Chicago continues to increase the number of graduates, but the city is still behind the state

More of Chicago’s students continue to graduate after five years, with this year’s numbers showing a small uptick, but the rapid pace of increase has slowed.

Almost 79% of Chicago’s seniors graduated in five years this spring, compared with closer to 78% the year prior, the district said Thursday. (To find school-by-school results, click here.)

Chicago’s graduation rate is still behind Illinois. The state has not yet released its 2019 numbers, but last year, the four-year graduation rate was 85.4%.  

In a statement, school district leaders described the 2019 rates as “a new record high” and said better access to rigorous academic programs, vocational education, and more social and emotional support for students helped improve scores. 

Fifteen years ago, in 2004, Chicago’s graduation rate hovered at 50%. As recently as 2011, it was only 56%, increasing to 66.3% by 2014. It began topping 70% in 2016, when the rate jumped to 73.5%.

But district schools chief Janice Jackson also said that not all students are graduating at 78.9%. Last year’s five-year rate was 78.2%.

“While we celebrate the hard work of our educators, students and communities, moving forward, we will continue to focus on closing the opportunity gap by ensuring low income students of color have the support and opportunities they need to graduate and succeed after high school,” she said in a statement.

Black students graduated at the lowest rate of the student groups, at 73.3%, compared with  81.2% for Latino students. White students graduated at a rate of 87.6%.

District data show that girls are more likely to finish high school in Chicago. The graduation rate for girls is 84.6%, compared with 73.3% for boys. 

The 10 schools that reported the highest graduation rates were primarily selective enrollments, or test-in schools: Whitney Young, Northside College Prep, Back of the Yards, King College Prep, Lane Tech, Payton, Jones, Carver Military, Phoenix Military, and Lindblom.

Excluding high schools for special education students, which have their own requirements, the 10 schools that reported the lowest graduation rates include several schools that have gone through consolidations or closings, as well as several that have struggled with dwindling enrollment: Orr, Amandla, Manley, Robeson, Bowen, Hirsch, Kelvyn Park High School, Collins, Hope, and Austin Business and Entrepreneurship Academy and Austin Polytechnical. 

Chicago’s method for calculating graduation rates came under scrutiny a few years ago for being inflated. Jackson, the schools chief, said last fall that the district’s data was substantiated by the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research and the state of Illinois.  

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