Amundsen High School staff celebrating the district’s top rating of 1+ | provided photo

CPS enrollment drops over 20K in two years; schools get their ratings

SHARE CPS enrollment drops over 20K in two years; schools get their ratings
SHARE CPS enrollment drops over 20K in two years; schools get their ratings

Chicago Public Schools on Friday announced another five-figure enrollment drop, counting 371,000 students in the country’s third largest school district.

District officials also released school ratings, blaming the Cubs in part for a dip of schools with the top rating, and named four privately-managed schools that aren’t performing well enough to stay open past June.

CPS has lost about 21,000 students from its rolls in the last two years and now has just about 26,000 more students than the fourth largest, Miami-Dade County Public Schools in Florida. District-run schools serve 289,506 students and privately-managed charter schools account for about 62,435 according to a count taken earlier this month, on the 20th day of school.

The school system has a few hundred more white and Asian students than last year but lost 6,300 African-American children and about 3,700 Hispanic students. The city’s population has been shrinking, notably in black neighborhoods.

The city’s high schools continue to shrink, with more than 20 high schools enrolling fewer than 50 freshmen, four of those enrolling fewer than 20 ninth graders.

CEO Forrest Claypool attributed some of the loss to lower birth rates and immigration rates overall.

But Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Jesse Sharkey blamed the city for pushing families out.

“Student enrollment is down because Emanuel’s policy of disinvestment, destabilization and demolition in our most underserved black and brown communities is designed to do just that: drive out families that he simply doesn’t care about and doesn’t want in this city,” Sharkey said in a statement. “At the same time, he’s working to remake the city to accommodate upscale tech and financial firms instead of the regular working people that have made Chicago a great city – and who depend on public schools and services.”

CPS also listed four schools managed by charter or contract operators as eligible for closure for poor academic performance: ACE Tech High School could have its operating charter revoked, and North Lawndale–Collins,Urban Prep West and Plato schools may not have their charters renewed when they expire.

Two more charters,CICS Washington Park andKwame Nkrumah, also were added to CPS’ warning list and could become eligible for closure next year if they don’t improve.

Illinois Network of Charter Schools officials declined to comment, saying they first needed to review the data.

CPS rates schools on a five-level scale, from 1+ at the top, down to 3. Schools amass points for things like standardized test scores, parent surveys, graduation rates — and attendance.

The number of schools that earned CPS’ top two ratings fell slightly from about 400 to 373, officials said.

“Overall, the district saw a decrease in attendance, driven by the Presidential Election, Day Without an Immigrant movement, labor strike uncertainty and Cubs playoffs,” CPS said in a press release.

The number of the lowest rated Level 3 schools remained flat at just nine, but the category just above that, Level 2, grew by 26.

One high school celebrated the rare and proud achievement of earning a Level 1+ rating as an open enrollment school.

Teachers and students at Amundsen High School were surprised with the long-awaited news during an impromptu parade with silly string and candy tossed in the hallways. School leaders banged on drums, celebrating the official acknowledgement of what the community already knew but was happy to see validated.

“For a while the notion was, we’re a diamond in the rough,” said Demetrio Javier, a school dean and athletic director. “With this accomplishment of being rated as a level 1+ school . . . we’re a diamond.”

Unlike some of the other top-rated high schools that chose who gets in, Javier said, “we’re a community neighborhood high school, and I think that’s important to identify because we’re not handpicking anybody.”

Many neighborhood high schools have worried for their futures, especially as enrollment citywide as dwindled and CPS’ closing moratorium draws to a close. They’ve argued that they can provide a top academic experience, pointing to research showing how their lower-income students get better grades than their counterparts at selective schools.

“Our goal is to make sure that every public school in every neighborhood offers an excellent education…,” Claypool said in a press release.

Amundsen had been on CPS “probation” when its current leadership took over in 2012. The school has made steady progress ever since, crediting support from its alderman and the surrounding community’s families with its growth.

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