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The problem with CPS rankings

By Sidney Madden | @sidney_madden_


The Chicago Board of Education is expected to vote today on a new system to replace a school rankings structure that has been criticized as punitive. 

What is the School Quality Rating Policy, or SQRP? CPS ranked schools from best-performing, Level 1, to those needing the most support, Level 3, based on student test scores, academic growth, attendance, and more, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Why is it controversial? Created to quickly indicate school quality to parents, some said SQRP scores failed to take in variables by school and neighborhood — and have also been used to close schools, Chalkbeat Chicago reported. (SQRPs have been suspended since COVID-19 began.)

It’s not yet clear what the new system will be, but raises a larger question about school rankings in general. 

Illinois Report Card categorizes schools statewide from “exemplary” to being in need of “comprehensive support.” 

U.S. News & World Report put out its annual top high school list this week, with five CPS selective enrollment schools cracking this year’s top 100. The outlet also put out rankings for elementary schools for the first time last year.

As enrollment-based budget cuts affect CPS schools, one can’t help but wonder what role any of these rankings had in the decade-long student population decline. 

“We need to return to a place where schools serve a public good, not compete against one another for a higher ranking,” then–CPS teacher Gina Caneva wrote in a 2019 Chicago Tribune op-ed. 

👉 Tune into the Board of Ed meeting at 10:30 a.m. Head to a CPS capital budget meeting this week.


▪️ Charles Sikanich, the 45th Ward superintendent with close ties to Ald. Jim Gardiner, was charged with gun possession and official misconduct. Gardiner is under federal investigation for misconduct in office. [Chicago Tribune]

▪️ Chicago Reader co-owner Len Goodman and three board members are stepping down, clearing the way for the alt-weekly to transition to a nonprofit after months of stalling. [Chicago Reader]

▪️ President Joe Biden pardoned Abraham Bolden, a Chicagoan and the first Black Secret Service agent who still had decades-old charges on his record. [Chicago Sun-Times]

▪️ Since December, only about half of scheduled Blue Line trains have been running, tapering off at nights and weekends. [Streetsblog Chicago]

▪️ It’s not just VP Kamala Harris: Ald. Sophia King of the 4th Ward said she tested positive for COVID-19, and Bulls star Zach LaVine entered the NBA’s COVID protocols. [Hyde Park Herald; NBA]

▪️ In Summertime Chi news: Lollapalooza’s day-by-day lineup is out, Silver Room Block Party tickets go on sale at noon, and some want Lyrical Lemonade to be out of Douglass Park to make way for Juneteenth celebrations. [ABC Chicago; The Triibe; Block Club Chicago]


Cook County has more than 70,000 acres of forest preserves. Our wetlands, prairies, woodlands, and savannas are home to hundreds of native plants and animals. And yes, that mean birds, butterflies, and river otters are reemerging.

Conservationists and organizers work year-round to preserve these spaces, educate residents, and encourage people to get outside. 

🎧 Brenda Elmore of Friends of the Forest Preserves tells us about how she got into the outdoors and why she wants to educate others

➕ Need inspo about where to get your nature on? Check out our friends Black People Outside, and listen to our interview with them last year.


Hot off Earth Day and landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted’s 200th birthday, we’re asking you to share your favorite Chicago parks. Here’s mine:

Maggie Daley Park in the Loop is the park of my childhood — not the new one with the skating ribbon and rock climbing wall but the old one before the renovations with shady trees and spongy playground floors. 

It’s where I went to Park District summer camp to make friendship bracelets and avoid kickball. Where we (tried to) sled in the winter. Where I played after school. 

And if anyone has a pic of the old Maggie Daley Park, let me know! I’ve been scouring the internet because I’m nostalgic 😌

📲 Tell us about your favorite park in the city! Email, and we’ll share your response.

A woman bundled up in a vest, gloves, and mask holds a mic outside on an overcast day.

It is City Cast’s Carrie Shepherd’s birthday, and she deserves all the love! 

If you didn’t know, Carrie is our soft serve connoisseur, parking expert, and top booker. 

She leads our small but mighty team enthusiastically, empathetically, and fashionably of course.

How lucky are we that she took a chance on City Cast? Wishing you the happiest of birthdays, Carrie!

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