In August of 2013, CPS officials announced they would make the school rating system more comprehensive, looking at multiple factors, including college enrollment and how particular groups of students were doing, and change the ratings from three “levels” to five “tiers” to make it more nuanced.

But this new rating system does not seem to be working out.

Schools have yet to see the results for 2013-14 and now CPS is announcing yet another change. The CPS board meeting agenda posted this morning includes an amendment to the comprehensive performance policy that would retain a three-level system but would add “Level 1+” and “Level 2+.”

Also, it adds a paragraph that would allow CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett to keep a school to at “Level 1+”  (the highest level) or “Level 1” if the school experienced a “significant event.” Significant events are defined as a change in student population, teaching staff, principal, academic program or “any other event that had a significant impact.”

That Byrd-Bennett could overrule the rating system’s results would be unprecedented. It is sure to raise the ire and suspicion of principals and parents who are already suspicious of the ratings because they are late. Even before the more recent amendments were announced, one principal said he thinks that CPS officials are trying to protect particular schools that didn’t do well under the new policy.

In a statement released Monday afternoon*, Byrd-Bennett said that “schools that experienced a significant change that may have contributed to a lower rating deserve a full school year to recover without an impact to their rating.  By giving schools a one-year reprieve, we are recognizing the effect of the change on students, teachers and leadership without unfairly burdening the school with the additional requirements of a lower level school.”

District officials said the new ratings will be released “in the coming weeks” but did not specify when. The ratings are usually released in late September and given to parents as part of a school progress report on the November report card pickup days, which were last week.

This would be the second major change since CPS adopted a comprehensive rating system. In August of this year, CPS already had decided to give schools two ratings, one based on multiple measures and the other based solely on test scores. Schools get to claim the higher of the two ratings. Many suspected these changes were made to protect high-performing schools that didn’t do well on the other factors. ​

Ratings are used by parents to help choose schools. Principals say they are frustrated that the ratings are not available yet, especially if they are expecting to do better, because they use the ratings to market their schools.

The ratings are also used by officials as they decide what schools to close or turn around.

*This story has been updated to include Byrd-Bennett’s statement.

Sarah is the deputy editor of Catalyst Chicago.

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