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Courtenay Gets Top CPS Rating, Despite Merging With Below-Average School

By Adeshina Emmanuel | November 22, 2013 12:16pm
 Courtenay Principal Macquline King gives her "principal's report," at a Local School Council meeting Thursday.
Courtenay Principal Macquline King gives her "principal's report," at a Local School Council meeting Thursday.
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DNAinfo/Adeshina Emmanuel

UPTOWN — Despite merging with a larger, academically low-performing school earlier this year, Mary E. Courtenay Elementary has retained its level 1, or "excellent," CPS rating — a development some called deceitful.

Chicago Public Schools did not consider scores from the school Courtenay merged with, Joseph Stockton Elementary School, which was on academic probation last year for test scores below CPS standards.

Though Courtenay's Ravenswood campus was closed, and its students were sent to Stockton's building in Uptown, the Courtenay name was kept.

A CPS spokesman said the district is determining academic level ratings citywide using the test scores connected to the schools which retained their names.

Earlier this year, the district decided to close the campus of the high-performing Courtenay at 1726 W. Berteau Ave. and move its students and staff to the former Stockton building at 4420 N. Beacon St. in Uptown, but keep the Courtenay name.

Courtenay Principal Macquline King announced the level 1 designation Thursday at a Local School Council meeting. King declined to comment on the designation.

The CPS spokesman said students who attended classes at the Uptown location when it operated under the Stockton name are considered new students of the reformulated Courtenay. As such, for scoring purposes, they were not included in this year's grading, the spokesman said.

The new Courtenay grade is "based on its performance in the 2012-2013 school year, as did every other school in CPS," the spokesman said.

In 2013, about 72 percent of students at Courtenay, formerly a small selective school with about 280 students, met or exceeded state standards for the Illinois Standard Achievement Test. The CPS average for that metric is 52.5 percent.

At the larger Stockton, with about 500 students, 48.4 percent of students met or exceeded state standards at the school.

The CPS performance policy ranks schools based on a number of criteria, including standardized test scores and attendance.

Some critics said that the way CPS is establishing academic scores in the wake of its controversial closing of 49 schools earlier this year — a decision that angered the teachers union, among others — is disingenuous.

Courtenay teacher Claudia Pesenti, who is also a teachers union delegate, said that to accurately portray the current school's academic standing, officials should merge the scores from Stockton and Courtenay.

"Why are we only using the Courtenay scores?" she asked. "It isn't fair, and it isn't right, to be compared to scores when we don't have the same population."

LSC chair Cassandra Vickus called the scoring approach "a CPS thing" and said that the LSC "didn't have anything to do with that."

"It's CPS, of course it seems off," she said. "I'm an LSC member, they can't fire me from the school, and I can tell you it's off. CPS has always been off, but we're just trying to do the best we can with what we have."

Regardless of CPS' math, Vickus said "We have to work so hard to keep the designation" at the school.

LSC member Pete Winninger II said that it wasn't unrealistic to expect the school to retain its level 1 status after this year.

"I don't think it's an impossible task to merge a [level] 3 and a [level] 1 and come out with a 1," he said. "It depends on how much energy the community is willing to put forth and what kind of administration and staff we have. We've got amazing staff and amazing administration. There's no reason we shouldn't be able to do that."

Another Uptown school is seeing the same approach.

Joseph Brennemann Elementary School — which received students from closed Graeme Stewart Elementary School — was also promoted to level 1 this year without including scores from students from Stewart, where only 41.4 percent of students met or exceeded ISAT standards.

About 73 percent of Brenneman's students last year met or exceeded ISAT standards, which helped determine its level 1 ranking this year.