Wendy Katten, director of Raise Your Hand, has an op-ed in Crain's today addressing the expansion of charters schools in Chicago. She writes: "CPS now has a shocking 31 new charter proposals on the table to open in the next two years. This should stop us all in our tracks — because district schools will lose more funding and have to face further cuts, which will lead to weaker educational outcomes for many students across Chicago. This is not choice, it's chaos."
RATIONING BATHROOM TIME: A Chicago Public School elementary teacher shared a memo with Education Week that was delivered to faculty members last week. The memo spelled out how two new restroom policies could help teachers to "maximize student learning and reduce the loss of instructional time." Under the new policies, teachers were told to sign up for a "restroom time slot" and to take their class to use the restroom only during allotted times so that multiple groups aren't competing to use the facilities and to use a watch or stopwatch to time the students, and to also praise students when they meet "behavior and time expectations."
IN THE NATION
AP EXAM TAKERS: A new analysis of test-taking data finds that in Mississippi and Montana, no female, African American, or Hispanic students took the Advanced Placement exam in computer science. In fact, no African-American students took the exam in a total of 11 states, and no Hispanic students took it in eight states, according to state comparisons of College Board data compiled by Barbara Ericson, the director of computing outreach and a senior research scientist at Georgia Tech. (Education Week)
TRACKING CHARTER TRANSFERS: Pupils are not more likely to leave New York City charter schools than their counterparts at traditional public schools, but that is not the case for special education students, a study found. (The New York Times)
With the Obama administration criticizing zero tolerance policies that have led schools to often turn over routine discipline issues to police, the federal government on Wednesday released new discipline guidelines for states and school districts. Student groups and the Chicago Teachers Union, both of which have argued that Chicago Public Schools has one of the harshest and most discriminatory disciplinary policies among large urban school districts, welcomed the new guidelines and urged CPS to implement them. (Tribune)
THE RANGEL CHRONICLES: Chicago Magazine and the Better Government Association chronicle the rise and fall of Juan Rangel, or the man who turned a small activist group in the nation's biggest charter school operator.
IN THE NATION
LAW TURNS 12: No Child Left Behind, the Bush-era education law that was supposed to forever change the nation's schools by giving the federal government far more say over accountability, particularly for poor and minority children, turned 12 years old on Wednesday. (Education Week)
LET'S NOT MOVE: Just one in four teenagers between the ages of 12 and 15 engaged in the recommended 60 minutes of daily moderate-to-vigorous physical activity in 2012, according to new data released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Education Week)
TEACHER HIRING BACK ON: After an extended period of layoffs and hiring freezes, the Los Angeles Unified School District has resumed bringing on new teachers, while also being more selective about their quality than in the past. The nation's second-largest school system forecasts hiring 1,333 instructors for next year; it hired 718 for the current year. The total teaching force numbers about 26,000. (Los Angeles Times)
CHARTER STANCE TARGETED: Calling school choice the best route out of poverty, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor took aim at New York City’s new mayor on Wednesday for his cooler stance toward public charter schools and warned that Republicans may hold congressional hearings on the education policies of Democrat Bill de Blasio’s administration. (The Washington Post)
UPDATED: With the Obama administration taking a stand Wednesday against zero-tolerance discipline that forces students out of school, CPS is readying itself for a major release of detailed school-level statistics on expulsion and suspension.
The upcoming data release is the result of a huge battle activists won when CPS agreed to not only post information for individual schools, but also to provide detailed breakdowns by demographics, including race, and disability.
The agreement is another step forward in creating more transparency on discipline in the district. CPS has come under harsh criticism for having one of the highest suspension rates in the nation, as well as stark racial disparities in who gets suspended and expelled.
Prior to CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett’s administration, school-level information was only obtained by the media and advocates through the Freedom of Information Act.
Yet there will still be a big missing piece: Information on charter schools and school arrests, which will not be included when the data is posted by the end of February. The information collected by the district is currently too incomplete to be reliable, said Mariame Kaba, founding directory of the juvenile justice advocacy organization, Project NIA.
(Also, any category of students that is fewer than 10 will be redacted due to a federal privacy law.)
Kaba announced the agreement between CPS and a coalition of advocates at December’s School Board meeting. She says CPS leaders also agreed to hold three summits on discipline.
Collecting demographic information on suspensions and expulsions and using it to improve student outcomes is one of the recommendations in guidelines issued jointly by the departments of justice and education on Wednesday.
The Obama administration guidelines also recommended public school officials use law enforcement only as a last resort for disciplining students. The guidelines note that suspensions and expulsions lead to “serious educational, economic and social problems” and suggest that districts explicitly limit exclusionary discipline and require that steps such as restorative justice or social and emotional skill-building be taken before disciplinary action.
On Wednesday, the citywide student advocacy group, VOYCE (Voices of Youth in Chicago Education), urged the city and the state of Illinois to adopt the guidelines. Marshawn Earvin, a student at Dunbar, said he was suspended for three days for saying something disrespectful. He says he was falsely accused.
But given the strong correlation between suspensions and subsequent dropping out, he says he is fighting to stay in school and make the situation better.
“I will not be another statistic,” he said.
The Chicago Teachers Union leaders issued a statement saying they welcomed the guidelines and noted they have long advocated for alternative discipline measures. However, they emphasized that implementing such alternatives requires an investment in such staff as social workers, psychologists and counselors.
CPS spokeswoman Keiana Barrett says that the district is "aggressively" examining its discipline procedures and already has working groups looking at the issue. District officials plan to roll out a comprehensive program aimed at implementing restorative justice and stemming the "school to prison" pipeline later this month or in early February.
They also are considering adopting the federal guidelines.
CPS’ current administration has been quietly making information on discipline more available. This year, for the first time, school progress reports include the suspensions per 100 students, as well as the average length of suspensions. An analysis of this data shows that CPS’ suspension rates are high and the racial disparity is enormous.
Suspension rates increased for elementary schools, as well. At elementary schools that are predominantly African American, the rate was 27 per 100 students last year, up from 21 per 100 in 2012. At schools that had substantial populations of white students or a mix of white and Hispanic students, an average of 2.7 students were suspended in 2013, no change the previous year.
In high schools, there were an average of 52 suspensions for every 100 students and the racial disparity was even starker: At predominantly black high schools, there were 83 suspensions for every 100 students. At 14 schools there were more than 100 suspensions per 100 students, meaning that multiple students are being suspended multiple times.
Meanwhile, at predominantly Latino schools, there were 27 suspensions per 100 students. But schools with significant white enrollment, or a diverse student body—typically the selective high schools or North Side schools—recorded only 17 suspensions for every 100 students.
Illinois and Chicago have come under harsh criticism regarding student discipline, after studies and U.S. Department of Education statistics pointed to some of the highest rates of suspensions and widest disparities in the nation. A 2012 study by the Civil Rights Project at the University of California-Los Angeles found that, compared to any other group of students in the nation’s 100 largest districts, black students in Chicago had the second highest rate of suspension. At the top of the list was Henrico County Public Schools, which includes Richmond, Virginia.
Big picture still not clear
The federal statistics and other research use state data, which has a lag time of several years. Plus, it is difficult to get data broken down by race, gender and disability.
The lack of good information prevented experts from being able to see the big picture of discipline in CPS, says Jessica Schneider, staff attorney in the educational equity project at the Chicago Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law. Her organization often represents students at expulsion hearings.
“We can address individual cases, piece by piece, but it is hard to make any big changes,” she says.
Having suspension and expulsion information readily available also will aid organizations in making their case for alternative disciplinary measures and figuring out which ones work.
CPS’ Code of Conduct emphasizes restorative justice, such as peace circles and peer juries, over harsh discipline such as suspension and expulsion. But use of restorative justice has been spotty, and many times depends on whether school principals work with a community group, which runs the peace circles and trains the peer juries.
Kaba said many of the community groups running these programs have been unable to figure out whether their work results in fewer suspensions and curbs harsh discipline.
The new data CPS will post “gives us an exciting opportunity to move beyond anecdotes,” she says.
Originally, the coalition of community groups and activists wanted CPS to have something similar to the New York City Student Safety Act, which requires quarterly reporting of student safety and discipline information to the City Council.
When Kaba brought the idea to Ald. Joe Moore, he suggested they meet Beth Swanson, who is Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s deputy chief of staff for education. She put them in touch with CPS’ head of safety and security, Jadine Chou.
Then, when John Barker came on board as chief of accountability, he was immediately clear that the information could easily be made available. Last year, he put the first discipline indicator on school report cards.
Advocates are now planning to lobby to get the Board of Education to pass a resolution promising to make the information available in the future. Kaba says this would ensure that the practice continues after this current administration leaves office.
The Obama administration issued guidelines on Wednesday that recommended public school officials use law enforcement only as a last resort for disciplining students, a response to a rise in zero-tolerance policies that have disproportionately increased the number of arrests, suspensions and expulsions of minority students for even minor, nonviolent offenses. (The New York Times)
COLD CONTINUES, CLASSES RESUME: Chicago public schools reopened Wednesday after being closed for two days because of the heavy snow and bitter cold. Many of the other Chicago area schools closed this week by the wintry weather also plan to reopen Wednesday. But some districts in northwest Indiana, including Hammond and Hobart, will remain closed, according to the WGN Radio Emergency Closing Center. Northwestern University announced today that classes would resume Wednesday. (Tribune)
UPHEAVAL IN UPTOWN: Some parents and teachers say the third floor of Mary E. Courtenay Elementary School in Uptown has become a "war zone." The floor, home to middle-school classrooms, is where kids from two very different school communities were brought together after the Board of Education's controversial vote to merge Joseph Stockton Elementary School with Courtenay last May. It's also where the majority of fights at the school break out, students and staff say. A teacher — five months pregnant — was punched in the head while trying to break up a fight between two eighth-graders on the third floor on Dec. 17, the Chicago Police Department confirmed. (DNA Info)
The latest enrollment numbers show that Illinois' public school system for the first time does not have a white majority, with Latino, black, Asian and other racial groups combined eclipsing white students across the state's classrooms. (Tribune)
Whites fell to 49.76 percent of the student body this school year, the new data show, a demographic tipping point that came after years of sliding white enrollment and a rise in Latino, Asian and multiracial students. The black student population also has declined, but it still makes up almost 18 percent of the state's public school students.
NO SCHOOL—AGAIN: Chicago Public Schools will again be closed Tuesday, CPS boss Barbara Byrd-Bennett announced at a news conference Monday. (DNA Info)
DEFENDING REVERSAL: Chicago Public Schools chief Barbara Byrd Bennett, asked about the district's reversal on closing schools Monday, said she was unaware of the public outcry and CTU President Karen Lewis' tweet about CPS' original decision over the weekend to keep schools open Monday, a day of record-breaking subzero temperatures. (CBS Chicago)
IN THE NATION
ATLANTA CHEATING SCANDAL: The cast of characters was mostly former teachers and principals, six of whom pleaded guilty on Monday in a Fulton County courtroom for their part in what has been described as the largest cheating scandal in the nation’s history. Their pleas bring to 17 the number of educators who have already pleaded guilty, with a handful more in active negotiations. (The New York Times)
DIGITAL EXPLOSION: The school publishing industry appears to be reaping benefits from rebounding state and local budgets, increased demand for materials aligned to the common core, and the continued evolution from print to digital products. Sales for print and digital instructional materials in schools jumped 25 percent in September and 9 percent in October over the previous year, according to the Association of American Publishers. (Education Week)
Chicago Public Schools decided to close all schools today in the face of dangerously cold temperatures and high winds after the Chicago Teachers Union and social media users criticized the district over its weekend announcement saying parents should determine whether to send their children to school. (Tribune)
IN THE STATE
NEW REWARD SYSTEM: Teachers in one of the highest academically ranked school districts in Illinois, Lincolnshire-Prairie View School District 103, are about halfway through a process that will determine whether they get raises the following school year. Their contract requires them to earn a “proficient” or “excellent” rating in order to get a bump; those who earn the higher rankings receive a 2.4 percent raise on their base pay and a cash bonus that varies based on their rating. Teachers who fail to obtain the higher rankings get no raise, but the teachers’ negotiator says the 150-member staff is so skilled and dedicated and the contract so expansive, it’s a fair deal. (Sun-Times)
IN THE NATION
Reports of low college completion rates may be giving up on college students too soon. New data released by the federal Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System suggest a significant portion of students do finish college degrees and professional certificates—in double the traditional time allotted for those programs. (Education Week)
GED MAKEOVER: The GED test, for decades the brand name for the high school equivalency exam, is about to undergo some changes. The revamped test is intended to be more rigorous and better aligned with the skills needed for college and today's workplaces. The new test will only be offered on a computer, and it will cost more. What consumers pay for the test varies widely and depends on state assistance and other factors. (NPR)
Districts nationwide are replacing textbooks with computers, but many are finding less costly ways than L.A. Unified's $768 per device. (Los Angeles Times)
The Perris Union High School District in California is paying $344 apiece for a Chromebook for every student. Nearby, Riverside Unified purchased a variety of devices, including the Kindle Fire and iPad Mini, for as low as $150 each. In San Diego Unified, some students are using a $200 tablet. The Los Angeles Unified School District, however, is paying $768 per device for its students, teachers and administrators, making it one of the nation's most expensive technology programs. The reason: L.A. Unified selected a relatively costly product — a higher-end Apple iPad — and also paid for a new math and English curriculum installed on the tablets.
HOME-SCHOOLING AND CHARTERS: Through an unusual partnership between a California school district and an educational-management group, a charter school helps reconnect home-schooling families to local public schools. (Education Week)
A LATER SCHOOL BELL?: The plight of sleep-deprived teenagers will soon get a closer look in Anne Arundel County, Va., where school officials are creating a task force to study the hours of the school day across grade levels. (The Washington Post)
The Chicago's Board of Education's efforts to gather community input on proposals for 21 new charter campuses, which the district is set to vote this month, has done little to satisfy critics of the privately run schools.
Opponents say charter advocates have been given too much influence over several of the Neighborhood Advisory Councils set up by Chicago Public Schools to discuss proposals in Northwest and Southwest side neighborhoods where charters have yet to gain a foothold. (Tribune)
IN THE NATION
RUSHED ROLLOUT: As the new Common Core State Standards are rolled out across the country, a growing number of educators and parents say they're worried about the tests being developed and tied to the new, more rigorous standards in reading and math. The test results after all won't just be used to gauge kids progress but to evaluate teachers, rate schools and rank states. (NPR)
PARENT POWER: In urban districts across the country, a new crop of education advocacy organizations promoting ideas like school choice and free-market practices for K-12 public education has begun tapping into parents to press for changes to the public school system on state and local levels. (Education Week)
MISTAKEN EVALUATIONS: Faulty calculations of the “value” that D.C. teachers added to student achievement in the last school year resulted in erroneous performance evaluations for 44 teachers, including one who was fired because of a low rating, school officials disclosed Monday. (The Washington Post)
In a new ad, GOP gubernatorial contender Bruce Rauner talks about the benefits of charter schools in Illinois, merit-based pay for teachers and his role as an education reformer. “There’s no excuse for failing schools. Zero. None. Period,” Rauner says in the TV ad, which was shot inside a school. “I got so fed up, I helped start charter schools like this one.”
IN THE NATION
SCHOOL POLICY SHIFT IN NYC: As he announced his choice of Carmen Fariña as the next chancellor of New York City schools, Bill de Blasio suggested on Monday that he would depart drastically from the policies of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. He pledged to reduce the emphasis on standardized testing in classrooms, and he said he would end, at least for now, the practice of closing low-performing schools. (The New York Times)
ROLLING IN THE DOLLARS: With states well into their final year of Race to the Top implementation, the 12 winners still have a lot of money to spend, according to the latest financial reports by the U.S. Department of Education. The state with the largest share of its award left? New York, with 59 percent of its $700 million still sitting in the bank as of Nov. 30, according to the latest federal spending report. Meanwhile, Delaware (one of the two states that got a jump start by winning in the first round) has just 31 percent left. Combined, the 12 Race to the Top states have $1.8 billion of their $4 billion in winnings left, or about 46 percent. (Education Week)
It's easy for performance anxiety to trip up students, and a new set of studies suggests it may be better for teachers to get their stressed kids excited rather than trying to calm them down. (Education Week)
In a series of experiments highlighted in the latest issue of the Journal of Experimental Psychology, Allison Wood Brooks, a psychologist at Harvard Business School who studies performance under stress, found that getting anxious people amped up about a forthcoming test or task improved their performance more than trying to soothe their fears.
NYC SCHOOLS CHANCELLOR: New York City Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio Monday will name Carmen Farina as his pick for chancellor of the 1 million student school system, The New York Times is reporting. Farina, an educator for decades in the New York City system, retired from a deputy chancellor position in 2006, a role she served in for a couple of years during the administration of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. (Education Week)
COLLEGE RECRUITMENT BIAS: A Los Angeles Times survey of public and private high schools across Southern California found that campuses with a high proportion of low-income and minority students had far fewer visits from college recruiters.
“Phasing-out” is a euphemism for slow death in Chicago Public Schools, which has become increasingly aggressive about closing public schools in poor and African-American neighborhoods. Walter Dyett High School is scheduled to close at the end of next school year, at which point, community groups say, there will be no other viable public high school in the neighborhood–essentially creating a “school desert.” (MSNBC)
CHARTERS GREEN LIGHTED: A little-known state agency backed by powerful Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan has overruled Chicago public school officials, ordering them to approve and fund two new charter schools in the city. The schools are run by Concept Schools Inc., the first and only charter to benefit from the decision of the Illinois State Charter School Commission, founded in 2011 by Madigan. The two new schools will be located in the McKinley Park and Austin neighborhoods. They are getting 33 percent more funding per student than the city school system gives other charters. (WBEZ/Sun-Times)
LSC MEMBERS NEEDED: Chicago Public Schools has released its annual announcement inviting parents, teachers and community members to consider running for a spot on the local school council. The school district is also looking for election judges. (Hyde Park Herald)
IN THE NATION
BUMPY START: New York City principals and teachers expressed frustrations with the new teacher evaluation system, which some say creates more work and tests and has a temperamental computer program. (The New York Times)
MOBILE TEACHERS: Teachers in Fairfax County, Va., shuttle their materials from classroom to classroom using handcarts as school system copes with overcrowding. (The Washington Post)
This holiday season, we are featuring videos from TEDxWellsStreetED: Teacher Voice Beyond the Classroom. We invite you to view the videos below of TEDxTalks that were given by numerous classroom teachers as well as acclaimed journalist Carol Marin, teacher blogger Marilyn Rhames, community activist Cecile Carroll, and others.
In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TED has created a program called TEDx.
TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. Our event is called TEDxWellsStreetED, where x=independently organized TED event. At our TEDxWellsStreetED event, TEDTalks videos and live speakers combined to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group.
The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events, including ours, are self-organized.
Many of the nation’s school districts that laid off teachers and other employees to cut payrolls during the recession have not yet replenished their ranks. Now, despite the recovery, many schools face unwieldy class sizes and a lack of specialists to help those students who struggle academically, are learning English as a second language or need extra emotional support. (The New York Times)
COST OF CHARTER EXPANSION: A new cost analysis questions the wisdom of opening more charter schools in Chicago. The analysis, calculated by Communities United for Quality Education, finds that approving all 21 charter schools that have applied to open would cost Chicago $21 million dollars the first year and $225 million over the next decade. The analysis factors in only basic school operating costs, such as a principal and utilities costs—it doesn’t include any of the “per pupil” funding schools get for enrolling students. (WBEZ)
ASSAULT NEAR SAFE PASSAGE: About 140 people, many demanding more police presence and action on the part of public officials, packed a Belmont Cragin meeting Thursday night organized after a 15-year-old girl was found sexually assaulted near a Safe Passage route on the way to school last week. (Tribune)
IN THE NATION
GUILTY OF CHEATING: Eight former educators indicted in Atlanta's sprawling cheating case have pleaded guilty in recent weeks, many of them admitting to lesser charges in exchange for their pleas. Some defendants have agreed to cooperate with prosecutors as part of their plea deals. A Fulton County grand jury indicted 35 educators last spring—including Beverly Hall, the former superintendent—in a conspiracy case that accused them of changing students' standardized test scores or giving students answers in an attempt to make the district's academic performance look better than it was. (Education Week)
The performance gap between Chicago’s black and white students — and between its poorest students and their wealthier classmates — continues to widen, newly released data show. Black Chicago Public Schools students fell further behind whites in three of four key measures, according to the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress, often called the Nation’s Report Card. (Sun-Times)
RALLY FOR BETTER PAY: Child care workers from mostly South and West Side YMCA locations gathered outside of the YMCA of Metro Chicago headquarterswith electric candles, Christmas cards for CEO Richard Malone and clear demands.The workers voted to form an SEIU union in November 2012 - following on the heels of child care workers at Ada S. McKinley Community Services, Marcy Newberry Association and Centers for New Horizons. The YMCA workers have spent much of the last year bargaining with management but still have no contract to show for it.
IN THE NATION
WORST IN THE COUNTRY: Cleveland students read and do math worse than students in almost any big city in the country - and they aren’t improving at all - the “nation’s report card” for 2013 shows. The Cleveland school district scored second-to-last out of 21 large city districts in all four areas on this year’s National Assessment of Education Progress, a federally-run test that measures states and cities on the same standards. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
TEACHER PAY—STATE BY STATE: How much do teachers across the United States get paid? Here is data, state by state, collected from the National Center for Education Statistics by Jon Boeckenstedt, associate vice president at DePaul University in Chicago. The data are for 2013 and represent the estimated average annual salary of teachers in public elementary and secondary schools. Boeckensted’s original map, here on the Higher Ed Data Stories blog, has information for earlier years, as well. You can find the NCES original data here. (The Washington Post)
Aurora Cavazos, of Pilsen, has been in the childcare industry for 17 years. For the last four, she has taught preschool at the North Lawndale YMCA. Yet she still holds down a second job to make ends meet.
“I have two jobs because I’m not being paid enough as a child care worker,” Cavazos said Thursday to a group of about 30 colleagues and allies standing outside of the YMCA of Metro Chicago headquarters.
Child care workers from mostly south and west side YMCA locations gathered outside of the headquarters with electric candles, Christmas cards for CEO Richard Malone and clear demands.
The workers voted to form an SEIU union in November 2012 - following on the heels of child care workers at Ada S. McKinley Community Services, Marcy Newberry Association and Centers for New Horizons. The YMCA workers have spent much of the last year bargaining with management but still have no contract to show for it.
Liz Kropp, an organizer with SEIU Healthcare Illinois and Indiana, said the bargaining team started to get the impression over the summer that management wasn’t truly interested in settling a contract. They filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board and started planning public actions to call attention to the fight.
Thursday’s candlelight vigil lasted about half an hour in front of the YMCA of Metro Chicago’s North Dearborn Street headquarters with a few speeches, chants and adapted Christmas carols.
“Jingle Bells, we aren’t well but we’re here anyway. To protect our respect and to demand fair pay, hey! Jingle Bells, we can tell you won’t bargain fair, we demand a better plan and fairly-priced health care.”
Healthcare is the major item on the table for the child care workers. Their premiums top $100 per month for individuals and, according to Cavazos, have been increasing for years without any better care. She spends hours waiting in lines at the emergency room at Stroger Hospital because she can’t afford office visits.
Kropp said the union bargaining team suggested a new health plan through the self-insured union health fund that would have cost workers one-tenth of what they’re paying now and save the YMCA money as well. That proposal was rejected, according to Kropp.
In mid-November, Kropp said the YMCA also replaced its chief negotiator and the new representative wanted to start the bargaining process all over again.
Sherrie Medina, vice president of marketing and communications for the YMCA of Metro Chicago, said she couldn’t comment on the ongoing negotiations but said the management team is committed to the process.
“Those discussions are ongoing so in order to continue those in good faith we do want to talk directly with SEIU at the bargaining table and we do hope we reach an agreement soon,” Medina said, adding that the organization respects and cares for its employees “immensely.”
The Y runs 12 child care agencies in Chicago that all voted to unionize with SEIU. Kropp said overall, the Y pays its workers toward the lower end of the child care wage scale. SEIU and its members are pushing what they call a “well-resourced” organization to shift that reality.
“The Y should be setting the standard in terms of workplace rights and pay and things like that,” Kropp said.
Medina declined to discuss the YMCA’s budget but emphasized the fact that the organization is a nonprofit. While health care concerns rose to the top of the demand list Thursday, workers also called for better wages and fully stocked classrooms with better resources. They expect better working conditions will cut down on the high teacher turnover rate that currently plagues early childhood classrooms.
Other actions are in the works to put the heat on the YMCA of Metro Chicago. When the teachers and union allies turned off their candles Thursday, they did so with the knowledge that the fight was not over. “We took it to the streets and we’re going to have to keep pushing forward,” said Keisha Claybron, another SEIU organizer.
As a group of Whitney Young parents continues its fight to make the school’s grading scale easier, Chicago Public Schools has begun pushing for a uniform grading scale across the district. Whitney Young Magnet is the only selective-enrollment high school in the district where students must score a 93 to get an “A.” At other college preps — including Jones, Walter Payton and Northside — students only need score a 90 to get that same “A.” (DNAInfo)
CLOSING COSTS CLIMB: Chicago Public Schools has more than tripled what it will pay to have the closed school buildings emptied and boarded up. The Chicago Board of Education on Wednesday unanimously approved to pay Global Workplace Solutions up to $30.9 million. The initial April contract with Ohio-based GWS was $8.9 million. CPS’ board later approved to more than double the contract to $18.9 million. (Sun-Times)
DUNCAN DODGES CHARTER QUESTIONS: U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who was in Chicago Monday dodged questions on a local hot topic, charter schools. Asked what he thought of CPS’ proposal to open 21 new charters after closing more the 52 regular schools, Duncan said he’s for anything that will improve results for students, but that the proportion of charters to regular schools was a local issue he has no control over. (Sun-Times)
IN THE NATION
ADVOCATING FOR VOUCHERS: The Walton Family Foundation will give $6 million to the Alliance for School Choice, a group that advocates and lobbies for school voucher programs in states around the country, including Tennessee, the foundation announced Tuesday. (Chalkbeat Tennessee)
CPS board members voted Wednesday to move forward with two controversial plans: infusing a military focus and adding high school grades at Ames and building an addition for Lincoln Elementary.
These decisions were expected as they had already been announced at press conferences by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who appoints the school board. However, both these proposals were fiercely fought by some, who charged that they were the result of backroom deals and that officials were not listening to the community.
They also did not win unanimous support. Board members Carlos Azcoitia and Mahalia Hines voted against the conversion of Ames to a military school and Andrea Zopp voted against authorizing the Public Building Commission to undertake the design of the Lincoln Annex. The Lincoln Elementary School addition is to be paid for with state money.
These proposals garnered outside attention because they spoke to larger CPS issues. Putting a military school into Ames drew opposition from those opposed to the “militarization” of schools. CPS has more military schools than any district in the country and they are seen by critics as recruiting tools.
Others criticized the Lincoln addition as unfair. Many other schools are more overcrowded than Lincoln Elementary School, which is in the wealthy Lincoln Park area and serves many well-connected families.
But Ald. Michelle Smith (34th Ward), whose area includes Lincoln Elementary, and Ald. Ricardo Maldonado (26th Ward), whose area includes Ames, told board members that the proposals enjoy “overwhelming” support in their communities.
“The need for this annex is indisputable,” Smith said. She said other proposals for dealing with overcrowding at Lincoln, such as redrawing attendance boundaries so that some students attend other neighborhood schools, would displace students and hinder children from getting the “high quality” education offered at Lincoln Elementary, she said.
Smith said she had hundreds of petitions supporting the addition.
But Joy Wingren, who lives across the street from Lincoln Elementary, charged that when people signed petitions, they were not specifically supporting an addition to the elementary school. On one of them, the question was asked “Do you want to keep Lincoln whole?”
“What does that mean?” Wingren asked.
Wingren and other residents are concerned that the addition will lead to increased traffic problems and the loss of green space.
Maldonado’s proof of support also was questioned. He said he had a “scientific” survey done to gauge community support for the Ames conversion into a military school and it found that 72 percent of the 300 respondents want it.
However, one mother from Ames played board members a tape of the phone message of the survey sponsored by Maldonado. In it, Ames is called a gang-infested school.
Another Ames mother said the parents of the students and the elementary schools that feed into it are squarely opposed to the takeover of the school. Under the plan, incoming students will have to apply to the new Ames and their grades, test scores and an interview will be reviewed for admission.
Current Ames students will be allowed to stay at the school, as long as they are willing to buy into the new military focus. Ames will no longer have any feeder schools with McAuliffe Elementary School and Kelvyn Park High School adding 7th and 8th grades. Seventh and 8th graders from Barry, Nixon and Falconer will head to Kelvyn Park.
Under the plans approved Wednesday, Kelvyn Park, a poorly-rated school, will be the only high school with a junior high that students don’t have to apply to. Most high schools in the city with 7th and 8th grade programs are selective enrollment and allow students to take high school classes early.
Board members mentioned that the conflicting information about community support was confusing and challenging. Board member Henry Bienen asked CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett whether she or her staff made any effort to see verify the petitions.
Byrd-Bennett said she looked into hiring an expert, but decided it was too expensive.
Board President David Vitale noted that, in controversial issues with passionate supporters and detractors, it is often difficult to figure out what is true and what is not. “We do our best to sort it out,” he said.
Vitale said the board needs to establish a better prioritization process for figuring out what schools get additions. In fact, over the past year, CPS did pass a 10-year master facilities plan that could have provided some direction in determining which schools should get additions, but that plan was overshadowed by Emanuel and the state money.
Board member Jesse Ruiz said that Lincoln Elementary School parents should volunteer their time to help parents of other overcrowded schools organize and win some state money for themselves.
Other board actions and public testimony included:
Chicago’s board of education will consider yet another significant increase in what it is paying to empty out Chicago’s closed school buildings.
Back in April—even before the vote to close 50 schools—the district signed a contract with logistics firm Global Workplace Solutions to move all the things out of schools. Price tag: $8.9 million. In September, the district quietly doubled the amount of the contract, to $18.9 million. Now, the agenda for Wednesday’s school board meeting shows the board will vote on another increase, this time to $30.9 million, more than tripling the amount of the original contract with GWS. A CPS document says the hike is necessary to board up, fence, and install security posts around 30 buildings.
CPS DOWNSIZES HEADQUARTERS: On the heels of closing dozens of schools, Chicago Public Schools is moving its headquarters to smaller offices, in the same building that currently houses Sears’ flailing flagship store off State Street. CPS will move next year from 125 S. Clark, where it has been since 1998, to the first three floors at 1 N. Dearborn, CPS said. (Sun-Times)
STUDYING SUCCESS TRAITS: The Wallace Foundation is awarding a grant to the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research (UChicago CCSR) to synthesize what is known about how attitudes, skills, and character traits, such as grit and perseverance, contribute to a young person's long-term success and to create a conceptual framework that addresses how students develop them. The $650,000 grant, secured in a competitive bid against five other research organizations, will enable UChicago CCSR to analyze existing research and expert opinion to create a framework that clarifies what is known and unknown about how these traits, which researchers have termed "noncognitive" factors, contribute to college and career success. Examples include persistence, self-control, conscientiousness, grit and self-confidence; behaviors and beliefs such as attitudes toward school, goal-setting, and study habits; and inter-personal relationship skills. Researchers plan to publicly release a final report in fall 2014 about the key insights. (Press release)
IN THE NATION
TEACHER HIRING DECLINES: The number of new teachers in Texas has dropped sharply during the last four years and education observers have identified several reasons for that decline. The Great Recession and major cuts to education funding passed by the Texas Legislature in 2011 hit many districts hard and contributed to a hiring slowdown. But more experienced educators looking for work also made things harder for new teachers, education officials said. (San Antonio Express)
UPDATED--Noble Street Charter Schools is asking Chicago Public Schools to give them the green light to open three campuses over the two years and is laying out plans to allow them to open eight more schools over the next five years and allow their enrollment to grow to 18,000 students. Eventually, the charter school network would serve a fifth of all high school students in CPS.
This is one of nine proposals—which would result in 21 schools if all were approved—that was hotly debated at a meeting Monday evening. CPS officials say they will hold another community hearing in January and then will decide which proposals to recommend that the board approve at its meeting later that month.
Because CPS’ board already approved 10 charter school openings for fall 2014, including two UNO campuses, one LEARN and three alternative schools, as many as 31 charter schools could opening within the next two years.
CPS officials say that they don’t expect all those schools with approvals will actually open.
Noble Street, which already runs 14 campuses, only specifies a location for the one of three that would open in Fall 2014. That location has come under criticism because it is across the street from Prosser High School. Students and staff at Prosser worry that the Noble Street will drain students from Prosser, which is considered a good high school. It is rated Level 2—CPS’ mid-level rating.
Noble Street leaders boast that they operate several of the highest performing non-selective high schools in the city. But critics point out that students must apply and win a lottery to enroll and that the schools have a strict discipline policy that ends up preventing some students from enrolling and forces others out.
The other school that is proposing rapid expansion is Connected Futures. This alternative school operator would like to open five campuses, each with about 185 students, over the next five years. Though Connected Futures is new to Chicago, other alternative networks have come into the city in recent years.
The embattled UNO Charter School Network had originally submitted a proposal for this round, according to CPS, but eventually withdrew it, as did two other charter school operators.
This year, CPS was looking for proposals to open charter schools in areas that have overcrowded schools. However, only four charter school operators with proposals on the table are looking at locations in priority areas. They are Curtis-Sharif STEM Academy Charter School and Concept Schools in Chicago Lawn; Be the Change in McKinley Park and Noble Street in Belmont-Cragin.
Of the nine proposals being considered, four are from operators that already run charter schools. Intrinsic just opened its first campus at a temporary location downtown this year that is preparing to move to Hermosa. The second location is to be on the Northwest Side of the city, though the exact spot has yet to be determined. Intrisic is a high school that melds traditional learning with technology.
Concept Schools is proposing two high schools schools—one in Chatham and one in South Chicago. They currently operate Chicago Math and Science Academy, under the purview of CPS. They also were the first operator in Chicago to have schools denied by CPS and later approved by the Illinois State Charter School Commission.
It was never clear why CPS’ board denied Concept schools last year, although charter proposals were under a microscope as the district set about closing nearly 50 schools. Concept Schools runs 30 schools across the Midwest and they focus on math and science.
Asian Human Services is proposing expanding its elementary school to include a high school. It would also be in Edgewater. The area has a large immigrant community and the school specializes in helping new immigrants assimilate.
New operators make a move
The other proposals are from new operators, including a cadre of teachers and an after-school provider who wants to do more for neighborhood children in Austin.
One of the more innovative ideas is from Deborah Umrani, who is proposing a school called Curtis-Sharif STEM Academy. Umrani directed UIC’s Early Outreach Program until she was dismissed due to budget cuts in February 2011, a move that triggered outrage from parents. The Early Outreach Program offered college preparation classes at UIC for minority students from underrepresented groups.
She hopes to garner funding from foundations, private donors and science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) initiatives to support the school’s many features, such as busing for students, a science summer camp, a lengthy school day that stretches from 7:45 a.m. to 6 p.m., class sizes that are capped at 20, and classes in visual arts, cultural arts and theater for all students.
Umrani hopes the school will open in fall 2014 with 450 students in preschool through 5th grades, and add one grade a year until it is serves 800 students in preschool through 8th grade.
The school’s math curriculum is licensed from the government of Singapore and will use problem-based learning to teach both the hard skills and the attitudes students need to be successful, Umrani says. Also, all students will learn both Spanish and Chinese.
All classes, even those for the youngest students, will be departmentalized so students can learn math and science from teachers who are confident in those subjects.
Also, families will be offered parenting classes, English lessons and leadership training.
Umrani says that 18th Ward Alderman Lona Lane supports the school, which plans to have an early childhood campus at 79th and Western, and a 2nd through 8th grade campus at 87th and Kedzie.
The school is named, Umrani said, after two families – the Curtises, and the Sharifs – who are her “unsung heroes” and who were never able to fulfill their educational aspirations, but who encouraged others to do so.
The other proposals are:
A hearing on 21 proposed new Chicago Public Schools charters drew at least 300 people to CPS headquarters on a snowy Monday evening, with supporters and opponents equally passionate about the need to propel or squash charter efforts. (Sun-Times)
“I feel like I’m in the twilight zone, because last year we had a billion dollar deficit, and the district said we must close 51 schools. This year, we have a $950 million deficit and the district wants to open 31 new charters in two years,” said Wendy Katten, of the citywide CPS parents advocacy group Raise Your Hand. “This is absurd, and fiscally irresponsible.”
CHARTER TEACHERS AGAINST CHARTERS: The Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff, which opposes Chicago Public Schools’ overuse of charter schools to advance privatization, has called for a denial of all new charter applications. "After closing 50 neighborhood schools due to “underutilization” this summer, CPS is attempting to open 21 new charter schools, often in the very communities where schools were recently closed," ChiACTS said in a press release. "The role originally envisioned for charter schools was to give public educators an opportunity to supplement and advance the work of traditional public schools in an innovative setting. In Chicago, however, the board has been using them to replace neighborhood schools entirely, and at great expense."
SUPERINTENDENT SPECULATION: Rumors are swirling about who will be picked to run New York City’s schools. Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett is reportedly on the shortlist, according to various reports from New York media. But CPS spokesman Joel Hood said Byrd-Bennett is staying in Chicago. (Sun-Times)
HIRING AND FIRING: Lake View High School must hire two new physical education teachers next year to meet a state requirement that was previously waived for 16 years — but without more funding, that means two other teachers must go. (DNAInfo)
ENSURING A DISTRICT GOAL: CPS launched "Mentoring the Next Generation: Chicago’s Children," which it says is designed to help students form meaningful adult-child relationships and further the district’s goal of ensuring every child graduates 100 percent college ready and 100 percent college bound. (CPS press release)
IN THE NATION
DANCE'S DECISION TO DISCONTINUE: Baltimore County schools superintendent Dallas Dance on Monday released the email sent to the BCPS Board of Education regarding his consulting with Chicago Public Schools to train 10 of their principals. The email was sent by Dance to inform the Board of his decision to discontinue the arrangement. (Baltimore Sun)