Key Questions

This report details a set of weaknesses in the current CPS testing and reporting system, and develops an alternative approach, called a school academic productivity profile for summarizing the changes that have occured in a school. This report also initiates our "Examining Productivity" series. It is the first in a series of studies that will systematically examine the academic productivity of Chicago's public elementary schools. This report develops a productivity profile for each school and uses these to summarize the systemwide trends over the decade from 1987 to 1996 in reading and math achievement.


This study sought an accurate and defensible way to chart student improvement in the Chicago Public Schools. The technical report explains why the current statistic used to measure year-to-year student achievement, "percentage of students at or above national norms," is unreliable for this purpose. The report details the methods used to assess the limitations of the current testing system and to create an alternative, a content-based measurement ruler. It then uses this new ruler to analyze trends in the Chicago schools in the first decade after reform.

Measurement Rulers

The study involved the creation of a new, content-based scale that rates the difficulty of questions from the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills. These measurement rulers give examples of ITBS questions, arranged along the scale according to difficulty, in order to link the numbers on the scale to actual questions students at that level could answer. Two rulers are available, one for reading and one for math.

Summary of Productivity Trends in the Chicago Public Schools 

Using their new scale, which takes into account the differences in standardized test forms used from year to year, the report authors analyze trends in CPS student learning over the past decade. The results show significant improvement in elementary-school reading and mathematics. 
Download the summary, Examining Productivity: Ten-Year Trends in the Chicago Public Schools.

Policy Brief

This paper reviews the recommendations endorsed by the UChicago Consortium's Steering Committee regarding changes in the current standardized testing system. Results from the study that contributed to these recommendations are discussed. Download the policy brief, Examining Productivity: Improving the Assessment System of the Chicago Public Schools.

Individual School Reports

Using their new measurement system, Consortium researchers analyzed results from the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills for each Chicago public elementary school. Results show not only whether a school's end-of-year test scores are improving, but also how much the school has contributed to its students' learning since the previous year. Download the reader's guide, Examining Productivity: How to Read Your Productivity Profile.