Excuse me if I am more than a bit suspicious of Rahm’s graduation rate claims.


In tonight’s final mayoral debate Rahm will once again claim he is responsible for an 85% CPS high school graduation rate.

I’m suspicious.

Nursing a bad head cold I tried wrapping that head around the numbers reported in the story from Catalyst and WBEZ’s Becky Vevea.

Now my head hurts worse than ever.

If I were to ask you how you would calculate a high school graduation rate – assuming you don’t work for Rahm or CPS – what would you do?

You probably would do what I would do. l would count the number of incoming freshman and then count them again four years later. I would subtract the second number from the first, and divide to get a percentage.

Not at CPS.

They take the number of incoming freshman at a Chicago public high school and count them as graduating no matter where they graduate from.

Half of CPS high school freshmen at half of Chicago’s public hight schools graduated from a different school then where they first enrolled.

Kenwood Academy is a good example of how students move throughout the system. In 2009, 439 freshman walked through the doors of the school. Sixty-six left the city or moved out of state, leaving 393 still enrolled. Over five years, 54 dropped out and 317 graduated. CPS divides 317 by 393 for an official graduation rate of 85 percent.

But beneath those numbers, WBEZ and Catalyst found additional movement. Not all 317 graduated at Kenwood; 276 from the original freshman class did, while 12 finished at other CPS schools and 29 earned their diploma at alternative schools. Kenwood also helped other schools’ graduation rates by enrolling and graduating 30 students who initially enrolled as freshmen at other schools.

Is this playing fast and loose with the numbers?

It reminds me of CPD crime statistics.

A crime committed on the expressway isn’t counted.

I suspect that if the police find a dead body near the city limits. they probably push to to Maywood.

But seriously.

Charter schools, which were not required to provide information to CPS number crunchers before, now must report graduation rates, according the the WBEZ and Catalyst report.

And there the numbers get even goofier.

A student enrolling in Noble Street Charter and leaves after freshman year to graduate from a regular CPS high school is credited with graduating from Noble Street.

Noble schools struggle to keep freshmen, but only one campus, Rowe-Clark, lost more than half of the Class of 2013. Twenty of the city’s neighborhood high schools struggle the most, holding on to fewer than 35 percent of the original freshmen. All are on the South and West sides.

Among charters, Urban Prep’s two campuses do the worst. Chief Academic Officer Lionel Allen said the data “unfairly paints a very dismal picture of the work (they’re) doing at Urban Prep.”

Why is that an unfairly painted picture?

Allen “said it’s important to note that Urban Prep serves primarily African American males.”

So, if charter schools are unfairly pictured for failing to graduate African American males, why is that unfair to the charter school?

The point here is that tonight when Rahm brags graduation rates we should realize he is playing a counting game.

Chicago’s city and school leaders have a long history of playing counting games.

After all, elections themselves have been won and lost by who is being counted and who is doing the counting.

5 thoughts on “Excuse me if I am more than a bit suspicious of Rahm’s graduation rate claims.

  1. Perhaps your head cold came from the chill caused by exposing your chin for Chuy.
    Try a scarf or a turtleneck sweater .BTW you can start growing your beard again the morning after the Garcia victory party!

  2. Neither one of the runners for mayor can bring back the 50 schools that were closed!! People there is NO money for it!!! 93 % of those kids are in better schools now.

  3. Figures lie and liars figure. Geez, what a surprise!
    All these private industry insiders thinking they can do better…until they’re faced with the reality of what public schools deal with on daily / yearly basis. It once again shows that it’s not about the kids, but about how much money these companies / individuals are making off the taxpayers yet yielding the same or worse results. It’s all about the money!

    This type of thing goes on in most high schools. I ran graduation for six years at my high school (because the administrators didn’t know how or just flat out refused to do it) and knew exactly what the graduation rates were each year. The administration would manipulate the data to make it seem like we were graduating 90%+ of our students, even reporting it to the press and state. In reality, we would usually end up around at 65% graduation rate. At one year’s final meeting for graduation the principal boldly stated that we had a 94% graduation. Myself and all the counselors almost fell off our collective chairs and fought back the urge to laugh. I corrected her, she got mad, and left the room. Needless to say she was fired the following year.

    It’s like I told her, until you deal honestly with the problems, you’ll never solve them.

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