Chicago Public Schools officials touted a rise in district-wide standardized scores on Thursday, but acknowledged that the increase did little to close an achievement gap between white and minority students.
The announcement came the same day that CPS and all other public school districts in Illinois were owed general state aid payments for the upcoming school year, but were denied them while the education funding formula needed to dole the money out still is being negotiated in Springfield.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his handpicked school team focused only on the broad strokes during a news conference at Mary Lyon Elementary School, 2941 N. McVicker. They wouldn’t provide or discuss a school-by-school breakdown of the new test scores, nor would they talk about any emerging patterns.
Most of the schools singled out as having 95 percent or more students hitting national averages in reading and math are selective by design, meaning students must test in to attend those schools as part of a highly competitive process.
A full breakdown will be distributed to individual schools and posted online — but only after they are first “shared and celebrated” with local communities, Chief Education Officer Janice Jackson said, declining to say when.
“We have several examples of … African-American, Latino schools, low [socio-economic status] that are doing quite well,” Jackson said.
It was only after the news conference — as Claypool was attempting to pull her away from reporters — that Jackson acknowledged under questioning that the “achievement gap” between black and white students remains “about the same.”
“Just like in American school data, there is always an achievement gap. But … we’ve seen, over the last five years, a constant improvement … most notably among our Latino students,” Jackson said.
“When we get that data out, I intend to fully talk about the achievement gap and also talk about the district’s efforts to close that gap. … The achievement gap is a problem. It’s something we’re gonna continue to fight against. But I’m not gonna not celebrate the tremendous academic gains that have happened across all the schools in CPS, in particular our elementary schools.”
The mayor tried to use the new test scores as Exhibit A in the case for an override of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s amendatory veto of a school-funding formula reform bill — a veto which has resulted in no public school districts receiving state payments due on Thursday. State officials continue to negotiate the terms of a funding bill. The Senate is scheduled to convene Sunday to override the veto and the House next week.
To help with cash flow, the state’s comptroller released $429 million in transportation and special education payments that schools had expected last March. Some $135 million of it went to CPS, which still has no operating budget weeks before classes restart.
“The kids of Chicago not only deserve the funding. They not only need the funding. But these test scores prove that they’ve earned the funding to be treated as equal citizens of the state of Illinois,” Emanuel said.
Last week, Emanuel accused Rauner of “governing through anger” and predicted Republicans and Democrats alike would choose “loyalty to kids over loyalty to the governor” by overriding Rauner’s veto of a school funding bill.
On Thursday, he doubled-down on that bold prediction with trademark sarcasm about his old friend.
“I want to compliment the governor because the governor, by playing divisive politics, has brought people across the state of Illinois together on education policy,” the mayor said.
“Deerfield, East Moline, Peoria, rural, suburban, urban school districts have all called for an override of the governor’s veto. … And it’s not often that you see Deerfield and Chicago on the same side on education.”
Schools CEO Forrest Claypool argued that the “remarkable academic progress” demonstrated by the latest round of test scores put the lie to the “hurtful false stereotypes being bandied about” in Springfield about the Chicago Public Schools.
“This is the truth about CPS. The truth about CPS is that, even though the state of Illinois provides $500 million-a-year less than our enrollment should dictate, CPS is out-performing schools nationally, out-performing schools throughout Illinois [and] year after year gaining and becoming better. This is a school system worth investing in,” Claypool said.