At one point in time, the Chicago school system was considered to be one of the worst in the country. Over the years, there have been many attempts to improve the education system on a national scale, but it is Chicago that has truly seen the fruits of that labor.
As “U.S. News” reports, thanks to outgoing mayor, Rahm Emanuel, the city has improved their quality of education to a point where they are not only competitive with other school systems in the country, but it is perhaps one of the best in the nation. It is easy to point out that this is no small feat. At this time, Chicago’s school system is at its very best in years.
While it is easy to point out the negatives of Emanuel’s tenure as mayor, even in terms of what he has done to the school system, one cannot overlook the fact that the current graduation rate for the Chicago Public Schools is at an all-time high, with nearly 80 percent of all students graduating high school. It is not just the graduation rate that has seen a drastic improvement. On average, since Emanuel became mayor and began implementing massive educational changes in Chicago, the test scores have advanced approximately six grades.
It is not just the testing that has shown improvement, but according to current numbers, it seems that even the rate at which these students are learning has improved. It is being said that students in Chicago are learning 96 percent faster than their peers in other school districts around the nation. Clearly, this means that students in the city are now part of the upper echelons of education, and this is important for the city and the country.
Perhaps one of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s greatest educational achievement is the STAR program. This program is a very unique program that would allow any Chicago student who is graduating with 3.0 GPA or higher to attend City Colleges of Chicago for free in order to receive their associate degree.
A free college education is a feat that many might consider unprecedented, and yet it is now a way of life for students in Chicago. This alone is proof that if people fight for a better education system there is hope for the students.
The fact that the city has improved its educational system so greatly is a true accomplishment and one that should not be forgotten. This, however, does not mean that there are not still concerns. Growth does not come without problems and failings. There is still a host of controversy surrounding Emanuel’s decisions.
From shutting down 50 public schools and instead focusing on entrance exam based institutions, to letting go of 950 employees of the Chicago Public Schools, many disagreements have surfaced throughout the fight for a better educational system. Losing schools, teachers, and other educational employees are, unfortunately, missed opportunities. These are losses that can have a wide-ranging impact on a city.
Perhaps the greatest impact is the fact that Chicago’s public schools have lost a place where all students are welcome, no matter how well one can test. As is, testing has its own controversy, as many educators blame teaching and tests as the reason there are so many students graduating without fundamental skill sets.
Chicago is a city that continues to fight for better education, and it is clear that even as they show continued improvement and high standards, there are still battles that need to be fought. A perfect system is impossible, but striving to be better should always be the goal. Chicago has a lot to be proud of when it comes to their school system, but there is always room for improvement.
Written and edited by Kimberley Spinney
U.S. News – Learning on the Job: The Fight to Fix Chicago’s Schools
The Atlantic – I Used to Preach the Gospel of Education Reform. Then I Became the Mayor
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