Great Cities Produce Great Schools
STUDENTS | March 15, 2016
Great Cities Produce Great Schools

CPS students are making huge gains in Math and Reading, and that progress has garnered national attention.

Last week I traveled to Washington, D.C. to participate in a conference presented by the Council of Great City Schools – an organization focused on improving educational outcomes for students in our country’s urban school districts. It was great to meet with educators from Boston, Cleveland, DC, and Miami and other large cities to discuss the unique challenges facing our students and the various approaches we are taking to make sure they receive a quality education.

We talked a lot about our National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP) results, which is the best tool we have for measuring how students from large urban school districts compare with one another on major academic metrics.  This was an especially proud moment for me, as CPS was recognized for our most recent NAEP scores, which had us leading all other urban districts in growth for Math and Reading among fourth and eighth-graders. NAEP is often referred to as “the nation’s report card”, so our stand-out performance is really something to celebrate for our families, our teachers, and the CPS staff of the Network Partnership, whose tremendous work in supporting both students and faculty made this recognition possible.

At CPS we rely primarily on our NWEA and ACT scores to measure success across different grade levels, it’s important to see that as those rise locally, our NAEP scores do as well.   

The scores earned by our students allow us to identify trends in how they are responding to the methods we use to teach Math and Literacy.  As scores fluctuate, we’re able to adjust our professional development and school resources for parents and students to address achievement gaps.  Recent examples of this type of programming include a focus on informational and non-fiction text for our Language Arts courses, and an intentional push to introduce algebra earlier in Mathematics – which you’re already seeing in our 8th grade math curriculum.

NAEP is designed to assess mastery of college and career-ready skills — the culmination of our work.  These skills are the basis for the Common Core curriculum, which we’ve adopted with fidelity in our elementary schools and is taught in our classrooms every day.  Ensuring our student’s graduate with college and career-ready skills is our mission — NAEP is an exam aligned with our mission, and this approach is why we see our students excelling.    

It was an honor to receive this recognition, and it gave me a chance to share best practices with other school leaders on what we’ve done to achieve these gains. I emphasized how committed we are to using data – to making sure that every student has their own starting point and focusing not on one standard of proficiency, but on a child’s individual growth.

I thank the Council of Great City Schools for hosting this event – for bringing educators from around the country together so that we can spend time celebrating progress, learning from each other and developing new strategies to benefit our students – the next generation of thinkers, innovators and entrepreneurs to lead our nation’s great cities.