CPS elementary schools, whether they are run by the district or by charter operators, perform about the same overall: A third are doing great, a third so-so and a third perform poorly, according to an analysis of CPS school ratings that were released Monday.

 The rating system casts a much more troubling light on high schools, with half of traditional CPS high schools given the worst rating. CPS has ratings for only 14 of about 40 charter high schools, but of those, 57 percent were given the lowest rating. (CPS officials say they are still collecting data from some charters and will provide updated data once the information is complete.) 

The Academy for Urban School Leadership, charged with turning around 14 of the district’s lowest-achieving schools, is doing well with its elementary schools but not with high schools. Among elementary schools, 77 percent of AUSL turnarounds ranked as Level 2—the mid-level rating. But all four of the turnaround high schools are Level 3, the worst rating.

For elementary schools, the ratings are based on performance and progress on the ISAT as well as the attendance rate. For high schools, ratings are based on the 11th-grade Prairie State exam and the ACT, as well as the freshman on-track rate, the one-year dropout rate and the percent of students enrolled and successful in Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate classes.

The ratings will be featured on school progress reports, and will be available for parents of regular-track schools when they pick up their children Tuesday. Individual school progress reports can be found by online at www.cps.edu by looking up the school, under “Find a school.”
This year, the ratings do not hold as much weight. In the past, the ratings played a key role in whether a school was closed, but this year proposed guidelines on school actions focus on utilization as the key factor for consideration. However, CPS officials are promising that students at closed schools will be sent to schools with higher ratings or better trend data. 
This year, responding to criticism that last year’s reports were too confusing and showed results of several standardized tests, CPS officials revamped the progress reports and featured the school ratings as the main indicator.  

For the first time, the progress report also provides some information on suspensions. CPS has the dubious distinction of being a national leader in suspensions, with one of the highest suspension rates in the country, and has been criticized for a lack of transparency with school-level suspensions data.

The progress report provides information on the percent of misconduct reports that result in suspension and the average days students are suspended. The district average is 57 percent of misconduct reports resulting in suspension, for an average length of 2.4 days. CPS officials say parents will be able to see whether their schools are using alternatives to suspensions.

However,the reports do not include the raw numbers of students suspended.

Though the rating is based on the ISAT score, for the second year in a row, CPS is providing information on growth and performance on the NWEA, another exam tied to national standards that is considered to be more rigorous than ISAT.

CPS officials say they want parents to get used to the future when new Common Core standards are implemented. With these tougher standards, a school that once looked like it was doing well might look far worse. Last year, a Catalyst Chicago analysis found that to be the case. 

Sarah is the deputy editor of Catalyst Chicago.

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