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Brizard Finds Good in Poor Schools Report

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In the federal government's annual report card, some Chicago schools scored well below state reading standards. CPS Supt. Jean-Claude Brizard told NBCChicago that's not acceptable.

Illinois schools are in need of some improvement, the federal government's annual education report card shows.

Throughout the state, 23 percent of third graders failed a key reading proficiency test, and 75 percent of high schools saw a drop in graduation rates, according to the report.

Chicago's Guggenheim Elementary scored worst in Illinois for reading, with 85.3 percent of third graders failing to meet state standards, and Yale Elementary, also in Chicago, came in second worst.

Chicago Public Schools Supt. Jean-Claude Brizard said Monday those numbers are particularly scary because of the reading test's "very low" bar for passing.

Still, Brizard touted the report for strong gains seen for African American, Latino and low-income students to begin closing an achievement gap between them and white students. This year, a 44 percent gap was seen between African Americans and white students and 30 percent for Latinos.

It's trending in the right direction, Brizard said, but it's not enough.

"We have a lot of ground to cover, a lot of work to do," Brizard said, "so there's a little bit of good news, but we have so much more work to do."
 
There's good news for Mayor Rahm Emanuel's longer school day initiative too. The report found the state's top 10 elementary schools had longer school days. Not as long as Emanuel is pushing for in Chicago Public Schools but longer than most.

The mayor last week announced grants would be awarded for charter schools that added 90 more minutes to their school day. Those schools will receive a $75,000 grant and each of its teachers will get an $800 bonus, Emanuel said, matching the funding given to CPS schools that agreed to a longer day ahead of schedule.

"We know that is one fundamental tool we have to put in the box for principals and teachers to begin to close this gap, to begin to reverse this trend," Brizard said of the report.

How can CPS fix reading rates?

A harder look at curriculum, leadership, teachers' work and fundamentally what needs to be done in some of the lowest scoring schools, specifically on the south and west sides of the city, Brizard said.

"Let's not kid ourselves," Brizard said. "First of all we're talking about No Child Left Behind, and we're talking about the Illinois state test, which has a very, very low bar for passing."

"We have a lot more work to do," he said.

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