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'Impressive' English Learners Driving CPS Test Score Growth, Officials Say

By Alex Nitkin | August 22, 2017 3:38pm | Updated on August 22, 2017 3:55pm
 Canty Elementary School principal Lucja Mirowska-Kopeć
Canty Elementary School principal Lucja Mirowska-Kopeć
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DNAinfo/Alex Nitkin

DUNNING — Mayor Rahm Emanuel dropped into Canty Elementary School, 3740 N. Panama Ave., to laud the school for spearheading a citywide effort to help students learning English as a second language catch up with their native-speaking classmates.

Just over half of English learners across the district outperformed the national average this year on the math portion of the NWEA MAP test, up from 43.5 percent in 2016, according to CPS data. Almost 47 percent of students beat their national peers on the reading portion, compared to 39 percent last year.

What's more, the "achievement gap" between English learners and native speakers shrunk by about half on the math test, and by about 28 percent on the reading test, officials said.

About 8 million 2nd-8th graders take the MAP test every year in more than 7,800 schools across the country.

The gains were "especially impressive" at Canty, where nearly one in five students speaks a language besides English at home, according to CPS academic chief Janice Jackson.

Jackson credited the narrowing gap to a top-down push for more bilingual school programs and "more professional development than we've ever done in the history of Chicago Public schools," she said.

"We're proud of that, because Chicago — and CPS — is a diverse community," Jackson said. "We have to continue to embrace diversity and all of the different strengths that our students bring to the educational environment."

Fourteen different languages are spoken among the nearly 850 students enrolled at Canty, making it "truly a multilingual and multicultural community," according to the school's principal, Lucja Mirowska-Kopeć.

The school has embraced the distinction by tailoring its language instruction to individual students, and by fielding at least one teacher certified to teach English as a second language at each grade level, Mirowska-Kopeć said.

Tuesday's announcement followed a similar school visit on Aug. 10, when Emanuel stopped by Mary Lyon Public School, 2941 N. McVicker Ave., to tout steady across-the-board gains in MAP scores around the city.

Both times, Emanuel used the scores to urge state lawmakers to pass a sweeping school funding overhaul that would inject $215 million into the city's teacher pension fund in exchange for cutting some special grants the district receives every year. The state House of Representatives is due on Wednesday to try and override Gov. Bruce Rauner's Aug. 1 veto of that bill, which he said would amount to a "bailout" of a mismanaged pension system.

Emanuel responded on Tuesday by flipping around one of Rauner's most-used catchphrases.

"The governor always complains about how things are broken here in Illinois, but I would just like to remind him that here in Chicago, our kids are breaking records," the mayor said. "Our kids are closing the achievement gap as it relates to math and reading. It's time Springfield and Governor Rauner closed the funding gap."