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CPS Grading Its Schools, But Parents Say Report Cards 'Confusing'

CHICAGO (CBS) -- There's a new kind of report card on the Chicago Public Schools that might tell us about the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The good: a new era of transparency; the bad: what parents are likely to learn about their neighborhood school; the ugly: the state of the system inherited by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and CPS Chief Executive Officer Jean-Claude Brizard.

CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine was there as Emanuel and Brizard unveiled an interactive online map of school report cards on Monday.

The report cards provide ratings for each school, from Level 1 to Level 3, with 1 being the best, according to guidelines set by the Chicago Board of Education.

For example, Manuel Perez Elementary School in Pilsen was graded at Level 1. The school has shown steady progress over the past few years under principal Vicky Kleros, dedicated teachers and an especially active and concerned group of parents.

But on the new "Interactive School Progress Report Map" website, you see that only 33% of 3rd to 5th grade students meet or exceed national standards at Perez. In addition, only 14 percent of 8th graders are on track for college.

Perez parent Diane Gracia said, "It's kind of … confusing."

"You scratch your head and say, 'How can you be Level 1 at 33%?' That's gonna be the conversation around a lot of kitchen tables in the city of Chicago, because we've been telling parents one thing, when, in fact, a lot of experts knew another answer," Emanuel said after unveiling the new website.

According to the map, the Level 1 and 2 schools are concentrated in predominantly white North Side, Northwest Side and Southwest Side neighborhoods. The Level 3 schools and schools on probation are more likely to be in minority neighborhoods on the South Side and West Side.

Overall, fewer than 8 percent of 11th graders in the CPS system will be college ready when they graduate – if they graduate.

Asked if that is an indicator of how bad the system is, Kleros said, "It says that there's work that needs to be done and it's up to us to explain this to the parents to make sure we're clear about what it means and to create a plan how we're going to move our students from these levels, up."

One Perez parent said, "I think this is gonna be a challenge for the parents to get more involved.

Another parent said, "It's gonna be kind of a stress for us parents, but we need to help our kids.

How can you call a school where more than two-thirds of the students fail to meet national standards a Level 1 school? You can't, and Brizard said that will change.

But the real challenge is helping Chicago students catch up to the rest of the nation.

The online school report cards might serve to fire up parents and get them to demand that a first class city not tolerate second class schools.

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