Much was made of the progress in Chicago’s public schools when Arne Duncan, the former CEO of Chicago Public Schools, was tapped to become the U.S. Secretary of Education.
But maybe the gains made during Duncan’s seven-year tenure in the Windy City weren’t that boast-worthy, after all.
USA Today reporter Greg Toppo points out the contrast between some of the statements made by President Barack Obama about Chicago schools in December and the findings of a new report by the Civic Committee of The Commercial Club of Chicago, a group that backed Duncan’s and Mayor Daley’s calls for more mayoral control of the educational system.
Its key findings stand in stark contrast to assertions President Obama made in December when he nominated Duncan as Education secretary.
And though the findings are by no means as explosive, they’re reminiscent of revelations from Houston in 2003, when state investigators found that 15 high schools had underreported dropout rates under former superintendent Rod Paige, who by then was George W. Bush‘s Education secretary.
In December, Obama said that during a seven-year tenure, Duncan had boosted elementary school test scores “from 38% of students meeting the standards to 67%” — a gain of 29 percentage points. But the new report found that, adjusting for changes in tests and procedures, students’ pass rates grew only about 8 percentage points.
Of course, Duncan’s administration wouldn’t be the first to spin the results of its school reform efforts in its favor, and Illinois wouldn’t be the first to experience test score inflation (if that is, in fact, the case). States across the U.S. are free to set their own “proficiency” bar for No Child Left Behind purposes, and they arguably face an incentive to lower the threshold or make the tests easier.
The New York Daily News had an interesting take on the issue last month, saying that the test questions have become fairly predictable.
Teachers: Have you found this to be true?