Billionaire Gates' public praise about a Chicago public high school fails to change stark realities
The facts about Chicago Public Schools (CPS) are grim.
Each year, thousands of students in Chicago will attend a school that will fail to prepare them for life. A majority of students attending the lowest 10 percent of elementary schools and high schools in Chicago lack the basic competencies in reading, science and math. They are significantly behind their peers in almost every respect.
Compounding the problem are numerous allegations of abuse and bullying that takes place at the hands of both students and teachers in CPS.
To a casual observer, the conditions in CPS schools are a moral outrage. For the liberal politicians who control all of the levers and pulleys in Chicago government and to those who run the city's teachers union, it is merely a public relations problem. Their "progressive" school system needed a win.
It recently got one. Microsoft founder and billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates recently penned an opinion piece praising the school system's "turnaround." He was convinced of the improvement during his visit to North-Grand High School in Humboldt Park.
"I recently visited Chicago — and a high school that has gone from one of its worst to one of its best — to see what was behind the city’s turnaround," Gates wrote.
"One of the best." There are a few problems with that assessment.
According to the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), only 6 percent of North-Grand High School students met state standards as measured by the SAT. No North-Grand students exceeded state standards.
District-wide, 18 percent of Chicago Public Schools' students met state standards and 7 percent exceeded them in 2018, according to ISBE. Statewide, 24 percent of public school students met state SAT standards in 2018 and 13 percent exceeded them.
ISBE also reports that in North-Grand's Class of 2016, seven in ten students attending a community college after graduation required remedial classes that repeated coursework they were supposed to have learned in high school. Of North Grand's 229 total graduates in 2016, 81 (35 percent) attended a community college in Illinois, and 70 percent of those (57) were required to take remedial classes.
CPS-wide, on average, 62 percent of community college attendees require remediation. Statewide, 46 percent require it.
“The students I met at North-Grand during my visit liked the fact that there was no mystery about their standing . . .” Gates wrote. “I hope more schools around the country can learn from this success.”