AUBURN GRESHAM — Mayor Rahm Emanuel defended closing schools Tuesday and said the true test of so-called consolidated schools would be academic, where progress is being made.
"I knew we were asking a lot of residents and a lot of the city," Emanuel said of the 50 school closings. "We asked a lot. We did a lot."
Emanuel dismissed statistics showing that first-day attendance was 87 percent at consolidated schools, lower than the 93.5 percent registered districtwide. He said past school consolidations had registered 50 percent attendance early on.
"Parents did their job," Emanuel said. "Our principals and our teachers — throughout the system, not just at consolidated schools — did an aggressive job of making sure our kids came on Day One."
Emanuel added that attendance was not the true test of schools.
"Are they educating our kids?" Emanuel said. "Do the test scores go up? Did the reading comprehension go up? Did the math scores go up? Did they get more time on reading and math and recess?
"And the answer is 'yes,'" he added. "The goal here is get the kids in school, get them in a full day of education and get actually the kinds of things that improve our graduation rates, improve our going to college, and these are the things we're actually making progress on."
Asked about his relationship with the Chicago Teachers Union a year after the strike, Emanuel said, "I admire and support what our teachers are doing every day."
He added that he had sent a get-well card to CTU President Karen Lewis during a recent illness.
The CTU did not respond to requests for comment.