On Track To Graduate

Today's news includes a new release from CPS about increases in the "on track" rate -- product of real improvements or changes in reporting, I don't know (do you?).  I've included the CPS press release as well as the coverage from BEZ and the Sun Times so you can see what folks are saying and tell us if it's on the up and up.  Plus more on violence, closings, and Morgan Park's sports schedule.


Record number of Chicago public school students on track to graduate WBEZ: Almost 75 percent of the sophomores in Chicago Public Schools are on track to graduate this year.

CPS announces low one-year dropouts and high freshmen “on-track-to-graduate Sun-Times: Chicago Public Schools officials early Friday hailed more positive signs for the system: a record low one-year dropout rate and a record high freshmen “on-track-to-graduate” rate.


"Never Leave Your Block" WTTW: A new book looks at Bucktown's transformation -- from gang territory to stomping ground for new gentrifiers. We talk with author and former Chicago Sun-Times reporter Scott Jacobs.

In Chicago, Proof Positive That Mentoring Decreases Youth Violence U.S. News & World Report: A large social science research study by the University of Chicago Crime Lab, in partnership withChicago Public Schools and local nonprofits, found that counseling and mentoring actually work.


Aldermen want hearings on school closings Tribune: Chicago Public Schools officials say publicly that there is no specific school-closing plan, but aldermen and other sources have told the Tribune that discussions focus on closing 80 to 120 sparsely populated and underperforming schools.

CTU's Next Fight: School Closures NBC: The Chicago Teachers Union and Chicago Public Schools are both celebrating the official and historic teacher contract, but it's clear the battles aren't over.


Teacher strike in Evergreen Park SD 124 could last a while Sun Times: A teachers strike in Evergreen Park School District 124 that started Tuesday might not be settled until at least next week, a union spokesman said.

Young people register to vote in Daley Plaza WBEZ: Hundreds of students from the 22 campuses of Youth Connection Charter Schools came downtown to sign up to vote Thursday. Youth Connection Charter Network serves kids who have dropped out of regular Chicago public schools.

Morgan Park playoff hopes get a boost SouthtownStar: Officially at least, one top-level Chicago Public Schools football team will have a full nine-game schedule this year. That distinction goes to Morgan Park, thanks to a quirk in the Public League schedule.

McCormick Foundation awards 'Why News Matters' grants  Tribune: Other Chicago recipients include: Alternative Schools Network, City Colleges, DePaul University, Erie Neighborhood House, Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana, Illinois Humanities Council, Local Initiatives Support Corp., Northwestern ...

Lake View High chosen as Microsoft Pathfinder school Bizjournals: Lake View High School in Chicago was one of six schools inducted as part of the new class of Microsoft Innovative Pathfinder schools, the Redmond, Wash.-based software giant said.

CPS Freshmen See Highest “On-Track” to Graduate Percentage on Record

This is the Fifth Consecutive Year of Increasing Freshmen On-Track Percentage;

2011-2012 School Year Dropout Rate is Lowest on Record


Chicago – Chicago Public Schools (CPS) today announced that the rate for freshmen on-track to graduate for School Year (SY) 2011-2012 is the highest on record at 74.8 percent, up 2.2 percentage points from 2011. This is the fifth consecutive year of growth for the freshmen on-track rate, for a total increase of 17.7 percentage points since 2007. Additionally, the one-year dropout rate for SY 2011-2012 is the lowest on record, at 7.6 percent. This is the fourth consecutive year of a decrease in the dropout rate; in 2008, the dropout rate was 12 percent, and CPS has had approximately 5,000 fewer dropouts since that year.


“The highest on-track rates and the lowest dropout rates we have seen in recent years are another encouraging sign of the progress our students are making, thanks to the great work and remarkable things our teachers do every day in the classroom,” said CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard. “We’ve seen record ISAT and ACT scores for our students as well, but we know more can and must be done. This year’s implementation of the Full School Day and year provide additional tools and resources for teachers and principals to support our students and the opportunity to continue this momentum.”

According to the Consortium on Chicago School Research (CCSR), freshmen who are on-track are three and a half times more likely to graduate from high school in four years than students who are off-track. The measurement looks at course grades and credits in the first year of high school and students are considered on-track at the end of their freshman year if they accumulated at least five course credits and failed no more than one semester course in a core subject (English, math, social science, or science) during the school year. For SY 2011-2012, the freshman on-track rate increased across the board for white, African-American, and Hispanic students.


The one-year dropout rate is the percent of students enrolled in grades nine through twelve at any time during a school year who dropped out during that year. For SY 2011-2012, the dropout rate went down across the board among white, African American and Hispanic students.


In addition to an increase of freshman on-track to graduate, CPS also recently announced that students in the District are scoring higher than ever before on the ACT, suggesting that students are not only more likely to stay on-track to graduate, but they are also performing better. Students recorded the highest average ACT score on record at 17.6, with an increase of 0.4 scale score points over 2011. This is the largest one-year growth that students have recorded since 2004. The 2012 ACT data also indicated that 8.9 percent of CPS students met college readiness bench marks in all four tests (reading, math, science, and English), an increase of 1.0 percentage point from last year.

Last month, CPS announced that CPS students also recorded the highest project graduation rate on record: 60.6 percent. Additionally, college enrollment hit an all-time record and was up for the seventh consecutive year: 59.5 percent of CPS graduates from the class of 2011 having enrolled in college. This reflects an increase of 3.8 percentage points over the class of 2010.


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    Imagine how much higher these scores and lower the drop out rate would be IF the disctrict would allow teachers the autonomy to get the job done....Brizzard/Rham say that principles need autonomy to run their schools - well teachers need autonomy to run their classrooms.

    I know a teacher that spends 4 hours each Sunday afternoon filling out a lesson plan form that is mandated by his/her principal - BUT NO ONE USES IT. They have to squeeze their lesson plans into some new theory that is being paid to DePaul (wonder how much that cost?)- its such a waste of time. Teachers that have high test scores and high evaluations should be able to just keep doing what they are doing. Let the teachers who are struggling and new teachers to have to conform to the flavor of the month program.

    This teacher and I counted last week that he/she had 10 hours of BUSY work that had NO correlation to the classroom.

  • In reply to M Wesoloskie:

    Sorry to read they are with DePaul-saw the DePaul model in INACTION--at Corliss-helped keep Coliss on probation! Ask Barabra Radner the last time she taught one 10 week marking period in a CPS high poverty school. And she teaches future CPS teachers!
    Too bad about the principal, but principals are getting their butts whipped by the area officers. Principal have no autonomy and are beasts of burden to the 'officers.' Brizard says 'autonomy'--if he meant it, princials who have earned it would have it. There are many princials and their teachers who have earned it and they are chained by the chiefs.

  • There is no question that on a system wide basis this improvement in freshmen on-track to graduate over the last few years is a positive development. Chicago has consistently shown improvement in this area under several administrations. But what if this improvement is actually an illusion that just creates more graduates who lack viable academic mastery of the course work? There seems little question that over all inner city students are better off with a high school diploma than no diploma at all.

    In order to understand this indicator I recommend that D299 readers review Elaine Allensworth and John Easton's article on the development of this indicator. You can download it at http://ccsr.uchicago.edu/publications/track-indicator-predictor-high-school-graduation.

    A student is counted as on-track at the end of freshman year if both of the following criteria are met:

    1:The student has accumulated five full course credits, the number needed to be promoted to tenth grade according to CPS policy.
    2:The student has no more than one semester F (that is, one-half of a full credit) in a core subject (English, math, science, or social studies).

    A critical issue in relation to this indicator is evidence of grade inflation. Currently the district's formal standard for high school grading is as follows:
    1. Students who have unexcused absences in 20% or more of the classes in a particular course during the period for which a unit of credit is earned shall not pass the course and shall receive no credit towards promotion. 2. Results on final end-of-semester examinations shall constitute at least 10% of students’ final semester grade. (CPS Board report 04-0128-PO1)

    CPS policy includes this statement: "Student work must be regularly and systematically assessed with methods that both challenge students and provide an accurate evaluation of students’ success in learning course subject matter. Teachers shall regularly use a variety of criteria in assessing students’ work, e.g., objective and essay tests, student portfolios, oral presentations, research assignments, homework and classwork. These assessment criteria should be appropriate to the course content and should provide students with a variety of means by which they can demonstrate their mastery of the material covered in a class."

    Pursuant to CPS policy: "Principals are responsible for communicating grading requirements and standards to teachers and their school grading coordinator(s) annually no later than the teacher institute days that precede the opening of each school year." Policy also states: "Teachers are responsible for evaluating students and for determining students’ grades in the subject area or activity for which the teacher is responsible. Teachers shall use the approved grading scale and system to evaluate pupil performance and progress and shall assign grades based upon the teacher’s professional judgment of the student’s work." Formally the CPS district wide grading scale is as follows:

    A - Substantially exceeding the standard.
    B - Exceeding the standard.
    C - Meeting the standard.
    D - Less than acceptable performance on the standard.
    F - Does not meet the standard.

    When using the IMPACT grade entering system these standards are translated by CPS teachers into a grading scale of
    A 90-100
    B 80-89
    C 70-79
    D 60-69
    F below 60

    CPS has never examined whether or not grade inflation is taking place in the system at the level of Ds and Fs. ACT has looked at the larger issue of grade inflation nationally and concluded that it is happening when examined over a 13 year period. One study that demonstrates this can be found at

    This study used the ACT Composite score, the ACT English score, and the ACT Mathematics score. HS Overall GPA, HS English GPA, and HS mathematics GPA were computed for all students. These HSGPAs were derived from grades in 23 courses that were tracked over the 13 years.

    The issue is more complex actually than comparing grades to standardized test scores and the common core standards make this actually no simpler. As we all recall grades issued in most math classes are assessment driven, but in English lit or social studies is more complex. Laurence Zoeckler an education professor wrote a very interesting article on the moral aspects of grading in his article "Moral Aspects Of Grading: A Study Of High School English Teachers’ Perceptions" (American Secondary Education 35(2) SPRING 2007)

    Here in Chicago without question a letter grade of D in one high school can mean one thing and another in a different high school. In fact students that walk the boarder line on having unexcused absences in 20% or more in a particular course can in some cases get several absences converted into the excused category in order to allow a student to pass. How often this happens is completely unknown and I have never seen an audit on this issue.

    From my experience the students given these kind of breaks are basically good kids who do not disrupt class when present and who often just live in situations that promote having little or no structure. In fact these same kids were often given similar breaks in elementary school. In some cases these breaks have been given to students with IEPs rightly or wrongly as the individual case may be.

    CPS before it cheers too much in relation to the on-track to graduate indicator it needs to look long and hard at the issue of grading standards in high schools, including in charter high schools. I am not suggesting that there be a crack down on teachers in lower performing high schools giving students a break and passing them based on some standard of effort.

    Entering grades using the IMPACT high school Gradebook program because of the option to enter a manual override for the semester grade and the ability of teachers to modify the weights of existing categories so the system will automatically recalculate the semester grade can allow for giving good kids a break. I am also not suggesting that they not be given a break.

    But this is a real issue and I do know from my own experience as an inner city high school teacher that I was pressured not to fail the majority of students in my classes, which I could have easily done for various sections based on course content mastery alone using the paper grading system. It is also a very demoralizing experience to have sections where 60% or more of your students are getting Fs in big part because of class cutting and absences.

    I think this is all a little more complex than the CPS press release would make it appear. All be it with the caveats I have given, CPS' improvement in its freshmen on-track to graduate has to be considered an achievement.

    Rod Estvan

  • In reply to Rodestvan:

    As an HS core content area teacher I can say that at my school any classroom failure rate above 30 percent led to a LOT of pressure from the administration along with a punishing amount remediation paperwork for the teacher to complete.

    Message sent, message received.

    D's became the new F's.

    This all began during Huberman's reign, I seem to recall the grand poobah of "freshmen on track" was David Gilligan. On a snowy day at Taft -- I don't teach at Taft, the school was hosting the meeting-- when he first shared this with all of our ILT's (instructional leadership teams).

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Then, it's sad to say that it's about the adults, not the kids. At what level of failure should teachers take responsibility? 40, 50, 60, 70, 80 percent failure? EFFECTIVE teachers would never be comfortable with high failure rates, would not wait on administrators to point it out, and therefore would not be faced with mountains of paperwork.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Look at Rod's original hypothesis: "But what if this improvement is actually an illusion that just creates more graduates who lack viable academic mastery of the course work?"

    I believe most of this improvement is/was/remains an illusion because it is about the adults -- the adults at 125 S Clark and at the various networks/areas/chiefdoms or what have you who consistently hamstring effective teachers by inflicting odious curricula (IDS anyone?) and moving target assessments (IDS quarterlies/scantron/reach).

    At what point does rigor meet reality? As an effective teacher I've taught classes that legitimately had 10-15 percent failure rates but also classes with more than 50 percent.

    Effective does not mean god-like.

  • I wonder why we continue to use the ACT for any purpose.

    From a Sanford University blog:

    ACT and SAT have traditionally been used for predicting first year grades and not graduation. 'Crossing The Finish Line', a book by former Princeton president Bill Bowen and Spencer Foundation head Mike McPherson explains that the ACT and SAT 1 reasoning bear almost no relationship to college completion after high school course grades and SAT2 subject tests are taken into account. High school grades are the best predictor of college graduation. They are followed by AP exams and SAT 2 subject matter tests like world history."

    There is a plethora of research out there that confirms that high school grades are better indicators of both early success and completion of college than standardized test scores such as the ACT or SAT. Many universities, and Ivy League schools in particular, are dumping tests as admissions criteria. ACT will remain a viable company as long as the scores from their tests are used to judge schools and teachers rather than the capabilities of students.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Do you think in the estimation of Harvard a 3.8 GPA from a low income African American student at Urban Prep is equal to a 3.8 GPA from a low income African American student at Northside Prep? I doubt it, unless the student from Urban Prep has reasonable strong ACT or SAT scores. Compelling stories of pulling yourself up by your boot straps will only get you so far, and both of these students might be able to demonstrate that too. Northwestern has so many applicants with stellar ACT scores and near perfect GPAs its really amazing. In fact they have to look for other tie breakers, assuming money is not an issue.

    I don't disagree that tests like the ACT and SAT have numerous problems, but the best predictor of college completion and success is still probably a combination of GPA and college admissions tests. Using one in isolation from the other is less predictive from most studies I have seen. I don't think its right, but it is the way most of the studies I have seen that use really big data sets find it.

    Now for the type of student likely today to enroll in Ivy League Colleges, by almost any measure they are extremely high performing. Those schools that do not use ACT/SAT at all often are using writing samples and other information sources about students besides GPA, including a lot of personal history. That clearly is a thoughtful process, but a big university like Champaign with big enrollment quotas uses simpler and cheaper systems.

    Rod Estvan

    Rod Estvan

    Rod Estvan

  • Rod asks: "Do you think in the estimation of Harvard a 3.8 GPA from a low income African American student at Urban Prep is equal to a 3.8 GPA from a low income African American student at Northside Prep?"

    Of course not. And perhaps a 3.8 GPA is worth more from Latin or Lab than from Northside. The strongest correlation in all of testing-land is between family income and SAT scores. A good ACT score can be purchased as well (lots of evidence regarding how coach-able that particular test is...if you have the money for tutors). But I don't want to waste band-width preaching to the choir. You know as well as anyone that it is ultimately all about family income.
    But what does that have to do with the possibility of inflated grades at your local neighborhood high school? Everything really. Those of us who have to make those grading decisions have some fairly good common sense in my experience. We know our passing grades might be a failing grade at an SE or wealthy private school, but our kids are also running as fast as they can and you bet we are going to reward effort. Life's not fair and then we die. Hopefully we can all find some luck, love, and knowledge in the meantime.

  • Really?

    Students who have unexcused absences in 20% or more of the classes in a particular course during the period for which a unit of credit is earned shall not pass the course and shall receive no credit towards promotion

    If you know the material, you should get the grade based on that. Heck, if everyone that knows the material stays home, it would benefit the kids that don't because they would have a much smaller effective class size.

    It seems unfair that some child with involved parents gets excused and the poor kid with the alcoholic single parent and younger sibling to care for when mom goes on a bender is SOL.

  • cps released an outline of how it plans to pay for the new contract, and some required budget meetings -- here's CNBC's writeup

    CNBC writeup on how CPS says it will pay added costs of CTU contract http://ow.ly/egYLB

    more to come

  • Further central office cuts announced at CPS - Tribune http://ow.ly/ehblY

  • If CPS really wanted to save money and free up money for teacher raises, CPS would do audits on coaches' pay and hours, make them swipe in/out, and pay them for the hours they actually coach.

    "Public League coaches all get paid the same rate, $24.10 an hour for fiscal year 2013, according to the newly negotiated contract between the Chicago Public Schools and its teachers. The hourly rate rises to $24.58 and then $25.08 in the next two years.

    But all CPS head coaches aren’t treated equally. Some (basketball, football) get paid for 240 hours work per season ($5,784 in fiscal 2013), while others (swimming, wrestling, track and field, gymnastics, soccer, baseball, softball, volleyball, water polo, lacrosse) are compensated for 200 hours ($4,820). Near the bottom of the salary ladder are cross country, tennis and golf, whose head coaches are paid for just 65 hours ($1,566.50)." (http://highschoolsports.suntimes.com/home/15566499-390/cross-country-cps-coaches-pay-doesnt-add-up.html)

    I'm in the building at Prosser and there's no way our football coach (the infamous Jeffrey S. Bates) puts in 240 hours, especially since he does nothing but have two meetings prior to the 1st practice. Bates doesn't scout or watch any film on opponents and there's NO off-season program for the football team. And, Bates did the same thing as basketball coach.

    Also, Bates is somehow getting stipends for being a basketball and softball coach. Yet, he doesn't coach either sport. Who's watching the henhouse here?Our Principal Kenneth Hunter and AD Martin Walsh blindly sign off on Bates' hours and don't question anything. Why is this? Isn't there some kind of fraud here?

    As for Bates being the head football at Prosser, here's what I learned and ballparked if you calculate the hours actually put in for practices and games together:

    (5) 2-hr practices before Prosser's 1st game = (10) hours

    (4) 2-hr. practices before each of their NEXT 5 games = (40) hours (add 16 more hours for the last 2 games = (56) total hours of practice time for the season)

    (6) game days where the team is together for (4) hours = (24) hours (add 8 more hours for last 2 games = (32) hours of game day time for the season)

    So, Bates wil end up with (98) total hours for the 2012 season not (240) hours. Bates should be paid $2362 for the 2012 season, not $5784.

    That's $3422 which should be going to other coaches in other sports, especially with Prosser being 0-6, being outscored by 318-6 this season for an average of 53-1 in their games this year, and all while Bates talks on his cell phone during games and let's his grossly underpaid and more unqualified assistant coaches run practices during the week. Plus, Bates isn't certified by ISBE, doesn't have an ASEP (American Sports Education Program) or any other football coaching certificate, and didn't complete the CPS mandated concussion training program.

    Do you want some irony in Bates overpayment as Prosser's head football coach?

    In my 'very fair' calculations, Bates is being over paid $3422 for the 2012 season. And the $3422 overpayment to Bates = (2) coaches' salaries of $1566.50 ($3133) for bottom of the salary ladder sports of cross country, tennis and golf.

    Or, a Bates's $3422 overpayment is a little more than 2/3's the salary of a swimming, wrestling, track and field, gymnastics, soccer, baseball, softball, volleyball, water polo, lacrosse, who are compensated for 200 hours ($4,820).

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