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Thursday letters: Keep pushing those higher CPS graduation rates

In a Wednesday op-ed, Chicago Public Schools CEO Forrest Claypool and Chief Education Officer Janice Jackson wrote about academic gains in recent years. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

The guest column on Wednesday by Forrest Claypool and Janice Jackson, heads of the Chicago Public Schools, was full of information about test score advances that are hard for non-specialists to evaluate, but their claim that graduation rates have risen 17 percent since 2011 jumped out. That related to a real-world benefit I’m familiar with.

When the military draft ended in 1973, the U.S. Army faced a major challenge in filling the ranks with volunteers. The Army did so by meeting two years of extraordinarily high recruiting goals. All the enlistees passed the entrance exams, but only 55 percent were high school graduates. It soon became apparent that turnover was high. The root of the problem was that high school dropouts, no matter their test scores, washed out before the end of their tours at twice the rate of graduates. The reasons were varied, but the simple conclusion was that graduation from high school was predictive of success. The Army solved the turnover problem by virtually eliminating the intake of non-grads.

The Army’s experience has been duplicated in the civilian world. A failure to stay in school until graduation makes it much harder for young people to even enter the world of work. If high unemployment is indeed at the root of many social problems, it is a worthy goal to improve on the good work done to date in turning out more CPS grads.

Thomas W. Evans, Mundelein, IL 60060

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Hiring more cops not solution

It would be a terrible mistake to hire 500 new police officers until the Justice Department completes its civil rights investigation of the Chicago Police Department and remedies are put in place. Spend that money on programs that would actually address our problems: economic incubators, education, safe after-school and weekend activities for young people, and community-based mental health services.

Muriel Balla, Hyde Park