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CPS students hold steady on Nation’s Report Card

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CPS said it recruited potential members by hanging signs at schools and in City Hall, putting ads on 10 billboards citywide and in community newspapers, and presenting at community events, spokesman Michael Passman said. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Chicago Public Schools’ fourth and eighth-grade scores remained flat overall since 2015 on the Nation’s Report Card published Tuesday, though the district continues to outpace the state.

Illinois’ largest public school district saw a narrowing of the gap between students of color, who make up at least eight of 10 kids in CPS, and white students, in both grades and subjects. But oddly, that gap shrunk because of significant drops by white students on the tests rather than large strides shown by African-American and Hispanic kids, whose progress was mixed.

CPS as a whole followed national and statewide trends in 2017, showing roughly the same progress as 2015. That’s the last time these reading and math tests were given to samples of fourth- and eighth-graders in public schools. About 30 percent of CPS’ fourth-graders are considered proficient in math, and 27 percent in reading; about 27 percent of eighth-graders are considered proficient in reading and math.

Eighth-graders in the city’s public schools made some gains — about two points in reading and one in math on scale scores, but fourth-graders lost two points on the reading test, and stayed flat in math.

The district is continuing steadily on a long-term trend of growth from 2003, said LaTanya McDade, CPS’ chief education officer, when about 10 percent of CPS fourth-graders were proficient in math and 9 percent of eighth-graders.

CPS’ Chief Education Officer LaTanya McDade (right) attended the Chicago Board of Education’’s monthly meeting at CPS headquarters on Feb. 28, 2018. | Max Herman/For the Sun-Times

“We’re really excited about the gains that we’ve made over the years, and those things are continuing to hold steady across the board,” McDade said. “We have from administration to the next where you see some slight decreases, that’s not to be ignored … and we want to take this time to look at it with both national and local partners.”

In 2015, 55 points separated black CPS eighth-graders in 2015 from their white classmates in math, but only 46 points in 2017. For Hispanic eighth-graders, the math gap shrunk from 42 points in 2015 to 30 in 2017. In both cases, white student scores dropped.

McDade said it’s still too soon to dissect why different racial groups performed differently, though CPS noted that Hispanic eighth-graders earned the highest math scores of any large district.

NAEP scores have been touted by Mayor Rahm Emanuel in praising the academic success of the city’s public schoolchildren. A prominent Stanford University researcher also leaned on them to support his findings that CPS students were learning more than their peers in other big cities.