Thursday, August 04, 2005

REACT: Improvement in Chicago school scores?

The Chicago Sun-Times gave a trumpted improved Chicago school scores with a huge headline, "CITY TEST SCORES UP, UP, UP. Inside banner headline, "Chicago reading scores surge."

When reading the article, I would have expected some really good news. But, nooooooooo. You have to turn to page 16 to find a little bitty header that says, "But math results decline across the board in state tests." Of course Mayor Daley said the the most important thing is reading scores. Rest assured, however, if math bested reading, he would have told us that in this high tech age, math is more important that reading. Science scores? Another small drop.

But, credit where credit is due. The highly hyped reading scores did show an improvement for the for the frist time in four years. No doubt, part of the improvement has to result from reforms in the school system supported by the Mayor, and crafted by the school leaders and me. (Me? Yes, indeed. I was senior consultant to president of the Chicago school board during the first phases of real reform. If the Mayor can bow on stage, why not me? <-- That was not a question meant to be answered, by the way.) It is also true that test scores were bound to improve. How could they not? Percentage improvement is relative to where you start. After being in the low ranks of achievement, a bump up will occur. It may be a one year anomoly. Won't know for another year. Some argue that the intense focus on reading programs actually caused the drop in math for lack of attention. Seems like the schools cannot rub their tummy and pat their head at the same time. The other thing to keep in mind is that "improvement" does not mean good. Chicago students are still lagging way behind the state and national norms. So, the good news is that the bad news is less bad. And, for Chicago schools that is good news -- but not worth all that ink on the S-T front page.

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