STREETERVILLE — CPS students are projected to hit an 82 percent high school graduation rate within three years, officials announced Thursday. That's up 25 percent from 2007.
Barbara Byrd-Bennett, CEO of Chicago Public Schools, credited the projected increase to a citywide push to keep ninth-grade attendance up and grades high.
"We’ve known for some time that ninth grade is an absolutely pivotal year in the lives of children," said Timothy Knowles, director of the University of Chicago Urban Education Institute, which helped CPS track data.
"How you do in ninth grade is a better predictor of whether you will finish high school than your race, than your family income, than the neighborhood you come from, than your prior academic achievement — combined," Knowles said.
Students who end ninth grade on track are nearly four times more likely to graduate from high school than those who fall off track, according to research from the UChicago Consortium on Chicago School Research.
Using that research, CPS principals and teachers worked to offer ninth-graders extra homework and tutoring help and address attendance issues by calling home and working with families.
On-track students are those who have finished 10 semester credits and have no more than one failing grade per semester in a core course such as English, math or science.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the new projected graduation rate will get Chicago one step closer to his goal of having all CPS graduates go to college.
"It's no longer rhetoric. It's in reach. It's possible," Emanuel said Thursday at a news conference in the Gleacher Center, 450 N. Cityfront Plaza Drive. "We're the biggest turnaround [school district]. We're on our way."
Byrd-Bennett said CPS also is trying to increase graduation rates by extending universal full-day kindergarten and focusing on grades three through eight. She did not provide more details.
CPS is "relentlessly focused" on "solving the graduation and dropout crisis that's plagued our city for so many years," Byrd-Bennett said.