PILSEN — Benito Juarez Academy is off probation for the first time in a decade, and the school's principal says that's because of better student attendance and improved teacher performance.
At a Local School Council meeting Wednesday evening, Juarez Principal Juan Carlos Ocon pointed to a 2 percentage point jump in student attendance, which he said was a big reason why the school was officially taken off probation Sept. 30.
“This is truly evidence of the incredible work that teachers are engaged in at the school,” Ocon said. “We’ve been able to transform Juarez into one of the premier neighborhood schools.”
The graduation rate at Juarez — which has more than 1,600 students this year — was also up 10 percent from 2011-12, with close to 72 percent of students finishing within four years.
Despite being taken off probation, the school’s test scores still ranked below average, both nationally and within the district, with a 16 as the average ACT score. Ocon admitted that standardized test scores were still an issue for the school.
Several members of community group Pilsen Alliance attended Wednesday’s meeting and asked why the school had been taken off probation despite the low test scores.
“How much weight does attendance have on switching a school from one category to another?” asked Pilsen Alliance board member Rosalie Mancera.
Ocon replied that it was Chicago Public Schools who determine the criteria for probation and said he could bring the data supporting that decision to December’s Local School Council meeting.
According to a CPS spokesman, attendance played a direct role in the school's removal from probation. Attendance counts for about 14 percent of a school's evaluation, while standardized tests count for about 43 percent.
Juarez LSC secretary Alvaro Obregon, a graduate of Juarez himself, said the school’s removal from probation speaks directly to the progress being made at the school.
“I remember when people sort of looked at Juarez and said, ‘Oh, that’s the school I have to go to, it’s my neighborhood school.’ But in fact, now, it’s like that culture’s changed and people actually see that the school’s improving.”