results given that many students with IEPs were given modifications on the tests. Also to some degree the statistical results are so damning they seem hesitant to put out the numbers. Once I found data in a footnote that indicated the average ACT composite score for students with IEPs was only a 12. This number excludes all students not given the standardized test.

    Rod Estvan

  • Thank you Alex!

    Do we need any more evidence that having the school board run by the mayor is a disaster?

    Prediction: Twenty years from now UofC will do another study showing that extending the school day will produce no measurable results.

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    I don't understand what Rod's point is with special ed students. For one thing, we included all special ed students who had test scores in the elementary test trends in contrast to the CPS statistics, which exclude most special ed kids. Moreover, as CPS policies change the percentage of special ed kids changes, influencing the statistics. That introduces perturbations that makes it hard to make comparisons across years.
    As far as graduation statistics are concerned, if a student has an IEP and completes the graduation requirements stipulated by the IEP, we count that student as having graduated. Of course, if the student doesn't complete the requirements, he/she is counted as having dropped out. I think CPS does their calculations the same way.

  • What a great example of how the science and art of education so often clash. My nephew, a mentally impaired student, earned a certificate of completion when he finished high school. I am appalled that he was counted as a "drop out"; I had no idea until reading your comment. His years of working harder than anyone else in the school, and yes, learning, has just been diminished to abject failure by number crunchers. That, sir, is why it is "wrong".

  • In reply to Anonymous:

    Responding to Stuart : The point is that parents of students with IEPs who did take the ISAT, ITBS, and PSAE should be given an idea whether or not over a 20 year period of time this subgroup has shown any progress. If it could not be done for the full 20 years then it should have been done for the relevant part of the time the scores could reasonably been presented, possibly even for 10 years. But given the fact that by grade 11 so few students with IEPs in 2010 are making standards we have an idea that not much progress has been made. But the public's access to data is relatively primitive compared to the Consortium's and the public really does not understand how functionally illiterate disabled students who do graduate are on average. Yet over 20 years special education expenditures have been in the billions.

    The point is every day at Access Living's offices we have former CPS special education graduates seeking housing assistance because they are homeless and have been living on SSI or other forms of public assistance. These graduates are often not so disabled as to be granted anything by the Illinois Department of Mental health. The point is CPS special education is a massive failure, avoiding the discussion in a report like this just allows the problem to continue. It actually hurts Access Living's efforts to force CPS to increase the rigor of special education services.

    I can also assure you that not one parent of a significantly disabled student was ever informed at an IEP meeting where the student was not granted a standard diploma due to a disabling condition that CPS or Consortium would count these students as dropouts. I can understand parents being upset about this revelation that not even I have ever heard before.

    Rod Estvan

  • We had a new special education teacher at our school. She was awesome but lost her position due to budget cuts. We mentored her and we told her that it was against ISAT rules to read the reading portion of the test. Yet, when she went to another school, the case manager forced her to write into the IEP that all reading tests including classroom and standardized tests be read to the student.
    When she protested that a reading test is a reading test and that these students were able to read, the unethical case manager reported her to the principal who deferred to the case manager. Principals really can get into big trouble listening to case managers who do not know what they are doing...unfortunately the teacher left the school. There is no oversight from ISBE on testing practices nor is it monitored via the IEP by those useless SSAs.

  • In reply to Anonymous:

    While case managers should not write accommodations in the IEP that direct staff to read a state standardized reading test to a student, some do. The fault, in my opinion, lies at the feet of the principal. S/he should be well versed in the procedures and protocols of the state standardized tests. All are very explicit that no reading test may be read to a student with an IEP. The State of Illinois supersedes an erroneous case manager and principal.

  • In reply to 4015N:

    The SSA in our area told the case managers to write "read all tests including standardized"....all OES at CO has to do is check the IEPs in the Area 11 is blatant..oh and also check out the amount of children who need a scribe...but just for the test..not daily....CO needs to investigate this or scrap the is invalid if the rules are ignored.

  • In reply to Anonymous:

    If I worked at that/those schools, I would inform CO and alert the State about these practices.

  • In reply to 4015N:

    CO plays DILLIGAF constantly. This information on testing accommodations for ISAT can be found on the electronic IEP which can easily be accessed from the padded seats at CO. The SSAs came in, sat down, audited(a joke) and did nothing. ISBE looks the other way because they are
    understaffed. If ISBE and CPS had done their jobs we would not have been found guilty in the Corey H. case.

  • seth lavin has this to say:

    "A lot of people are just going to accommodate the findings into whatever view of the world they started out with. (It’s the wrong data! or See! None of this reform worked at all!). That won’t help but it’s certainly hard to draw a central conclusion we can use to move forward... school reform isn’t a battle or a fight or a war that Vallas/Duncan lost. Reform doesn’t mean victory of good guys with good ideas over bad guys with bad ideas. There aren’t any bad guys. Improvement is really hard and it takes time, attention to detail and objectivity about what’s working—new ideas and old."

    he also notes "“Anonymous.” Alexander Russo posted part of last week’s note on his blog, where an anonymous commenter wrote “CICS in not the charter with the most campuses. That dubious distinction belongs to the Youth Connection Charter Schools (aka YCCS) with something like 22. Understandable mistake as YCCS flies way under the radar.” Anonymous is right! I’d never heard of YCCS, a massive Chicago charter network that only does alternative path to graduation."

  • Glad you've tuned in Stuart; now listen up -

    I have to tell you, I find it fascinating that you do not understand what Rod is saying. I'm sure Chicago taxpayers would find it interesting as well. As I have said for a number of years, it passes understanding how your outfit, which produces ::: no teachers,::, purports to say what makes a good school.
    But of course as the years go on (and the money runs dry - oh, is that why you're finally biting the hand that's fattened you for so long?) it becomes obvious to even the most math-averse that you gargoyles aren't actually doing any research up there in your belfry, Your studies aren't data, they're opinion surveys, like Coke vs. Pepsi taste tests in the mall.
    You have been more than a small player in this tragedy, feeding whatever cooked statistics those two dunderheads wanted that implied that it was the classroom teacher who wasn't doing his job. Egging them on and whispering in their ear that if only a college track curriculum were forced on all, even desperately poor children with no support, no money, no enrichment and no ramp up, that miraculously these children's taste in literature, media, the arts and science would change overnight, without the city having to improve the quality of life in Chicago one iota.
    And when this rarified diet only sustained a small white privileged sliver of the school population, why then, that too was our fault. Cramming classrooms and creating 'inclusion' models that are 75% IEP kids, all at the expense of vocational programs, even though no one has figured out how to fix plumbing online or repair cars virtually. No, no -it had to be all college prep or nothing.
    Because if you force children of all intelligence, ability levels and resources to be measured by the same yardstick, only then would teachers pull out those secret tricks they've been holding out and we'd have to produce 100% college graduates.
    That Duncan and Vallas have finally felt the back of your hand is of little comfort to career educators who have given their lives to these children and :::always::: knew that these ham-handed slams and the knee-jerk reactions to them would have lasting and far-reaching repercussions to a society and a nation.
    I am only thankful that asinine B-school ethics that produced the subprime mortgage meltdown, and the revelation that rocket scientists from schools like yours created probability models based on the WRONG data (they based their default projections on regular, not subprime borrowers) will once and for all pull away the curtain and show what a puppet show and a gyp it has been.
    You could have limited your damage to your rich clientele, who could afford to sustain it, but by instead imposing your flawed philosophies on the working poor your harm is sin, evil and grievous sin.
    I honestly don't know how you sleep at night.

  • In reply to Anonymous:

    Please send this to the major media...well said and so true!

  • There is complaining and there are legitimate concerns. Every study does not have to address SPED. I don't think this coversation would be generated if the focus was SPED and did not mention gen ed. There is a much larger issue here which is the political manipulation of results that affects ALL students. This clearly lends itself to inferences about SPED, but should not be ignored or criticized because it doesn't address SPED. Why not contact the Consortium and request this work?

  • In reply to Anonymous:

    I don't think anyone missed the larger point. But unless you are a classroom teacher, you have no idea how SPED inclusion, lack of SPED resources, and slow learners (a group that is never discussed because they do not formally make up a "sub-group") affect ALL students.

  • In reply to Anonymous:

    For accuracy, make it "inappropriaxte SPED inclusion" along with the other frauds mentioned.

  • In reply to Anonymous:

    Access Living formally did make such a request when John Easton was at the Consortium. John went with Duncan to the DOE. There was one Consortium report that focused on high concentrations of students with special education labels in various general high schools. That report was very useful and as I recall I praised it.

    But the Consortium has extensive data capabilities that allow it to look at how students with disabilities perform in different settings. For example, how do students with LD look in co-taught classes vs. classes where they are only provided consultative services. How do students provided services via a pull out model look. These are critical questions for the reform of special education. Over the 20 years that the current report covers there were never fewer than 47,000 students with IEPs in the system, which simply put is massive.

    The Corey H case relating to CPS special education is coming to an end and unfortunately the issues relating to academic achievement of students with disabilities were not seriously addressed. Because I was a consultant to the court in that case for years I have to accept a certain level of responsibility for this. But where was the outside pressure for academic press for these children similar to the pressure the Consortium put on CPS for the African American subgroup as a whole?

    With the college focus effectively the Consortium is writing off these children because based on national data sets very few will get 20 or better on the ACT. The question of basic literacy for students with IEPs who do not have significant cognitive disabilities does not exist in the frame of reference that the Consortium operates under, nor does vocational education for these students. High expectations for this subgroup certainly is something less than an ACT composite score of 20, but clearly more than a composite score of 12.

    As I said to the CPS Board two months ago, and this was on tape, the achievement levels for CPS graduates with disabilities is simply put criminal.

    It is also by the way criminal in most lower income school districts in the state. It is also why ISBE has now been forced to actually take control over special education in East St. Louis.

    As with special education students there are also fairly complex issues with ELL students. The testing process has been even more confused for these students.

    Lastly as to the issues raised over inappropriate testing modifications for students with IEPs it is a real problem. It indicates that in some cases actual achievement levels for students with moderate disabilities may even be lower than the data indicates, which is really scary. It also means more CPS special education graduates in line to talk to Access Living's staff seeking food and shelter.

    Rod Estvan

  • In reply to Rodestvan:

    Yes, you were a consultant and one of the few who actually exhibited knowledge of special education law. I do remember you from 20 years ago as someone who cared. Whether or not you are responsible for the debacle that is special
    education/lack of Corey H. implementation is dubious. The system is massive and the incompetence at the top especially in specialized services is glaring. You tried to effect change but like many other intelligent people in OSS you had to leave. I know many special education teachers who are advices for their students at great personal cost.

    The test scores of students with disabilities will drop in the grammar schools because in full inclusion there are no direct services being given because the teachers are not allowed to pull out the students. Parents need to wake up.

  • In reply to Anonymous:

    Because of a rule change at the US Department of Education CPS next year may cut the special education budget significantly because the state of Illinois will legally be able reduce the dollars it sends to CPS and other districts. Currently the state is delaying special ed payments all the time and CPS is effectively borrowing from the reserve fund to cover these delays.

    Given the coming reality of cuts, which I and other advocates will attempt to contain in Springfield, but will likely not be able to stop there will not be enough special teachers any more to provide direct services to all students with IEPs. CPS will be forced to move to the use of cross certified teachers at the elementary school level to meet IEP requirements for most moderately disabled students. Co-teaching will become near impossible because there will be too few special education teachers to do it in the years to come.

    I have been advocating for lower classroom sizes for cross certified teachers who are both servicing students with IEPs and educating regular ed students at the same time. I have also been advocating for a higher pay scale for these teachers based on the higher work requirements.

    I think most special education teachers in CPS ten years from now may be directly instructing only very disabled students and very few mild LD and EBD students.

    If I could waive a wand and create a system for CPS students with more mild disabilities it would: have smaller inclusive basic classes with cross certified teachers, and have late afternoon remedial pull outs with special education teachers who are also reading and math specialists for all students with IEPs that are falling behind. Parents of these children would be provided with training in working with their kids deficits and home work completion at least one Saturday a month and one night a month. Every family of a moderately disabled child would be eligible for social work services and there would be more social workers in the system to link kids and families up with outside services. But that is of course a dream.

    Rod Estvan

    PS: I am out of town and may not be able to respond to direct questions or comments.

  • In reply to Rodestvan:

    Speech srtudents are not longer considered in the CPS formula for how many sped ed students a 'regular' teacher can have. At least this helped with the amount of students in great ned in your homeroom. Our levels of special education students in each classroom have increased.
    Good luck with CPS allowing for any lower class size with the next contract.

  • Emanuel, Brizard, Vitale, Quinn, Obama & Duncan: pay now for good sped or pay more later. You too, taxpayer.

  • If the students are special ed AND bilingual... oh my what a mess it's become since there's no one left in the office of bilingual special ed.
    The state won't let students exit the bilingual program unless they reach the cutoff numbers on the ACCESS, which the students with significant cognitive disabilities will never do. We're now told that we have to keep them in bilingual forever, the only way to get them out is to get the parents to sign a 'refusal of services' document.

  • In reply to Anonymous:

    I do not get the problem here? If CD students only speak and understand Spanish, then they should be taught in that language first and then in English on the basic skills level they need. It that takes until they are 21 or more--so be it.

  • In reply to Anonymous:

    I absolutely agree that students whose primary language is Spanish should receive instruction in the native language. My comment refers to those students who understand/communicate in English comparable to native speakers who have similar disabilities. They end up having to remain in the program because they are unable to test out due to their disabilities. A related situation is those disabled students who end up in bilingual because they can't reach the score they need on the initial screener. If the Home Language Survey response indicates the student needs to be screened, even though their English may be top notch, if they can't pass the reading/writing screener, they end up in the program.

  • Rod--CPS OSS making cuts now to SECAs and to CD programs--taking away the aides in the classrooms and onthe buses. Will not tell schools or parents why. What is going on?

  • In reply to Anonymous:

    What appears to be happening is that almost all of the IEPs for these classrooms are being written for "shared" aides. Once that is done the real meaning of having aides for children becomes confused.

    CPS is now arguing that if the aide is listed as "shared" there is effectively no limit on the number of children they can be required to service. There is no clear administrative rule on this any more, but certain types of self contained classes based on size are required to have one aide present in the room. There are limited CTU contract provisions on this and I am sure there are current filed cases on this issue, but where that may end up I have no idea

    There is no clear administrative rule on the difference between the duties of instructional aides and child welfare attendants other than the educational requirement that instructional aide have a certain number of college credits. It seems to me that CPS is intensifying the work load of aides, which may or may not be legal for individual students depending on how the IEPs are written.

    Due process hearing officers have ruled different ways on the issue of shared aides for students so there is no clear line here at all. I suspect once a series of students who exhibit serious self injurious behaviors get hurt who have shared aides listed on their IEPs win both due process cases and win, what is very rare, an educational malpractice case for damages this will continue. In fact given the court system this may never happen.

    Rod Estvan

  • In reply to Rodestvan:

    We have shared aides in our cross categorical room and our self-contained room for children with autism. We have complained to the region and central office that it is an unsafe situation. The aide leaves with one child for the inclusive setting in another building and the other child stays in the self-contained room. If a fire breaks out the aide is going to get the child out who is with her. The other child is in a room with nine children and only
    two adults. There is no way two adults can get out nine children with severe disabilities out of a burning building especially if the one child with the aide (who is in the other building) lies on the floor when the alarm goes off as he usually does. So, it will take a tragedy to stop the shared aide bull----.
    Why do suburban districts somehow manage to service their children with disabilities so much better than we do? I know no program is perfect anywhere but ours are a travesty. When will someone look into how the special education monies are dispersed in CPS?

  • In reply to Rodestvan:

    Rod- CPS is redefining the instructional aide positions and making them child welfare attendants. Therefor, these former aides are no longer members of the CTU. This is not just to reduce special ed costs, it is also to take members away from CTU.

  • No progress in 20 years! Is this even news? and who cares anyway? You know who cares? Nobody! If somebody cared, they might have noticed 19 years ago! Or maybe 15, 10, 5, or 2 years ago!

    You might have asked a teacher and actually listened!

    In fact, if you did ask a teacher they probably told you…but what credibility do teachers have? Business leaders know what's best for education - and so does Hollywood and Rahm and Jean Claude.

    They knows what's best for your child! Larger class sizes for your child! Lower wages for your child's teacher! Increasing teacher attrition rates at your child's school!

    Oh, wait a minute - that's what's good for their child!

  • Any irony here that UC does this study yet they have had great
    influence on the CPS school improvment planning process for every CPS school? So many schools forced to buy their textbooks too. Where is their culpability?

  • Mayor control of CPS has failed. C of U has backed the mayors and their incompetent CPS administrators. CCSU faculty member Elaine Allensworth openly saying that Huberman would be a capable CEO of schools says much about their so called unbiased status.
    Alex call it like it is, the mayors men are deformers, not system transformers. What I fear is that they will then call for privatization of schools. With the exception of a handful of schools, that model is not sustainable. Sorry Juan Rangel.

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