Mayor Richard M. Daley said today 2008-09 has been a “very good year” for Chicago Public Schools and that CPS students are showing how much can be accomplished when the City invests time, energy and resources in them.
“I am proud that every year, schools are improving in every neighborhood across the city in measurable ways,” Daley said in a news conference at the Hotel Sax, 333 N. Dearborn St.
Tomorrow is the last day of the school year for CPS students and Daley thanked students, parents, teachers and administrators for their hard work all year long.
“I have made the education of our children my highest priority as Mayor. Of course there’s more to accomplish, but let’s give credit where credit is due: It has been a very good year for Chicago Public Schools,” he said.
And to reward students for their hard work throughout the year, entertainer Kanye West, who joined Daley at the news conference, performed a free concert for hundreds of high school students at the Chicago Theatre on Thursday. The concert was organized by S.H.O.W. (Students Helping Our World), the brainchild of a Highland Park High School junior.
The 2008-2009 school year began with CPS elementary schools setting new benchmarks, registering all-time high scores on the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT). In 2008, the percentage of students meeting or exceeding state standards on math, reading, and science increased to 67.8 percent, up from 64.1 percent in 2007.
“A key factor in our students’ academic progress is their attendance,” said CPS Chief Executive Officer Ron Huberman. “It’s simple: when children are in school, they are more likely to learn what they need to know to succeed. That’s true from elementary school through high school.”
The district also set a new attendance record on the first day of school, when 93.7 percent of students attended, the highest percentage since the district began tracking the number as part of its annual back-to-school campaign. In September 2005, first-day attendance was 91.9 percent.
More than 70 high school seniors and 200 eighth graders were recognized for having at least four consecutive years of perfect attendance. Among those eighth graders, more than 40 of them hadn’t missed a day of school for their entire elementary school career, while seven high school seniors were honored for 12 straight years of perfect attendance.
About 450 seniors were recognized for academic excellence at awards ceremonies last month, including more than 100 CPS valedictorians. In addition to overall academic performance, awards were presented to students who excelled in specific areas, including mathematics, science, world languages, arts, and career and technical education programs. Also recognized were National Merit Scholars and students with perfect scores on the ACT national college admission examination.
Daley pointed out that test scores and attendance are rising at the same time that academic rigor is increasing in schools throughout the district.
More than 12 percent of high school students took Advanced Placement courses during the school year, up from 10.7 percent the year before. This increase coincides with an increase in the number of new schools that cater to different learning styles. Since 1997, CPS has opened 104 new schools.
CPS also welcomed a new class of 328 National Board Certified teachers to the system this year, up from just 11 in 1999. This brings the total number of NBC teachers in the district to 1,192, the sixth highest number in the nation. To become National Board Certified, teachers must meet a high level of rigorous national standards, which translate into higher classroom performance.
The success of high school seniors, and the work of the CPS Department of College and Career Preparation, helped drive up the district’s college acceptance rate to 52.5 percent, an increase of 2.5 percentage points over the previous year and 9 percentage points over the last four years.
African American and Latino students are leading the way in increasing the number of CPS students going on to college. The rate for Latino students rose from 34 percent in 2004 to more than 43 percent in 2008. For African American students, the rate rose from less than 43 percent in 2004 to 53.7 percent in 2008.
These same CPS graduating seniors also are on track to set new records in college scholarships received.
Total scholarship dollars offered to the Class of 2009 will be tallied in the fall. But the dollar amounts earned by graduating seniors have grown exponentially since 2005, when graduates were awarded $14.4 million. Graduates secured $24.6 million in 2006, $82.2 million in 2007, and almost $157 million in 2008.
"It's been a great source of our city’s strength that we have been able to develop partnerships with government and with the business and philanthropic communities that time and again show their commitment to making sure that every young person has the chance to reach his or her full potential," Daley said.
He added: "We need partners like Kanye West to help us spread the 'stay in school' message to our young people."
The Kanye West concert was the brainchild of the group S.H.O.W.
After hearing a National Public Radio story about the parent of a Robeson High School student who used a concert as an incentive to encourage her child to improve his grades, David Abrams, a Highland Park High School junior, decided to create S.H.O.W. as a way to address low attendance rates and underperforming Chicago Public Schools.
S.H.O.W. encouraged high school students in six schools - Robeson, Harlan, Mather, Senn, Manley, and Von Steuben - by giving them the opportunity to attend a free Kanye West concert at the end of the year.
Daley said the progress of Chicago Public Schools has happened because school leaders, with the support of the people of Chicago, share a vision in which public schools provide every student in every school, regardless of where they live or what their background may be, a good quality education.
"We must challenge ourselves to keep our students’ progress going so that every child in every school graduates from high school ready to go on to some form of higher education," he said.