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IPFS News Link • Education: Government Schools

Chicago's Solution to Its Failing School System: Stop Grading Schools on Performance

•, Jon Miltimore

In 1987, U.S. Education Secretary Bill Bennett famously traveled to Chicago, where he ruffled feathers by telling a closed-room group that the Windy City's school system was "the worst in the nation."

Local parents and educators bristled at the charge, which resulted in an awkward New York Times story. But decades of data would subsequently prove that Mr. Bennett was basically correct: Chicago's schools were a total mess.

The city's own accountability report card would later demonstrate that huge majorities of students in the city's worst schools—75 percent in elementary and 95 percent in high school—failed to meet the state standards.

Things hardly improved during the pandemic, even though the Chicago Public School (CPS) system was spending roughly $28,000 per student (partly thanks to federal bailout cash).

"Just 30% of Black students meet or exceed reading standards in the third grade, and the number falls to 14% for 11th graders, according to data from the Illinois State Board of Education," The Chicago Tribune pointed out last year.

Chicago schools clearly aren't getting the job done, but political leaders in the city have discovered a solution to the problem: stop grading schools.

"I personally don't give a lot of attention to grades," Mayor Brandon Johnson said during a recent interview. "How do you grade a system, when the system has not fulfilled its basic obligation of providing an equitable system that speaks to the needs [of students]."