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CPS: Highest Graduation Rate On Record For Five-Year Grads in 2012, District Predicts

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In this photo taken Saturday, June 12, 2010 Urban Prep High School graduating seniors Marcus Bass, left, smiles at classmate Cameron Barnes as Barnes reflects on the absence of his mother who died last year during graduation ceremonies in Chicago. when Cameron Barnes' mother died last year of liver disease, he returned to school the next day, finding solace there.
In this photo taken Saturday, June 12, 2010 Urban Prep High School graduating seniors Marcus Bass, left, smiles at classmate Cameron Barnes as Barnes reflects on the absence of his mother who died last year during graduation ceremonies in Chicago. when Cameron Barnes' mother died last year of liver disease, he returned to school the next day, finding solace there. "It was like being with family," he says. "It's like a brotherhood." (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

At a time when Chicago Public Schools are in the spotlight as teachers have authorized a strike, the district released a projected graduation rate that could be record-breaking.

With more than 18,500 students graduating from CPS this year, the district predicts its graduation rate will hit 60.6 percent this year for students who were freshmen in the 2007-2008 school year, the highest it's been since at least 1999, according to WBEZ. That percentage includes predictions about seniors enrolled in summer school or fifth year programs to fulfill their graduation requirements.

The statistic says nothing about the current administration, in place for only a year, but CPS spokeswoman Robyn Ziegler told Catalyst Chicago that the news can provide "great momentum going into next year."

Mayor Rahm Emanuel seemed energized by the news, which he mentioned during his keynote speech at a CPS graduation last weekend.

"A higher percentage of CPS students will also enroll in college next year than any year on record," Emanuel told the senior class of Golder College Prep during their graduation ceremony this weekend, according to ABC Chicago.

But the Chicago Sun-Times reports that these stats may be misleading: the state requires school districts to calculate four-year graduation rates, which are sent home to parents, but CPS has been leaning on five year calculations for the past 14 years, according to the newspaper. What the 60 percent figure does represent is growth: it's up 2.3 percent from 2011, the third-largest uptick ever in the five-year measure, just behind the 2.5 percent hike the year before, and the 2.4 percent gain in 2006.

CPS Chief Jean-Claude Brizard attributed the improved rate in this year's class to graduation rate initiatives that targeted several schools, like Phoenix Military Academy, where teachers and principals collaborated to raise their graduation rate from 42 percent in 2008 to nearly 75 percent last year, the Associated Press reports. Brizard called the numbers "impressive," but said much more work needs to be done to bring all Chicago students to the same high-performing levels.

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