Chicago, the home school district of Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, is frequently sighted by Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett as evidence that mayoral run school systems improve student achievement.
The civic arm of the Commercial Club of Chicago, one of the oldest organizations representing the business, professional, educational and cultural leaders of the Chicago region, has issued a scathing critique ,"Still Left Behind 2009", that challenges Barrett's position.
The study, which characterizes Chicago high school student achievement as "abysmal," supports an earlier analysis published in the Harvard Educational Review entitled "Mayoral Takeovers, Recipe for Progress or Peril" that concludes: "the record suggests that the long term benefits of takeovers are more elusive especially in regard to student achievement."
The Harvard analysis reinforces the Commercial Club's review of academic achievement in the Chicago public schools: ...Chicago is hardly an advertisement of mayoral takeovers. In 2005, for instance, only 42.5% of students in grades three through eight scored at or above national norms on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills reading test- a gain of only ten percentage points since the Mayor took over the system."
Here are some of the Commercial Club's key findings.
Most of Chicago’s students drop out or fail. The vast majority of Chicago’s elementary and high schools do not prepare their students for success in college and beyond.
There is a general perception that Chicago’s public schools have been gradually improving over time. However, recent dramatic gains in the reported number of CPS elementary students who meet standards on State assessments appear to be due to changes in the tests made by the Illinois State Board of Education, rather than real improvements in student learning.
At the elementary level, State assessment standards have been so weakened that most
of the 8th graders who “meet” these standards have little chance to succeed in high school or to be ready for college. While there has been modest improvement in real student learning in Chicago’s elementary schools, these gains dissipate in high school.
The performance of Chicago’s high schools is abysmal – with about half the students dropping out of the non-selective-enrollment schools, and more than 70% of 11th grade students failing to meet State standards. The trend has remained essentially flat over the past several years. The relatively high-performing students are concentrated in a few magnet/selective enrollment high schools. In the regular neighborhood high schools, which serve the vast preponderance of students, almost no students are prepared to succeed in college.
The full Comercial Club report is linked here.