Chicago Public Schools CEO Janice Jackson is giving her principals this charge: focus on doing better with the school district’s black students.
Her demand comes as new elementary school test score data, out Wednesday, shows black students still lagging far behind other groups.
On the NWEA standardized tests, the percentage of black students at or above the national average is just 51.2 percent in reading and 43.3 percent in math, according to data released by the school district. Those scores are about 32 percentage points lower than white students in reading and nearly 40 percentage points lower in math.
There’s also a gap between the performance of Latino students and their white and Asian classmates. But that gap has lessened over the last five years, and Latino students overall are scoring at about the district’s average.
Jackson said she told principals at back-to-school meetings last week that these gaps need to get smaller.
“Our principals and administrators are working on professional development and strategic plans to take our growth to the next level,” she said.
Overall, test scores on the NWEA were flat in reading and went up slightly in math this year compared to last year. In Chicago, the NWEA is used for grade promotion and to rate schools, but the city’s students also take a mandatory state assessment called PARCC.
This is the first year in five that overall percentages of students at or above national averages on the NWEA have barely budged. Over the last five years, scores have jumped 15.8 percentage points in reading and 11.5 points in math. In the past, district officials have celebrated performance.
At a short press conference on Wednesday, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel took a muted tone.
“We have to use this data to study what do we have to do next year,” he said. “This is a milestone, but not one any of us rests on.”