Data: CPS students getting more A’s, and more F’s as remote learning continues

Failing grade

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Chicago Public Schools officials said a lot of children are missing out by continuing to have students learning remotely and not being in classrooms.

Wednesday and Thursday were report card pick-up days for Chicago Public School students, and CPS said more students are receiving A’s, but also F’s than this time last year.

Generally, officials said Black, LatinX, special education, and homeless students have had the most barriers to learning remotely, because of systemic failures such as poor access to computers and internet, an inability to remotely support kids with disabilities and a lack of face-to-face interaction with teachers.

“I worry that unless we act with urgency, we will lose a generation of students,” Chief Education Officer LaTanya McDade told the city’s Board of Education at its virtual meeting Wednesday. “The way to avoid this is to follow the public health guidance so we can safely reopen schools.”

According to CPS data, in elementary schools, 5 percent of the reading grades handed out in the first academic quarter were F’s compared to 1.9 percent in the first quarter last year, with similar figures in math. On the other end of the scale, A’s made up 34 percent of reading grades, up from 30.8 percent last year. Math scores were similar. There were fewer B’s and C’s in both subjects, and students of all races saw increases at both ends of the scale, data showed.

“This is a matter of equity, and it’s at the core of everything that we do in Chicago Public Schools,” CPS CEO Janice Jackson said.

“The shift here is allowing for multiple options for all of our parents. Any parent who wants to remain in the remote environment will have the ability to do so. But beginning in January, those parents who need an opportunity or an option for their students to be educated in person will now have a choice.”

CPS is shooting for mid-January for the start of retuning to in-person learning, and Mayor Lightfoot said it will be safe.

"When it's appropriate for students to return, that they’re going to be returning to classrooms and school buildings that have the highest levels of protections against COVID-19 that we can possibly muster," Lightfoot said.

CPS said it plans to have teachers and staff take rapid COVID tests on a regular basis when students return to classrooms.

Rapid, 15-minute tests supplied by the federal government will be used to assess asymptomatic school staffers who are in regular contact with students, the Chicago Department of Public Health and Chicago Public Schools said Wednesday.

The tests can be self-administered with the supervision of trained staff, and the swabs only have to be placed halfway up the nose. If an adult tests positive, they’ll be isolated and sent home to quarantine while a contact tracing team from CDPH investigates, officials said.

Dr. Marielle Fricchione, medical director in CDPH’s COVID bureau, said schools would not reopen in January if the level of spread the city is seeing today continues.

Fricchione said health officials studied the first virus surge in the spring and identified a key metric that marked when the city had turned a corner: doubling time. Explaining a threshold first released by health commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady a day earlier, Fricchione said she would feel confident that the virus spread had stabilized in Chicago when cases are doubling every 18 days instead of the current 12 days.