Taft HS on its way to meeting future goals
by BRIAN NADIG
Taft High School is well on its way to meeting or exceeding the 5-year vision’s goals that the Chicago Public Schools has set for high schools to work on from 2019-2024.
"2024 … We are basically already there," principal Mark Grishaber said during his annual "state of the school address," which he gave at the Dec. 8 meeting of the Taft Local School Council.
"We are 4 years ahead of the curve (in some areas)."
For many of the area’s top-achieving eighth graders, Taft has become the school of choice," Grishaber said. "A lot of great kids are not even considering selective enrollment schools. Kids are saying they’re going to Taft and that’s it," Grishaber said.
Taft’s freshman on-track to graduate rate is 96.85 percent, nearly 7 percentage points higher than the CPS’ goal of 90 percent for high school’s by 2024, according to Grishaber. It was about 94 percent a year earlier, he said.
Recent improvements in the on-track rate should propel Taft from a Level 1 to Level 1+ performance rating, the highest for a school, Grishaber said. Currently schools are not being rated due to the pandemic and the subsequent switchover to remote learning.
"The number one (statistic) that was holding us back was our freshman on-track," Grishaber said of a Level 1+ rating. "It’s going to be sweet when we do get it in the next year or two."
In other categories, 57.3 percent of Taft students are meeting college readiness benchmarks on the SAT (50 percent goal for CPS high schools by 2024), 88.5 percent of Taft students will graduate within 5 years (90 percent goal), 58.2 percent will earn early college credit or a career credential (60 percent goal), and 76.8 percent will enroll in a college (78 percent goal).
Also at the meeting, Goran Davidovac reflected on the 10 1/2 years he has served as a community member on the Local School Council. He is retiring from the council this month.
"I truly want to make Taft High School a better place" and want my children to go to Taft, said Davidovac, who served as a student representative on the council when he attended Taft in the mid-1990s. At the time Taft struggled to attract local students and many of them went to a selective enrollment or private high school.
Davidovac said that much of Taft’s success could be attributed to former principal Dr. Art Tarvardian, who served at the school’s helm from 1998 to 2012. "He fought tooth and nail for this school, and he succeeded."
Davidovac added that Grishaber then "took us to the next level."
During his tenure as a student and community member on the council, Davidovac was one of the most outspoken members, often raising objections or asking questions on issues when others did not.
Also retiring from the council are teachers Chad Nishibayashi and Marianne Villasenor
Meanwhile, Taft’s Seventh and Eighth Grade Academic Center students, who are enrolled at Taft’ freshman campus, will continue with remote learning when in-person learning is set to resume at elementary schools on Feb. 1.
"They’re considered high school (for those purposes)," Grishaber said after the meeting.
The school system has yet to announce a return date for in-person learning at high schools. The academic center is a gifted program that requires admissions testing.