Forward Mapping

Back in the mid 1990s, Chicago made headlines when the city decided to place schools with fewer than 15 percent of students at grade level in reading and math on probation.

The reason for setting the bar at 15 percent? About 100 schools would fall under that line and Chicago felt it had the resources to work with about 100 schools.

When it comes to intervening with low-performing schools, this is about as strategic as most districts get. What can a district do to be more strategic about improvement? Are there other factors to consider?

For example, most districts don’t map their school scores, but if they did, they might find some guides to action. In this map, high-performing schools are green and blue, average schools are yellow, and low-performing schools are orange and red.

performance map

The map shows a cluster of low-performing schools in the middle; the district might focus its improvement effort here. But the district might also notice that right in the middle of this cluster is a high-performing school. Could it help them figure out what to do next? Can its program be expanded? Can it be replicated? Are there aspiring leaders in this school who can move into one or more of the neighboring low-performing schools?

Nationally there are tens of thousands of low-performing schools in need of improvement. Setting bars and putting schools on lists hasn’t yielded much success. It is worth looking at patterns of performance within cities and neighborhoods for ideas about how to make more headway.

-Betheny Gross and Christine Campbell

4 Responses to “Forward Mapping”

  1. Bob Rothman Says:

    Another reason Chicago chose the 15 percent rule was so that the school that Gery Chico, the board president, had attended, would be included. He didn’t want it to appear that the district was targeting other people’s schools. So politics played a role, as it always does, and would under any scheme.

  2. Attorney DC Says:

    I have to object to the term “low-performing school”, which implies that the school itself (teachers, curriculum, administrators) performs poorly. In fact, numerous studies have shown that low-performing schools are HIGHLY correlated with a low-SES student population, particularly African-American and Hispanic students. As a former teacher (who taught in both high-income and low-income schools), I think it is grossly misleading to suggest that the “school” is at fault for the large differences in student performance, which relate to factors out of the school’s control.

  3. john thompson Says:

    Go to the Propublica web site, type in my old school of Oklahoma Centennial, and push “other high poverty schools” The juvenile prsion pops up. After all, we’re 98% low-income and we haven’t had AP class in a decade, much less physics. Press nearby schools, and the low-income rates range from 15% to 77%, and 30% of the kids take AP.

    why? Same as your map. The Big Sort. These numbers show the proliferation of choice, and the increased self-segregation of schools as well as society. Never assume that those numbers say anything about the effectiveness of educators. Most of the time, those numbers show who was born on 1st, 2nd, and 3rd base, and who started out with two strikes on them.

  4. Attorney DC Says:

    John: I liked the following from your post: “Never assume that those numbers say anything about the effectiveness of educators. Most of the time, those numbers show who was born on 1st, 2nd, and 3rd base, and who started out with two strikes on them.”

    Well said.

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