No Silver Bullet Solutions For City’s Failing Schools
For 20 years, the Chicago Public Schools have tried it all.
High-stakes tests, decentralization, ending social promotion, shuttering failing schools and opening new ones.
And through it all, reading scores in the city‘s weakest elementary schools largely haven’t budged, an exhaustive University of Chicago study released Friday shows.
It’s a conclusion Mayor Rahm Emanuel should take to heart as he embarks on the latest school reform effort: extending the school day.
Emanuel has been pushing relentlessly for a longer day. He plans to extend the day for all schools next fall and CPS has been aggressively courting schools willing to extend their day this year.
We are strong backers of a longer day. Chicago has among the shortest school days of all big cities, and both students and teachers would benefit from a longer day, even if there is no immediate improvement in test scores.
But the sobering report by the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research reminds us of a tough reality: It is exceptionally hard to sustain major gains in Chicago‘s most disadvantaged schools.
By itself, a longer school day will not do the trick, particularly if only hours, and not any enrichment or new supports, are added to the day. The Chicago Teachers Union has been pushing CPS to explain how it will pay for the added science, social studies, art and physical education classes that will make a longer day a more enriching one – and they are absolutely right to do so.
Consortium researchers looked at test score results from 1990 to 2009, drawing conclusions that turn the conventional wisdom about Chicago schools on its head.
For years, faulty year-to-year comparison of test scores suggested that elementary math and reading scores were rising while high school scores were stagnating. Using an elaborate statistical model that relied on average test scores, rather than the percentage of students meeting state standards, the researchers found just the opposite.
Chicago‘s graduation rate has skyrocketed. Two-thirds of CPS students now earn diplomas by age 19, compared with 48 percent in the early 1990s. Also, the average ACT score jumped by about a point in the last decade – a particularly impressive achievement given that more students are making it to junior year to take the college entrance exam. These are successes worth exploring to see what can be replicated on the elementary level.
In those lower grades, there was almost no growth in reading over the 20-year period and only incremental growth in math.
This average, however, obscures the real problem. Reading scores improved modestly for whites and Asians and slightly for Latino children. But among African-American students, CPS‘ largest demographic group, reading scores are essentially unchanged from 1990. Likewise, math scores rose considerably among Asian, white and Latino students but only slightly for blacks.
The researchers also found that the lowest achieving schools were the least likely to show substantial improvement in reading or math over time.
The problem, then, isn’t with CPS as a whole. It’s in the city‘s predominately black elementary schools and in its lowest performing schools. The most attention and care, then, should go to those flagging schools. We’re all for a longer day. But if Emanuel wants to produce real growth, it makes sense to hone in on the schools that clearly need the most help.
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“There is a Silver Bullet Solution to improve the academic performance of Black children. It is engaging, developing and empowering Black parents to take over the educational process for their children and allowing them to properly manage the education of their children.
But this is a solution that America does not want and in which it will not invest. The U.S. would rather continue to invest tens of billions of dollars in the failure of Black children, which leads to the break-down of the Black family, the destruction of young Black men and the decimation of Black communities. All of this rather than partner with Black parents for the educational success of Black children! America gets what America wants!
Black parents and the Black community must take control of the education of their children. Those who control the education of the children control the future of that race!”