Chicago Public Schools students test scores worse than pre-pandemic

Chicago Public Schools students test scores worse than pre-pandemic

CPS student proficiency rates remain below pre-pandemic levels and demographic achievement gaps persist in newest release of statewide test data.

Test data released by the Illinois State Board of Education once again shows the Chicago Public Schools system has not prepared students to meet proficiency in core subjects.

Nearly 80% of Chicago Public Schools students cannot read at grade level. Just 15% met proficiency in math.

Students in Chicago and statewide are still performing worse than they did before the pandemic. But in Chicago, the rate of students failing to meet proficiency in reading and math is greater than the statewide averages.

Chicago’s low-income students fared even worse in the recently released data, based on test results from spring 2022. Yet the Chicago Teachers Union and other union allies want to end the Invest in Kids tax credit scholarship program providing low-income students and families with other learning options.

Proficiency rates fail to return to pre-pandemic levels

Even prior to the pandemic, Chicago public students in third grade through eighth grade struggled to meet grade level proficiency in reading and math, with just 27% and 24% of students at proficiency in 2019, respectively. But today, ISBE reports just 20% of students are reading at grade level and only 15% are proficient in math.

Among CPS students who entered high school this fall and had their middle school years interrupted by the pandemic, 10% and 26% fewer students are considered proficient in reading and math, respectively, since spring 2019.

Students who were in third grade in 2018-2019 and finished sixth grade this past spring fared even worse. Among these students, 50% fewer are at grade level in reading and 65% fewer scored proficient in math compared to 2019.

Demographic achievement gaps persist

It is concerning to see steady declines among district students. But an added concern is the even great rate at which low-income students have failed to meet proficiency.

Just 14% of low-income students* in grades 3 through 8 met proficiency in reading and 9% in math in 2022. Compare that to Chicago public students who do not come from low-income families. On average, the rate of proficiency for these students is 28 and 27 percentage points more in reading and math, respectively, compared to low-income students.

Chicago Public Schools students are not receiving the preparation they need to perform at grade level, and it is even more challenging for low-income students.

Invest in Kids Act offers opportunities for low-income students

That’s where the Invest in Kids Act steps in to provide a choice for families and students who can’t afford schooling options outside the public system.

The Invest in Kids Act encourages donors to fund scholarships for low-income children so they can attend the school of their choice. Donors who contribute to a scholarship-granting organization get an income tax credit equal to 75% of their donation. Students must come from a household with an income below 300% of the federal poverty level.

The Invest in Kids Tax Credit Scholarship Program has awarded more than 37,000 scholarships worth $280 million since it started in 2018.

Maria Rodriguez didn’t think she had a choice of where to send her kids until she learned about tax credit scholarships.

“It’s a huge help for many families like us, that don’t earn a lot, but we want to help our kids to get a head start, to get an education better than what we had,” she said.

Sheila Passehl and her husband also didn’t think private school was an option for their son because it was too expensive, but then they received a tax credit scholarship through the Invest in Kids tax scholarship program.

The program is set to expire on Dec. 31, 2023, and families who have benefited from the scholarships are asking lawmakers to make the program permanent to keep their kids in the schools that offer the best fit for them.

“The tax credit scholarship program needs to continue to exist so that we can continue to educate our children the way we, the parents, choose to have our children educated,” Passehl said.

Lawmakers this spring need to make the Invest in Kids tax credit scholarship program permanent.

*Low-Income Students are those who receive or live in households that receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or Temporary Assistance to Needy Families benefits; are classified as homeless, migrant, runaway, Head Start, or foster children; or live in a household where the household income meets the U.S. Department of Agriculture income guidelines to receive free or reduced-price meals, per ISBE’s 2022 Illinois Report Card Glossary of Terms.

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