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Study reveals narrowing of test score gap between CPS students and students elsewhere in Illinois

June 21, 2007

Recent standardized test scores show that Chicago Public Schools students steadily improve in their achievement from third to eighth grade, and finish eighth grade by outperforming other students of the same racial/ethnic background from Illinois in reading, according to a study released by the Consortium on Chicago School Research at the University of Chicago.

White CPS students outperformed other white students in the state, as did black and Latino CPS students in seventh and eighth grade on the reading section of the 2006 Illinois Standards Achievement Test, a new test administered in response to the federal No Child Left Behind legislation. Gaps remain, however, between achievement in CPS and the rest of the state because minority students, who make up 90 percent of the CPS enrollment, consistently have lower test scores than white students, who make up 70 percent of the state’s enrollment.

The analysis is nonetheless heartening, however, said John Easton, Executive Director of the Consortium, who presented the results in the report “2006 ISAT Reading and Math Scores in Chicago and the Rest of the State.” (.pdf file)

“What these results show is that if the racial composition of the Chicago Public Schools were the same as the rest of the state, the CPS students would outperform all the other students,” he said. The comparisons within groups are particularly important because No Child Left Behind brings new attention to achievement among students with similar backgrounds, Easton pointed out.

“Student performance in CPS looks remarkably better than normally portrayed when we make these group-to-group comparisons,” he continued. “Perhaps these findings also suggest that CPS does relatively better with traditionally underserved populations than the rest of the state does, and that answers for improvement lie in Chicago, rather than elsewhere.”

The test scores became public in March 2007, and results were reported for individual districts as well as the state as a whole. The Consortium study is the first to separate CPS scores from those in districts in the rest of the state. Among its findings are:

  • In third grade, reading test scores in Chicago trailed the state by 17 points (191 vs. 208), but trailed by only nine points by eighth grade (242 vs. 251). In mathematics, the difference in test scores was 21 points in third grade and 15 points by eight grade.
  • Among African-American students, CPS students in third grade were seven points behind African Americans in other parts of the state on reading scores, but had surpassed them by a score of one point by the time they reached eighth grade.
  • Latino students from Chicago outperformed Latino students in the rest of the state in reading in the upper grades. In third grade, Latino students in Illinois outperformed their peers in Chicago by four points. In seventh and eighth grades the Latino students in CPS scored higher than those in the rest of the state by at least three points.
  • White CPS students on the reading test scored as well or better than white students outside Chicago.

The study showed that much of the improvement for the CPS scores came from a boost in test- score results among the lowest-achieving students. For instance, the average test scores for CPS Latino students in the lowest quartile were below those of the lowest quartile of Latino students elsewhere in Illinois in third grade, a situation that was reversed by eighth grade. Among African-American students, performance improved for the least academically successful students from third to eighth grade, erasing the achievement gap between Chicago black students and those in districts elsewhere.

“In the past, it had been common for observers to claim that the longer students were enrolled in CPS, the further behind they fell,” Easton said. “The evidence suggests the contrary, at least relative to Illinois: on the whole students in higher grades are less behind than students in lower grades.

For more information, visit the Consortium on Chicago School Research website at

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Last modified at 10:59 AM CST on Monday, July 23, 2007

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