CEO Jean-Claude Brizard challenged a Chicago Urban League audience on Monday to become more forceful advocates for better education, in order to close the widening achievement gap between minority and white students in CPS, especially African Americans.Black students have fallen behind their white and Latino peers on the ISAT and Prairie State exams, a situation Brizard called “unacceptable [and] disheartening.”  

Although Brizard didn’t mention it in his speech, the state’s adoption of the Common Core Standards is likely, at least initially, to show an even wider achievement gap. The Common Core Standards adopted by Illinois and some 40 other states are considered far more rigorous than Illinois’ current standards—which means the new tests that are being developed to debut in 2014 will be tougher as well. In Chicago, 35 schools have signed on to be ‘early adopters’ of the Common Core.

According to one study, just 19 percent of CPS students would meet Common Core literacy standards and just 17 percent would meet Common Core standards in algebra.

Brizard spoke of his own experiences as a struggling immigrant student from Haiti, noted several schools in low-income communities that he said are making progress, and highlighted some of a list of statistics and research showing the extent of the achievement gap. The research includes a recent Consortium on Chicago School Research report that found virtually no progress in achievement in CPS, with black students faring worst.

Brizard said the statistics illustrated the need for a longer school day, and blamed “union politics” for scuttling a pilot program that prompted a Chicago Teachers Union complaint to the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board. (The board plans to seek an injunction against the program.)

Here are the statistics  on the achievement gap in CPS and Brizard’s speech.

Lorraine is the executive editor of The Chicago Reporter. Email her at

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