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Chicago Public Schools’ Black Student Success Working Group Shares Recommendations

After months of study and robust public engagement, members of the Chicago Public Schools’ (CPS) Black Student Success Working Group (BSSWG), shared their initial recommendations Thursday, June 27, 2024, during the monthly Board of Education meeting. These recommendations serve as a first step toward developing a Black Student Success Plan that will set the vision and action steps to better support Black students over the next several years.

“The District’s most engaged and important constituency – our students – along with CPS parents, teachers, staff, and community members, have collaborated with us to provide key consultation regarding the success of Black students,” said CPS CEO Pedro Martinez. “Once the District reviews the recommendations, we aim to use them to inform our five-year strategic plan and create a Black Student Success Plan for CPS. Black student success is a key priority for our District’s success.”

The BSSWG was established last year to further the District’s commitment to Black student achievement, well-being, and future success. The BSSWG, is made up of more than 60 District, school, and community members, and was charged with developing recommendations that would inform the District’s pending Black Student Success Plan.

The BSSWG met eight times over six months to analyze data and discuss challenges and opportunities for Black students in CPS. CPS staff, Board of Education Members, and BSSWG members also hosted eight collaborative community listening sessions, attended by approximately 500 stakeholders, to learn from CPS communities about current challenges and recommended solutions to inform the recommendations. Parallel to these meetings, CPS staff and BSSWG members also convened specialized focus groups with students, families, and staff to better understand the experiences, needs, and successes of our students.

The Working Group centered inclusive partnerships with our communities to analyze data and engage stakeholders and is now submitting their recommendations to District leadership and the Chicago Board of Education.

The BSSWG’s is presenting recommendations for consideration in the District’s Five-Year Strategic Plan and for the Black Student Success Plan in the following categories:

Student Daily Learning Experiences

• Culturally-Responsive Curriculum and Instruction

• Wrap-around Services and Community Partnerships

• Educational Access, Opportunities, and Experiences

• Facilities Improvement and Equitable Resource Allocation

Adult Capacity and Continuous Learning

• Recruitment and Retention of Black Educators

• Embedded Culturally-Responsive Professional Learning Communities

• Establish and Evolve Evaluation Processes

Inclusive and Collaborative Schools & Community Partnerships

• Student Voice and Leadership Development

• Parent/Caregiver and Community Engagement Initiative

• Restorative Justice and Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Supports

• Community School Models

• External School/District Partnerships and Collaborations

Improving the outcomes for Black students is a critical priority for CPS. While CPS has made efforts to address long-standing racial inequities within the pre-K-12 educational system, historic and persistent gaps in opportunity for students remain. In particular, the data shows that work remains to be done to create holistic systems of support to foster greater success for Black students. Historically and today, Black students are situated farthest from opportunity across multiple areas.

“Today, we recognize the undeniable challenges our Black students face within our schools and beyond. Data shows that our Black students continue to bear the brunt of punitive measures inside and outside of the school setting. Those measures have a way of obstructing our Black students’ success,” said CPS Chief Equity Officer Fatima Cooke. “Now that it’s said out loud, what are we going to do to support Black student achievement? We’re going to outline next steps and collaborate with community stakeholders who are invested in Black student success.”

The working group engaged in a deep equity-focused planning process to create a comprehensive set of targeted recommendations aimed at determining the appropriate inputs that support closing outcome gaps for Black students in the District.

At the same time, the working group aims to highlight what the collective CPS community can accomplish with intentional opportunities for students as can be seen in the historic achievements accomplished by the District’s Class of 2024 graduates and recent academic gains of our elementary students. Seventeen percent of the District’s Black graduates earned their associate’s degree while representing 34 percent of District students who earned dual credit, meaning coursework that provides high school and college credit. These students’ career pathways include colleges and universities, trade schools, the arts, the military, and entering the workforce.

Just as they did last school year, CPS’ third through eighth graders posted the greatest gains on the state assessment in English Language Arts, resulting in a five percentage point increase from the previous school year and yielding a higher percent proficiency than before the pandemic. Importantly, Black students drove these gains, achieving a six percentage point increase over the previous school year.

An integral part of Black student success consists of surrounding Black students with supports and educators who understand their social and cultural experiences. CPS continues to hire and retain teachers and other staff members who have strong roots in the communities our Black students represent.

In the meantime, the BSSWG’s recommendations will help the District to create an aligned Strategic Plan and Black Student Success Plan that works to close opportunity gaps for Black students and advance Black student success in CPS.

More information about the CPS Black Student Success Working Group and additional Black Student Success engagement is available on the District’s website.

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