CPS grades its schools; parent says report 'confusing'

November 14, 2011 (CHICAGO)

The online report cards are part of the latest effort by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to get parents more involved in their children's public education. However, just because a school gets a top grade doesn't mean the students are learning much.

On Monday, the mayor and CPS CEO JC Brizard introduced the centerpiece of their new transparency effort: an online report card for each of the district's over 600 schools.

"To see how their school for their child is doing and how schools in the neighborhood or anywhere else are doing and how their school compares," Mayor Emanuel said.

"An educated and informed parent is the best asset we can have as a system to help push our agenda," Brizard said.

Brizard and the mayor made their announcement at the Manuel Perez Elementary School in the Pilsen neighborhood that the website rates as Level One or the highest online rating for a Chicago public school.

"It's kind of confusing," said parent Diane Gracia. She threw a wrench into the program when she asked how Perez could get such a rating when so few third through fifth graders can read or do math at grade level.

"Thirty-three percent of our students in reading and 37 percent of our students in math," Gracia said.

Brizard said the district uses one measure to test reading and math skills and another to rate its schools. He said, "So what you see here are much more an NWA/ACT Explorer plan which are much more rigorous standards and what you're also seeing are exceeding categories versus median categories."

"It is confusing to just simply look at the report without having someone explain what it means," Vicky Kleros, principal, said.

As questions continued without answers that only professional educators could understand, the mayor said the confusion the reports might cause for parents ultimately will serve his and Brizard's purpose.

"And you scratch your head and say how can it be level one at 33%? That's gonna be the question around a lot of kitchen tables because we've been telling parents one thing when in fact a lot of experts knew another answer," Mayor Emanuel said.

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