Chicago Adds Elementary 'On Track' Indicators to School Grades

Chicago has adopted changes to its school accountability system that include two "on-track" early-warning measures for grades 3–8: grade point average and attendance. What's unique is that these are measures typically applied in high school rather than at the elementary level. The same round of revisions also promoted high schools' efforts to help students follow through on their post-graduation plans.

According to coverage by Fordham Institute's Dale Chu, Chicago Public Schools has been using its "3–8 On-Track" "informally" for a while. But he considered its inclusion in the school system's School Quality Ratings Policy (SQRP) as a "promising development ... worth watching."

This fall's ratings will be the sixth time the district has measured schools under SQRP 1.0. The broad goals for SQRP include communicating to the community about the academic success of individual schools and the district as a whole and recognizing those schools that are high-achieving and high-growth as well as those in need of intensive support. In the same timeframe, SQRP 2.0 will go into effect and the first ratings under the new metrics will appear in fall 2020.

The early-intervention approach has been tested elsewhere. Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland published a 2013 study on its use of early warning indicators, which found that students absent from school nine or more times or those who were below grade level in reading and math in first grade were twice as likely to drop out of high school as students without those measures.

The new set of indicators, shared in SQRP 2.0, will be worth 10 percent of a school's ratings.

The rating formula — called "Learn. Plan. Succeed" — would also include a new indicator linked to the share of students who have developed a postsecondary plan. That measure would count for 2.5 percent of a school's rating.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.