A recent New York Times article suggested that Chicago had the nation’s fastest-improving large urban school district. In it, reporters Emily Badger and Kevin Quealy summarized data from a new study by Sean Reardon of the Stanford University Center for Education Policy Analysis.
For many, that was surprising news, since the district has received heat for inflated graduation rates and three years of flat scores on PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) tests, which reveal that only 1 in 4 CPS elementary students reads at grade level.
A look at more comprehensive data makes it clear that while Chicago did improve from 2009 to 2014, New Orleans and Washington, D.C., have improved faster. A key reason for rapid improvement in all three cities appears to have been aggressive replacement of failing schools with stronger schools, most of them charters. Unlike in New Orleans and D.C., however, Chicago’s leaders virtually halted charter growth five years ago — which could explain the stalled growth since 2014.
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