Mayor Emanuel and CPS Announce 4-Point Increase in Graduation Rate to Record High 77.5 Percent, Strongest One-Year Improvement in Memory 

African American Men Drove Growth with 5.4 Percent Increase in Graduation Rate
Monday, September 4, 2017

For more information, contact:
CPS Office of Communications
Phone: 773-553-1620
CHICAGO – With Chicago students’ academics improving across the board, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Public Schools announced today they achieved a blistering 4-point gain in the graduation rate, with 77.5 percent of students earning a diploma.

“From growing graduation rates to shrinking achievement gaps, Chicago’s investments in education are ensuring our children can live up to their promise and potential,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “The talent of our teachers and the passion of our principals are helping students exceed expectations and achieve greater accomplishments.” 

This is CPS’ highest graduation rate on record and the highest year-over-year improvement in memory. The graduation rate has steadily risen over the past six years, growing from 56.9 percent in 2011 to 77.5 percent – a 36 percent increase. In 2011, just over half of CPS students earned a high school diploma. As CPS continues to close in on the national graduation rate of 83 percent, more than three-fourths of CPS students earned diplomas, with 20,525 graduates in 2017.

African American males, who make the largest demographic subgroup of this group of graduates, improved their graduation rate by 5.4 percentage points, from 57.4 percent last year to 62.8 percent for 2017.

“Our schools are the strongest they’ve ever been, and this record breaking announcement is a testament to the commitment of principals, teachers and families,” said CPS CEO Forrest Claypool. “These improvements have occurred at an unprecedented pace, signaling a major culture shift that’s focused on supporting students and preparing them for success in high school and beyond.” 

From 1999 to 2011, CPS students’ average annual improvement in the graduation rate was less than one percentage point. Since taking office, the graduation rate has grown more than 3.6 points on average – triple the national rate of improvement. 

“Our record-high graduation rate makes it clear: Chicago’s students are more likely to succeed than ever before and Chicago has emerged as a national leader in urban education,” said CPS Chief Education Officer Dr. Janice K. Jackson. “Chicago students are shattering barriers and redefining what our students can accomplish when given the opportunity and support to succeed. While this is cause for celebration, our progress is far from over and we’re working harder and smarter to build upon this success for future generations.”

Numerous academic researchers in Illinois and throughout the country have validated and praised Chicago’s strong academic gains, including the graduation rate.

“These trends in high school graduation align with positive achievement trends in CPS that a number of researchers have noted over the past year, including analysis by the UChicago Consortium on School Research, Sean Reardon at Stanford, Paul Zavitovsky at UIC, and others,” said Sara Ray Stoelinga, the Sara Liston Spurlark Director at the University of Chicago Urban Education Institute. “The fact that significantly more high school students are graduating while college entrance exam scores continue to increase is great news for Chicago’s students and for the district.”

This landmark achievement in the graduation rate is the latest achievement for Chicago students, who continue to set a nationally recognized pace for progress.

  • Earlier this summer, CPS announced that for the first time, more than 60 percent of CPS elementary students are reading at or above the national average and more than 55 percent are beating the national average in math, reaching all-time highs for the district in the 2016-17 school year.
  • Earlier this week, CPS announced that the rate for freshmen on-track to graduate is the highest measure on record at 88.7 percent, up more than 28 percent since 2011. The increase is driven by African-American and Hispanic students, who considerably narrowed the achievement gap in the past year and is a key, predictive indicator for future graduation rates. The district’s graduation rate also aligns closely with the highly predictive freshmen on-track rate, which was introduced in 2007 and is a nationally recognized practice for guiding individual schools to improve their graduation rates. The freshmen on-track rate was 79.8 percent for this group of students who graduated in 2017.
With more students than ever before graduating from CPS, the district is also working to ensure that students have access to the tools and resources needed to promote college readiness. This includes strategic investments in college-level coursework through expansion of proven academic programs such as International Baccalaureate, STEM, AP and dual-credit/dual-enrollment. Additionally, the Mayor and CPS have set an ambitious goal of ensuring that at least half of all CPS students earn college credit or career credentials by 2019.

By setting high expectations for students to access the district’s wide menu of college and career credentials while they are still in high school, CPS will provide more of its students with exposure to the rigorous coursework that they will encounter in college, credits that apply toward their degree, and the confidence they need to succeed once they get there.

Mayor Emanuel and CPS also launched the groundbreaking “Learn. Plan. Succeed.” initiative, a graduation requirement designed to help students create a pathway for life after they leave CPS. While nearly 60 percent of CPS students already graduate with a postsecondary plan, Learn.Plan.Succeed. seeks to assist students who need additional planning support by ensuring they have meaningful conversations with an adult at school about their future. 

The district will continue to make public additional academic milestones for its students throughout the fall.


The raw number of CPS graduates is also increasing, even as the birthrate is declining and each class is smaller than its predecessor.
  • By summer 2017, 20,525 students from the 2012 cohort graduated.
  • By summer 2016, 20,438 students from the 2011 cohort graduated.
  • By summer 2015, 20,316 students from the 2010 cohort graduated.
  • By summer 2014, 20,232 students from the 2009 cohort graduated.
  • By summer 2013, 19,906 students from the 2008 cohort graduated.
  • By summer 2012, 18,577 students from the 2007 cohort graduated.
  • By summer 2011, 18,446 students from the 2006 cohort graduated.

Chicago Public Schools serves 381,000 students in 652 schools. It is the nation’s third-largest school district. 

Page Last Modified on Tuesday, September 05, 2017