New Chicago Public Schools promotion policy moves students ahead, but leaves them behind
Every year, thousands of struggling Chicago Public School, or CPS, students are sent on to the next grade despite the fact that administrators and teachers know they aren’t ready – and they are destined to fall further behind. Research shows that promoting students before they are ready can have devastating long-term effects. In fact, unprepared...
Every year, thousands of struggling Chicago Public School, or CPS, students are sent on to the next grade despite the fact that administrators and teachers know they aren’t ready – and they are destined to fall further behind.
Research shows that promoting students before they are ready can have devastating long-term effects. In fact, unprepared students who are promoted from the third to fourth grade are 400 percent more likely to drop out of high school.
But CPS is planning on making the problem even worse.
Currently, all students who score below the 24th percentile on certain sections of the Illinois Standard Achievement Test, or ISAT, have to go to summer school and pass a test to attend the next grade.
Under a new policy the district plans to adopt soon, even lower-performing students will be promoted.
In fact, those who score between the 10th and 23rd percentiles and get good grades will be sent to the next grade without going to summer school.
What’s more, scoring between the 10th and 23rd percentile range puts students in the “warning” category on the ISAT – the lowest-scoring category on the test.
According to Illinois State Board of Education, or ISBE, students who score in this category perform significantly below grade level. An eighth grade student who scores in the warning category in reading, for example, cannot identify the main idea of a reading passage and has trouble following the sequence of events. If this same student scores in the “warning” category in math, he or she can only do one-step problems that involve whole numbers.
These are not students who are ready to proceed to the next grade.
Like relaxed graduation rates and easier state tests, this subtle tweak to CPS’s promotion policy is a public relations move meant to hide from parents the fact that many of the district’s students are woefully underprepared to succeed in high school, college and life.
Of course, retaining students in the same schools with the same teachers teaching the same material should not be expected to generate different results – research shows this to be the case.
Politicians need to allow these students to take advantage of a variety of educational options that students in other states already enjoy. This means lifting the charter school cap, creating an environment where online and blended learning can thrive, and supporting choice programs – such as vouchers, tax-credit scholarships and education-savings accounts – that allow these students to be in educational environments that better fit their learning styles and are more responsive to their needs.
Forcing them to stay in the current system – one that has failed them for so long – is morally wrong. After all, when it comes down to it, the people who benefit from the system will always choose themselves over the people the system is supposed to serve.
Chicago’s struggling students deserve better.