Chicago Public Schools Achieve Record High Graduation Rates, Data Indicates

Chicago Public Schools officials announced on Tuesday that a higher percentage of students graduated last school year compared to 2022, setting a new record.

The graduation rate for the Class of 2023 was 84%, an increase of 1.1 percentage points from the previous year’s rate of 82.9%. However, the dropout rate for the Class of 2023 was slightly higher at 9.4% compared to the Class of 2022, which had a dropout rate of 8.9%.

The five-year graduation rate, which includes students who took extra time to complete their diploma, was 85.6% for the Class of 2022, higher than the previous year’s rate of 84%.

CPS CEO Pedro Martinez, joined by Mayor Brandon Johnson and U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, shared the news at Walter H. Dyett High School for the Arts.

Martinez emphasized that the rising graduation rate indicates progress in the district’s recovery from the pandemic. He noted that the students in the Class of 2023 had faced significant disruptions due to the pandemic, with two years of remote and hybrid learning.

Cardona praised the graduation rates as a positive sign for the future of education in Chicago. He highlighted the effective use of federal COVID relief funds by CPS, which were used to support teacher salaries and hire additional instructional staff.

The announcement followed the release of statewide data on graduation rates, which also showed an increase. However, due to calculation differences between the state and CPS, direct comparisons could not be made.

While Chicago’s graduation rate has been steadily increasing over time, there are still racial disparities among graduates. Graduation rates improved for Black, Hispanic, and Asian American students, but slightly decreased for white students. Rates also dropped for multiracial students.

Data from the district revealed that nearly 75% of Black boys graduated within four years, showing improvement from five years ago.

Although graduation rates have risen, SAT scores for the Class of 2023 declined, with an average composite score of 914 compared to 927 for the previous year. Additionally, the percentage of ninth graders on track to graduate by 2026 slightly decreased compared to the previous class.

During the pandemic, CPS and other school systems implemented grading policy changes, raising questions about their impact on graduation rates. However, Martinez argued that the increase in students completing college-level credits demonstrated high academic standards.

One student, Zaid Orduño, shared his experience of taking college-level courses through the district’s Early College Program. This experience influenced his decision to pursue a civil engineering degree at Illinois Tech instead of joining his family’s construction business.

A wall at Walter H. Dyett High School for the Arts is dedicated to remembering a hunger strike held in 2015 to demand for the reopening of Dyett, which was closed at the time. (Reema Amin / Chalkbeat)

Walter H. Dyett High School for the Arts, located in the Bronzeville neighborhood, observed an increase in its graduation rate to 86%. This marked progress since community members participated in a hunger strike in 2015 to demand the reopening of the school.

Mayor Brandon Johnson acknowledged the success of Dyett High School and recognized Ald. Jeanette Taylor, who was part of the hunger strike and now serves in City Council. Johnson also advocated for expanding the Sustainable Community Schools Initiative, which provides support services to schools and families.

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