Most Chicago students still read, perform math below grade level

Most Chicago students still read, perform math below grade level

Chicago students made gains in proficiency in reading and math on 2023 state assessments compared to 2022, but most students continue to perform below grade level. Overall student proficiency rates remain worse than before the pandemic.

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.

About three-quarters of Chicago Public Schools students cannot read at grade level on the Illinois Assessment of Readiness in 2023. Nearly 83% did not meet 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 struggling to achieve proficiency in reading and math is even more severe than the statewide rate.

Chicago’s low-income students fared worse than average among CPS students in the recently released data, based on test results from spring 2023. Yet the Chicago Teachers Union and other unions want to end the Invest in Kids tax credit scholarship program providing low-income students and families with other learning options.

Proficiency rates lag pre-pandemic levels

Student proficiency improved in 2023, bringing rates closer to but still below pre-pandemic levels. In spring 2023, ISBE reported 26% of Chicago third- through eighth-grade students could read at grade level, edging closer to the 27% from spring 2019. Only 18% were proficient in math this spring, compared to 24% in spring 2019.

Chicago students are not meeting proficiency levels at the same rate as the statewide average. This spring, the percent of Chicago third- through eighth-grade students reading at grade level was nine percentage points below the Illinois average and 11 percentage points below the state average in math.

Current Chicago 12th grade students averaged nearly nine points lower in reading and 25 points lower in math on the SAT this past spring as juniors compared to juniors in spring of 2019. Just 22% of current seniors could read at grade level and 19% performed math proficiently in spring 2023.

Similarly, Chicago 11th grade students are not meeting proficiency at the same rate as the statewide average. Illinois’ average proficiency rate in reading was nine percentage points higher than Chicago’s and eight percentage points higher in math.

Demographic achievement gaps persist

It is concerning to see declines among district students. But an added concern is the even greater rate at which low-income students are struggling to meet proficiency standards.

Just 19% of low-income Chicago students in grades 3 through 8 met proficiency in reading and 11% in math in 2023. On average, the rate of proficiency for these students is seven percentage points lower in reading and math, respectively, compared to the average for all district students.

Many Chicago Public Schools students are not receiving the preparation they need to perform at grade level, and this challenge is even more pronounced among low-income students.

Invest in Kids Act offers opportunities for low-income students

That’s why the Invest in Kids Act is important 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, but most families live on much less than that: two-thirds make less than $49,025 for a family of four.

The Invest in Kids Tax Credit Scholarship Program has awarded nearly 41,000 scholarships since it launched in 2018.

Maria Rodriguez didn’t think she had a choice of where to send her kids until she learned about Invest in Kids 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. Then they received a tax credit scholarship through Invest in Kids.

The program is set to expire on Dec. 31, 2023. Families who have benefited from the scholarships are asking state 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.

State lawmakers must act during their remaining veto session, Nov. 7-9, to save the Invest in Kids program. You can find your state lawmaker and ask where they stand on saving Invest in Kids by clicking here.

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