Under the school performance ratings released today, CPS neighborhood high schools made dramatic improvements, with the percentage of schools at the lowest level dropping from 60 percent to 49 percent.

Among others, Chicago Vocational Career Academy, Roosevelt, Manley and Clemente are all now Level 2 schools in a three- level system.  Many of these schools had been stuck in the lowest level—level 3—since the current rating system’s inception in 2008.

The data release comes as CPS is set to transition to a new rating system that will have five levels of performance, instead of just three. The new system will factor in college persistence and put more emphasis on the performance of students with disabilities, English learners, and African-American and Latino students. 

Also, for elementary schools, the new rating system will be based on a different standardized test, the NWEA , rather than the ISAT, which is being phased out.

CPS officials released the performance ratings without making an official available to comment or answer questions. The Communications Office also failed to make any principals available. (CPS principals have been given instructions not to talk to the press without Communication’s approval.)

Overall, 81 elementary schools saw improvements in their level, and 91 saw their performance slide. Twenty-six high schools saw their levels improve and just 13 saw a decrease. 

Other points:

  • Seven schools moved from level 1 to level 3. Two of them—Jensen and Lavizzo—were schools designated to receive students from closing schools. CPS leaders promised that so-called “welcoming” schools were going to be better than the closed schools. Lavizzo Principal Tracey Stelly has said that some of the test score drop at her school was due to an extraordinary number of students transferring into the school late in the school year.
  • Another seven elementary schools – Black, McClellan, Hernandez Middle School, DuBois, Belmont-Cragin, Brentano and Ariel — saw their ratings increase dramatically from Level 3 to Level 1.
  • Overall, charter schools and neighborhood schools cut a similar profile. Among charters, 20 percent have the highest rating, 49 percent have the middle rating, and 31 percent have the lowest. Among neighborhood schools, 25 percent have the highest, 39 percent have the middle rating, and 36 percent have the lowest.

AUSL sees declines

Twelve of 24 schools managed by the Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL) received a level 3 rating, and half of those had had higher ratings last year. However, Phillips High School, an AUSL school, shot from Level 3 to Level 1. CPS pays AUSL to conduct turnarounds, which entail replacing a school’s entire staff, and to manage a handful of other schools. This year, AUSL was given a contract to manage five additional turnarounds.

AUSL communications staff did not immediately return phone calls.

Three of the AUSL were level 1 and nine were level 2.

Noble,  Concept, Chicago International

Six of the seven Level 1 charter high schools are in the Noble Street network. The seventh was Chicago Math and Science Academy, which is run by Concept Schools. CPS denied a request by Concept Schools to open two more charter schools in Chicago this year, but the organization won approval from the state Charter School Commission.

The Chicago International Charter School network (CICS) saw half of its campuses get the lowest rating. One of them, the Bucktown campus, went from level 1 to level 3. CICS Chief Executive Officer Beth Purvis says the drop in performance was driven by low scores on the ISAT, which CICS schools did not emphasize. Rather, they focused on the Common Core standards. Indeed, students are doing well on the NWEA, which is aligned with the Common Core, she says.

“It is too hard for teachers to teach to both the ISAT and the Common Core, especially in math, because the two are not closely aligned,” she says.

Purvis says the results also brought another revelation: The ISAT was not telling us what we thought.”

That said, Purvis says she is confident that as the performance ratings scrap the ISAT for the NWEA, Bucktown will “bounce back.”

Three of the four CICS high schools also were rated level 3. Purvis says that the high schools might have been focused too much on creating a safe, welcoming culture. That seemed important as they are in low-income, transitional neighborhoods.

But now she says they need to focus on rigor as well. Two of the three level 3 high schools got new principals within the past year who have been charged with combining rigor and culture.

However, Purvis says she thinks those schools will fare better under the new rating system, which will include college enrollment and persistence, two areas that charter schools traditionally do well on. Also, the focus of the new performance policy is on moving students forward.

“Some kids are walking through the door with a 12 or 13 on the EXPLORE (the 8th-grade standardized test), she notes, and schools are doing a Herculean effort, only to have students walk out with an 18.”  

A score of 21 is needed to get into minimally selective colleges.

Attached database comparing 2011-2012 ratings with 2012-2013 ratings.

Sarah is the deputy editor of Catalyst Chicago.

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