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New studies show that, despite popular perception, Chicago Public School (CPS) students earn better grades than their counterparts in other school districts across the state of Illinois.


Linda Lutton at WBEZ recently posted a story exploring this issue.

She started her investigation by asking people to do free association when they heard the words “Chicago Public Schools.” Answers included “bad,” “not good,” “broke,” “suck,” “bad rep,” and “bad lunch.”

Not exactly a series of endorsements.

RELATED: Thanks to the state’s failing budget, Chicago Public Schools were forced to borrow $112 million with almost-unreasonable interest rates

While budgetary issues are an ongoing obstacle for CPS, Lutton focused her story on academics and spoke with Paul Zavitkovsky, a researcher at UIC Center for Urban Education Leadership.

Their latest study included 15 years of analysis, finding CPS students across various ethnic and economic demographics achieved higher overall scores compared to students in the rest of the state.

Reasons for this study were not necessarily to compare CPS with the rest of Illinois; rather, Lutton wanted to chart the impact of poverty, which is expanding rapidly in the rest of the state.

The number of students in poverty is determined based on who receives reduced fare or free lunch.

In Chicago, that number is 85 percent.

This level remained steady over a 15-year period; elsewhere in Illinois, that number increased from 36 to 56 percent.

As Zavitovsky puts it, “poverty is an equal opportunity disrupter,” further explaining CPS’ worth as not necessarily solely based on grades, so much as it is about comparing the drop in value in other schools.

Mayor Emanuel is hoping these new studies and statistics can help secure more funding for CPS:

“They should be funded at the same level as kids in Winnetka, Naperville, in Peoria, and all the rest of the state,” the mayor said in an interview.

Emanuel is doing his best to secure a brighter future for CPS students, recently changing the requirements for all graduates to secure higher education, a job or pursue military plans before receiving high school diplomas – a controversial initiative among Chicagoans.

RELATED: The state of Detroit’s public schools will break your heart

Despite the disagreements and lack of simple solutions for these complicated problems, CPS is much different than it was in 1987, when the U.S. Department of Education called the school system the worst in the nation.

Chicago Public Schools: From worst to…first? AP Photo/Teresa Crawford
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