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Chicago Public Schools students graduating at record-high rates

The district’s dropout rate has also plunged. “I have no doubt that we will be the best district in the country because of the momentum we are seeing,” CPS CEO Pedro Martinez said.

Chicago Public Schools CEO Pedro Martinez discusses graduation rates in the district during a news conference Thursday afternoon at Amundsen High School on the North Side.
Chicago Public Schools CEO Pedro Martinez discusses graduation rates in the district during a news conference Thursday afternoon at Amundsen High School on the North Side.
Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Chicago Public Schools students are graduating at a record rate despite the pandemic’s educational disruptions, officials announced Thursday.

The district has seen dramatic improvements over the past decade, reaching an 83.8% rate in 2021 of students graduating within five years of starting high school. That’s up from 82.5% last year and just over half of students completing their K-12 education in 2011. The four-year rate fell slightly from 80.8% last year to 80.2% this year.

“I have no doubt that we will be the best district in the country because of the momentum we are seeing,” CPS CEO Pedro Martinez said at a news conference at Amundsen High School. “And students, it’s because of you.

“This is just the beginning. Our schools are going to continue to get stronger.”

Chicago Public Schools CEO Pedro Martinez discusses graduation rates in the district during a news conference Thursday afternoon at Amundsen High School on the North Side.
Chicago Public Schools CEO Pedro Martinez discusses graduation rates in the district during a news conference Thursday afternoon at Amundsen High School on the North Side.
Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

The school system, the nation’s third largest, said the increased rates were spurred by all racial groups, but there was particularly strong progress from Black high schoolers. The district didn’t release graduation rates for each racial group, but it said gaps decreased for the third consecutive year.

Officials also announced CPS’ record low dropout rate of 3.8%, also with improvements by all children and particularly Black students.

There were fewer graduates overall, however, due to declining enrollment: 20,722, vs. 21,069 last year.

CPS has held similar press conferences over the past few years to tout the progress, last year making it a point to show the then-record-high graduation rate showed schools were making it through the pandemic.

Experts have said the more telling metrics of COVID-19’s impact will come years down the road when students who were middle schoolers or freshman and sophomores when the virus sent them home for a year reach the end of their high school careers.

Highly competitive selective enrollment schools once again featured prominently among the schools with the highest graduation rates. Jones College Prep and Ogden High School’s 98.3% rates topped the list, followed by Payton College Prep at 97.6% and Kenwood Academy at 96.9%.

Amundsen, the school where Thursday’s press conference was held, was also among a list of the 60 or so high schools that exceeded the district’s average graduation rate this year.

Amundsen Principal Anna Pavichevich said she was proud to see the progress her school has made over the past decade.

“This type of change doesn’t happen overnight,” she said. “It doesn’t happen by accident. And it certainly doesn’t happen without a lot of hard work by the staff, the students, their families and our school district.

“Every principal and every educator in the room knows that adults can create amazing plans for school improvement, but that it is the students who do all of the heavy lifting to get that work done.”