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Chicago Teachers Union Lauds Student, Parent and Teacher Contributions to Increased Graduation Rates

CHICAGO—The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) would like to recognize the thousands of teachers and education support staff throughout the district, as well as Chicago’s public school students and their families, for their dedication and efforts in substantially increasing the number of Chicago Public Schools (CPS) graduates earning four-year undergraduate degrees since 2006, according to data from the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research (CCSR). The CCSR estimates in its new report, “The Educational Attainment of Chicago Public Schools Students: A Focus on Four-Year College Degrees,” that out of 100 CPS ninth-graders, 14 will earn a four-year college degree within 10 years of starting high school.

Much of that change, the report notes, is attributed to an increase in CPS graduation rates, which have steadily rose despite the chaos caused by failed top-down policies such as charter expansion, the irrational expansion of selective enrollment, leadership turnover, constantly changing mandates and tests, and the annual threat of school turnaround and closure. These policies have ramped up under the administration of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, whose education agenda has been a threat to the progress that students, teachers and school communities have been making for nearly a decade.

In 2007, backed by research from the CCSR, Chicago public schools began to make a concerted effort to focus on the transition of students from elementary school to high school through their ninth-grade year, as research showed that ninth-grade credits and course failures had much to do with high school graduation. With a focus on individual students identified through grades and attendance, schools were highly attentive to what at-risk students were doing day-to-day in schools and in the classroom. Subsequently, ninth-grade teachers shared with each other information on grades and attendance to help get students at risk of failure back on track.

In 2009, CPS began to issue monthly data reports to help track at-risk students, but what mattered for student success were nothing that standardized tests or Performance Policy measures could indicate, but a push for solid classroom work, good attendance, career and college counseling and preparation, and the support of their families, teachers and education support staff.

“The percent of freshman on-track has been increasing steadily since 2007—long before the current administration—which has led to improved graduation rates in the last several years,” said CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey. “We still have a long journey ahead of us to get a higher percentage of CPS graduates through college, but if there’s credit to be given to anyone, it should be given to our students’ parents and their families, and the teachers and staff who devote a tremendous amount of time to working with them.”

Chicago Teachers Union