More Than One-Third of CPS Schools on Probation

By Casey Cora on December 21, 2012 6:33pm 

 Thomas Kelly High School in Brighton Park is just one of hundreds put on probationary status by Chicago Public Schools.
Thomas Kelly High School in Brighton Park is just one of hundreds put on probationary status by Chicago Public Schools.
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DNAinfo/Casey Cora

CHICAGO — More than one-third of the city's schools are on probationary status because of poor performance, according to recently released data from Chicago Public Schools.

Records show 248 of the district's 681 schools are on probationary, or Level 3, status. Of those, 44 were newly placed on probation this year, while 42 were taken off.

Those figures don't include a number of charter and alternative schools, calculations for which are underway, school officials said.

“We’re holding schools accountable and rating their performance on whether or not they’re meeting our standards,” said CPS spokeswoman Robyn Ziegler.

The district rates high schools on criteria like performance on the ACT exam, advanced placement course enrollment, and dropout and attendance rates, among other criteria. Elementary schools face different metrics, including performance on the Illinois Standard Achievement Test and school attendance rates.

Schools on probation face a number of reprimands and corrective measures from CPS, ranging from curriculum changes and extra teacher training to the removal of principals and closure of schools.

Brighton Park's Thomas Kelly High School slipped into probationary status for the second time in three years, records show.

Principal James Coughlin said the setback is partly due to the performance of the school’s senior class, which he said tested poorly last year on the ACT and triggered a reduction on the point scale used to calculate a school’s status.

“This was a one-year glitch,” he said. “I am confident that we’ll be off probation. Very, very confident.”

Sources said at least one school is challenging its probationary status, saying CPS miscalculated one of the criteria for school performance — specifically the dropout rate — which created a ripple effect that may have unfairly led to some schools getting slapped with the black mark.

CPS officials deny there’s been any sort of miscalculation and said challenges to probationary status are routine. This year, they said, only a handful of principals have come forward with concerns about their performance rating but officials couldn't specify the nature of those appeals.

Officials said to dig out of probation, schools must achieve a Level 1 (excellent) or Level 2 (good) rating. If a school has been on probation for two or more years, it must meet Level 1 or Level 2 ratings for two consecutive years.

Pilsen’s Benito Juarez Community Academy High School, on probation for the past 10 years, is trying to propel itself out. This year, it was bumped up to a Level 2 school.

“There have been celebrations, if you will. We’re taking a moment to celebrate,” said Alvaro Obregon, a community representative on the Juarez Local School Council. "There’s just a different feeling that it’s unacceptable for students to not pass their classes.” 

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