Chicago parents can finally see how their school stacks up to others.
Typically, school ratings, which give schools Level 1, 2, or 3 labels, come out in late October, around the same time that student report cards are released. But this year, Chicago Public Schools officials changed the complicated calculation that determines the school ratings.
One of the big changes was moving to five categories, instead of three. Now, schools can be rated Level 1+, Level 1, Level 2+, Level 2, and Level 3. CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett can also override a school’s rating if something dramatic had happened at the school in the past year.
For instance: “Just based on my experience as a principal, when you get a large number of students coming to your school that have not been there previously, it changes the dynamic,” Byrd-Bennett said.
Byrd-Bennett changed the ratings for just 12 schools. She also placed six charter schools on an academic watch list.
Two of the schools on academic watch are the Chicago International Charter Schools' Lloyd Bond and Larry Hawkins campuses. Both are in Altgeld Gardens, an isolated area on the far South Side made up of public housing.
Interestingly, one of the 12 schools given a higher rating through Byrd- Bennett’s discretion, Dubois, is just down the road from the two CICS schools. The other neighborhood elementary school in Altgeld Gardens, Aldridge, was rated Level 3. Bryd-Bennett boosted Dubois to a Level 1.
Beth Purvis, CICS’s executive director, said both Bond and Hawkins need to improve, but she questioned the fairness of the ratings, given the exception for Dubois. Dubois, Aldridge and CICS-Bond have similar scores on the metrics used in the ratings calculation.
“That seems unfair to both Aldridge and CICS,” Purvis said. “If all schools aren’t treated the same under a ranking process, I don’t understand how it informs parents and helps them make decisions.”
CPS spokesman Bill McCaffrey said the reason Byrd-Bennett gave Dubois a Level 1 rating when it originally earned a level 2 rating was because a quarter of the student population changed in the past school year.
Purvis and other CICS officials sent data to WBEZ showing similar student mobility at CICS-Lloyd Bond.
The other charter schools placed on academic watch this year are: Amandla Charter School, Betty Shabazz Charter School, Betty Shabazz - Sizemore Campus, and Polaris Academy Charter School.
One charter school that was placed on academic watch last year, UNO-Rufino Tamayo, jumped from the lowest rating, Level 3, on the old system to the highest rating, Level 1+, on the new system.
In all, just 44 schools still remain in the Level 3 category, while 161 schools are considered Level 1+, 154 are rated Level 1, 118 schools got Level 2+, and 159 were at Level 2, the second to lowest rating.