11/16/2011 09:57 am ET Updated Nov 18, 2011

CPS Common Core: National Curriculum Standards Prove Challenging To Meet At Chicago Pilot Schools

While speaking from Perez Elementary School on the Chicago's West Side, where they were unveiling a new online database of school performance reports, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard inadvertently highlighted huge gaps between reported student performance at the Common Core curriculum pilot school before and after the national standards were implemented.

Forty-four states and U.S. territories stated intentions to adopt Common Core curriculum standards last April, which standardize performance benchmarks nationally in an effort to uniformly prepare public school students for college admissions standards. The program, introduced last year by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers and endorsed by the Obama administration, encourages schools to incorporate critical thinking exercises into existing lesson plans.

As a Level 1-ranked school, the top ranking based on student performance on the Illinois Standard Achievement Test and other benchmarks, Perez was chosen to be one of the first CPS schools to pilot the Common Core curriculum program this year, the Chicago Tribune reports. But their score card against the Common Core standards found that only about one-third of 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders were performing at or above their grade levels in reading and science, and little more than one-quarter of the school's 6th and 8th grade students at or above their grade levels in reading.

"It's a shock to anyone who sees it; it's a really sobering score card," Perez Principal Vicky Kleros told WBEZ.

The significant distance between student performance as measured by state standards and national standards comes at a time when the accuracy of Illinois school's evaluation methods have been questioned, after legislation closed several significant loopholes. This discrepancy could prove to be a huge hurdle for previously high-performing schools transitioning to operate under Common Core standards.

Emanuel and Brizard used the new Perez scorecard as evidence for why the Common Core standards should be adopted across the city, arguing that they were a better indicator of student competitiveness on a national scale, which is more reflective of the college admissions landscape, the Tribune reports.

"The standard has to be a national standard, not just in Illinois," Emanuel said, according to the Tribune.

Flickr photo by Anthony Adolf.