Proposed school ratings: Scrap ISAT, close achievement gap

Chicago Public Schools is floating a new performance policy that would abandon the ISAT, grade schools on their progress in closing the achievement gap and create a five-tier rating system rather than the three-level system currently in place.

It also would make schools accountable for having 95 percent of students tested as a way to make sure the data is accurate.

Closing the opportunity gap

Every year, a high-stakes gamble begins.Parents across Chicago take their children to be tested for selective elementary schools and programs, the first step in a potentially make-or-break scenario. The district has 16 schools and programs for gifted students starting as kindergarteners—plus 10 more for older elementary students—and these schools and programs send large numbers of students on to the district’s gems: the selective high schools that invariably score at the top of the heap on state achievement tests and offer students a broad array of rigorous courses, engaging electives and enriching after-school activities.

Getting a chance

Smart students from poor neighborhoods are less likely to test into gifted and classical elementary schools. Later, they are more likely to become disengaged and eventually drop out. A special initiative is giving some students a last-minute shot at elite programs.

Limited options

At small neighborhood high schools like Bowen, course offerings are meager compared with the bounty of classes offered at selective schools.

Teaching the art of the essay

Selective schools and military high schools (which also have selective admissions criteria) have some of the highest pass rates for students of color on Advanced Placement tests. One of those schools is Rickover Naval Academy, housed in the Senn High campus in Edgewater.

Parents: Train teachers to better serve English learners

STEM Magnet Academy parent Christine Bay-Spiric complains that her children, who are English language learners, have met obstacles in school: Unclear homework instructions that she is expected to explain to them. Missing assignments because they couldn’t make up work from days they missed due to a religious holiday.

She and other parents are pinning their hopes for change on a law that State Rep. Elizabeth Hernandez (24th District) plans to introduce in the next month.