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CPS grad rates improved 4 times faster than national average, district says

CPS graduation rates are growing faster than the national average, the district says. | File photo

CPS graduation rates are growing faster than the national average, the district says. | File photo

Four years of stark improvement in Chicago Public Schools graduation rates have city high schoolers on the path to closing the district’s gap behind national averages.

That’s according to federal data announced by CPS on Wednesday, showing the district’s graduation rate improved four times faster than the national rate between 2013 and 2017.

CPS’ four-year graduation rate improved 15.6 percentage points, compared to the national rate that ticked up by just 3.2 points over the same period, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

With an overall four-year graduation rate of 74.7 percent, CPS still lags behind the national rate of 84.6 percent — and it was unclear how much the district’s hemorrhaging enrollment might have affected the improvement figures.

About 400,000 CPS students were enrolled in 2013, a number that sank about 7 percent to roughly 371,000 in 2017.

At a Chicago Board of Education meeting on Wednesday, CPS CEO Janice Jackson largely credited the “significant” improvements to a focus on college readiness, career programs and other postsecondary preparation initiatives.

“Over the past decade, we have seen more and more dramatic results with regard to students graduating better prepared for college, career and life,” Jackson said. “As a district, we’ve said time and time again, we won’t rest on our laurels.”

Jackson has previously set an ambitious target of an 85 percent graduation rate by this year.

The data released Wednesday also showed district improvements among students of color doubled the national growth rates.

CPS’ graduation rate among African American and Latino students grew by 15.5 and 14.9 percentage points, respectively, compared to the 7.1 and 4.8 percentage-point improvement on the national level.

“When that many students make that much progress, it means the whole city is doing something right together,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a joint statement with Jackson. “Students, teachers, principals, parents, mentors and counselors are setting high expectations, shrinking the achievement gap and making Chicago proud.”