Between September 1995 and September 1996, 17,000 students left the Chicago public schools for non-public or suburban schools, according to a Catalystanalysis of School Board data.

Students bailed out at every grade level, but 8th grade topped the list, with about 2,700 students leaving for public suburban or non-public schools. Kindergarten was next with 1,600 students. Other grades averaged about 1,200.

While the leavers are more middle class than is total CPS enrollment, most are low income. While they are a much whiter than is total CPS enrollment, most are students of color. While they are more likely to do well on standardized tests, most do not score at or above national norms.

About a third of the leavers transferred to non-public schools.

Of those who moved to the suburbs, Cicero was by far the most popular destination, attracting more than 600 students. Other high-ranking destinations included Calumet City, Harvey, Maywood, Berwyn, Skokie and Dolton.

In cases where specific destinations were recorded, Catalyst found that the top choices for 8th-graders were non-public schools. Leading the list were Gordon Tech, De LaSalle, Notre Dame, Brother Rice, Queen of Peace, St. Ignatius and Mother McAuley.

Here are some other ways in which the 8th-grade group stood out:

POVERTY LEVEL At every grade except 7 and 8, more than 75 percent of leavers are low income. Even most students who transfer to non-public schools are low income. Of the 5,350 students who left for non-public schools, more than 3,000 are low income; the overwhelming majority of the low-income kids who went to private or parochial school are black and Latino.

ACHIEVEMENT LEVEL At every grade except 8th, more than 60 percent score below national norms in reading. In 8th grade, 46 percent score below norms. Overall, transferring high school students had the lowest test scores.

PRIVATE, PUBLIC Eighth grade is also the only grade where more students opt for non-public rather than public suburban schools.

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