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Emanuel touts new school report cards showing dismal results

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel says he expects new report cards for city schools to spark discussion around a lot of kitchen tables in Chicago.

The new report cards, which were unveiled 10 days ago, are meant to grade schools, not students. They'll be distributed to parents this week at parent-teacher conferences.

The report cards don’t show ISAT scores, which the district has used as a measure of progress since 2001; those scores have come under fire recently for exaggerating student achievement. Instead, the report cards show how students are doing nationally on a different test. They also report the percentage of 8th graders who are on-track for college. So parents who’ve grown accustomed to seeing 70 or 80 percent of students meet standards at their child's school may now find just 30 percent do - or less.

"They’re gonna ask a lot of questions of what’s going on at their schools," said Mayor Rahm Emanuel at a press conference with parents and the principal at Perez Elementary in Pilsen. "And if you want change and you want to see the reforms necessary, giving people an accurate picture of where their school(s) are is the beginning of that conversation."

At Perez Elementary, 75 percent of students met standards on state ISAT tests last year. But just 14 percent of 8th graders are considered to be on course for college.

"It’s a shock to anyone who sees it; it’s really a sobering scorecard," said Perez Principal Vicky Kleros. She said she’s being careful about how the new numbers are explained to parents and teachers, and using them as motivation to improve.

The city has put every school's report card onto an online map and wants parents to compare schools. CEO Jean-Claude Brizard said he’s using it to look for a future school for his two-year-old.

The new report cards also rate school safety, parent involvement, and how healthy the food is, among other things.

Charter schools, which educate more than 40,000 students in the city, are not being given report cards, despite district promises to provide parents comparable information about both district and charter schools.

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