This week CPS released the final tallies of the Local School Council (LSC) elections held earlier this month at most elementary and high schools.
More than 6,000 parents, community members, teachers and other representatives vied for seats on the councils, which oversee school budgets and are responsible for hiring principals. LSCs at traditional schools are made up of six parents, two community residents, two teachers, one non-teacher staff member, and one student at high schools.
Some schools, including those run by the Academy for Urban School Leadership, and military schools, have appointed boards, although parents and community members vote on non-binding recommendations.
About 32 percent of LSCs lacked enough parent representatives to fill all the seats, and another 15 percent lacked enough community representatives to fill the seats. However, most LSC elections generated enough interest to at least make quorum; at those schools, councils will fill vacant seats at their first meeting. At those that failed to make quorum, a second round of elections will be held in May.
To see the final vote tally at your LSC, visit this online spreadsheet.
All that attention CPS high schools have given to keeping freshmen “on track” toward graduation actually paid off.
That’s the conclusion of a new study by the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research, which has long said that the freshman year is the most important predictor of graduation.
The Consortium looked at 20 schools that substantially improved their freshman on-track rates in 2008 and 2009 to see whether those improvements translated into long-term academic gains or increased graduation rates. Four years later, graduation rates at those schools jumped by 8 to 20 percentage points.
“It’s pretty remarkable,” says Melissa Roderick, one of the authors of the report, which was released today. “There are no excuses anymore. This is the way we should be doing drop-out prevention.”
Improvements were seen at schools of all sizes and across the city, regardless of students’ race, gender or achievement levels. The biggest gains, however, were seen among African-American males, as well as those in the bottom quartile of academic performance, according to the Consortium.
In 2007, CPS launched an initiative to improve on-track rates, after Consortium researchers – who had developed the measurement years earlier– showed how freshman year is the biggest predictor of graduation. Freshmen are considered on track if they have accumulated enough credits to be promoted into 10th grade, and have failed no more than one semester course in a core subject during the school year.
The district gave schools autonomy to try out their own approaches to improving the on-track rates, while providing monthly data-driven updates on student progress. Thomas Kelley-Kemple, another author of the study, said that what matters less is the strategy used to improve on-track rates, but the effects.
“The question was whether the relationship between on-track and graduation rates hold, and the answer is a resounding yes,” he said.
During a press conference this morning, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said that “this huge success shows that we’re capable of on-the-ground change, and getting kids on track in 9th grade is getting them on track to high school and college graduation. This is part of our turnaround.”
Leads to overall improvement
Overall, the district’s on-track rate rose from 57 to 82 percent between 2007 and 2013.
Roderick said she knew that some educators had questioned the Consortium’s earlier assertions about the importance of freshman year, and that 9th graders who are on track are four times more likely to graduate from high school.
“Some people felt this was overstretching the claims, and that schools were [just] pushing the problems off a year,” she said. “But we found no evidence of this. It’s remarkable.”
The study found that in all but one of the schools, improvements in 9th grade on-track rates continued in subsequent years. The improvements were also accompanied by overall improvements in grades, including a higher percentage of students with B’s or better, and fewer students with Fs.
“There is little evidence, on average, that the increase in on-track rates in these schools was driven by simply focusing on turning F’s into D’s or on trying to move students at margins,” according to the report.
A companion report by the Consortium also released today looks at the dramatic drop in grades and attendance that occurs between 8th and 9th grades. Across achievement levels, students tend to drop by more than half a letter grade after making the transition to high school.
Researchers found that students’ grades declined not because the work is harder, but because of a drop in attendance and because they put less effort into studying. The study found that this is largely due to less monitoring from teachers, and a new school structure that presents students with the “choice” to attend class or turn in assignments.
“Many 9th-graders […] are not ready to assume complete responsibility for managing their own academic behavior,” according to the report. “Students interpret the lack of monitoring and adult supervision of their academic behavior to mean that work effort is a choice rather than a responsibility.”
To read both of the reports, visit www.ccsr.uchicago.edu.
Catalyst intern Sarah Blau contributed to this report.
The future of six now-empty Englewood schools that were closed last year as part of a citywide effort to shutter underutilized facilities will be the focus of a retreat Friday being lead by local officials and activists. (DNAInfo)
IN THE NATION
CHARTER EXPLOSION: Charter schools in New York enrolled close to 70,000 students in 2014, and the sector will continue to grow rapidly in the coming years as existing schools add on new grades each year. (Chalkbeat New York)
TABLETS FOR TESTING: The architects of one of the most highly regarded gauges of student achievement—the National Assessment of Educational Progress—are preparing for a dramatic expansion of technology-based assessment, while relying on a strikingly different approach from the one that will be used to give online common-core exams in the states. (Education Week)
TFA GROWTH TIED TO CHARTERS: According to internal documents and federal grant performance reports, TFA’s growth also increasingly hinges on fueling the country’s thriving charter movement. The organization’s data show that one-third of its recruits now teach in charters (up from 13 percent in 2007), which are mostly nonunionized, privately run, and can receive millions in private support on top of public funds. TFA has funneled a growing constituency of brand-new recruits into charters in large urban districts that have recently laid off hundreds of experienced teachers, including Philadelphia (where 99 percent of corps members teach in charters), Detroit (69 percent) and Chicago (53 percent). Washington State only recently approved charter schools; the first will open in Seattle this fall. (The Hechinger Report)
Two CPS board members had serious questions—some of which went unanswered--about handing over three elementary schools to the Academy for Urban School Leadership. But in the end, the turnarounds were approved at a meeting where opponents as well as supporters of the turnaround model dominated the public participation..
CPS invests heavily in turnarounds, and the big-ticket spending has angered some parents and others, who question why the district is willing to spend the money only when a school becomes a turnaround. AUSL, a non-profit teacher training program, receives $300,000 for start-up costs and an extra $420 per student every year for at least five years.
The turnaround of Gresham Elementary was unanimously approved by the five members in attendance. (Board members Mahalia Hines and Deborah Quazzo were not there.)
Board member Andrea Zopp voted against turning around Dvorak and McNair. During the meeting, she was particularly concerned about why the Dvorak principal was being replaced when she had only been in her position for a year and had been trained in one of the premier principal training programs.
“Why not give her a chance?” Zopp asked.
Denise Little, chief officer of network quality, told her that in conversations with the principal’s boss—the network officer—they agreed she “was not the right the principal to do the turnaround.” Little did not elaborate.
Board member Carlos Azcoita asked about teacher stability in turnaround schools, and the level of suspensions. CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett told him that staff would get him that information, but it is unclear if he received it before the vote.
A Catalyst Chicago analysis of state and CPS data shows that AUSL turnarounds have particularly low teacher retention. Under the turnaround model, all the staff, including teachers, must reapply for their jobs and most are typically not rehired. The analysis showed, however, that the turnover continues in subsequent years.
Other data show turnarounds have high rates of student suspensions. Because Byrd-Bennett did not present the information in the meeting, there was no discussion around it.
Zopp also raised questions about declines in test scores at the three schools. McNair, she said, had been improving and then went down a bit last year.
Annette Gurley, chief officer of teaching and learning, told her that McNair responds well to “interventions,” but tends to retreat after the intervention is done. “It is not able to sustain progress,” she said.
Supporters of turnarounds
Public participation at the meeting was dominated by speakers for and against the turnarounds. Supporters of AUSL turnarounds had 11 of the 60 public participation slots, which must be signed up for online beforehand. Each of their speakers was given the two minutes of allowed time.
Shimaya Hudson, whose children attend Marquette Elementary, which was turned around last year, said she originally was skeptical. “But after seeing all the changes, I feel good about it,” she says.
Hudson said the principal and staff work with the parents and that together they make changes. Other parents said they were happy with all the after-school programs and field trips that their children now have access to at turnaround schools. One said she likes that now “you can hear a pin drop” when children come into the school.
If there are numerous speakers on one subject, CPS officials often group them and ask them to designate one or two speakers. On Wednesday, they attempted to do this with people speaking against the turnarounds. However, speakers from Gresham identified themselves as representatives of different issues or schools so they would each have chance to address the board.
Board members scolded the people who misrepresented themselves as trying to “game the system.”
In response to the AUSL parents and principals, those against the turnarounds said that if Gresham, McNair and Dvorak were given the same resources as AUSL, they would have more of a chance to do better.
“To the AUSL parents, you have a lot of nerve coming in here talking about all AUSL can offer,” said Dion Stone, whose children attend McNair. “Our teachers do not have working computers and they have to buy their own printer paper. You have the nerve to compare us to you.”
Gresham Elementary Principal Diedrus Brown said her school did well when it got an infusion of money, but then lost ground when it lost money. “Give us some of the money you already have earmarked for AUSL and our test scores will go up,” she said. “… Scores go up and down and you don’t reduce children to statistics. Don’t be a good person doing the devil’s work.”
The board also approved putting International Baccalaureate middle-years programs in five elementary schools—Peirce, Moos, Ebinger, Seward and Agassiz. Everyone, including CTU President Karen Lewis, applauded the move.
Chicago Public Schools put a $100 million price tag Tuesday on Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s sudden mandate to air-condition classrooms in 206 schools, even as CPS faces a $1 billion shortfall and many other pressing capital needs. (Sun-Times)
Joel Hood, CPS spokesman, said Tuesday the district estimates spending $20 million per year out of the capital budget over five years to fulfill the mayor’s order to cool classrooms with window units.
TOPS IN STATE AND NATION: Chicago-area schools dominate the top 10 in the state, according to U.S. News & World Report’s annual rankings, and two rank among the nation’s 50 best schools. Two of the Chicago schools ranked in the top 50 in the nation on the U.S. News list: Northside College Prep (No. 36) and Walter Payton College Prep (No. 49). Northside and Payton ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the state. Two other Chicago schools — Jones College Prep and Whitney Young Magnet School — ranked No. 3 and No. 4. (CBS Chicago)
IN THE STATE
TEACHERS NOT READY: A new survey shows many Illinois teachers say they're not fully prepared for Common Core. The survey, by the Illinois State Board of Education, said just 17.5 percent of teachers say they're ready for Common Core; 11.5 percent said they're completely unprepared. (WJBC)
IN THE NATION
COMMUNITY COLLEGE TRANSFERS: Community College students who transfer to four-year colleges with an associate degree are more likely to earn a bachelor’s degree than students who transfer without one, according to a new study by the Community College Research Center at Teachers College, Columbia University. Nationally, nearly two thirds of community college students who transfer to four-year colleges do so without first earning an associate degree. And while more than 80 percent of all entering community colleges indicate their intention to earn a bachelor’s degree, only 15 percent end up doing so within six years.
NEW PATHS TO DIVERSITY: Leaders in higher education, upset by Tuesday’s Supreme Court decision upholding Michigan’s ban on race-based preferences in college admissions, said the ruling would nudge them further along the path of finding alternative means to promote diversity in their student bodies. (The New York Times)
DITCHING COMMON CORE: A panel of Indiana business and education leaders voted in support of new math and English standards to replace the Common Core in state classrooms this fall. The new standards slated to go before the State Board of Education on April 28 for final approval. (Associated Press)
PROPOSING MAJOR OVERHAUL: The GOP candidate for California governor would throw out much of the education code, send funds directly to schools rather than to districts and let most public schools run like charters.
THE WAIT IS OFF: The number of students placed on waiting lists for kindergarten dropped by half this year as New York City’s Education Department used a new strategy for matching students with schools, officials said on Monday. (The New York Times)
Some students and educators in teacher preparation programs say they were caught off-guard when the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) approved a single-source contract two months ago with NCS Pearson Inc. to administer a new performance assessment required for teacher certification.
Starting in the fall of 2015, teacher candidates must pay the national testing company $300 to evaluate portfolios of their student-teaching performance for a new assessment called the edTPA. The assessment, which is already being used in five states and will come online in another four states during the next two years, sets a national standard to gauge teacher readiness.
ISBE officials say the contract with Pearson is necessary to comply with a state law that requires an evidence-based assessment of teacher effectiveness as part of its certification process by September of 2015. The law did not specify the assessment, but last summer, ISBE chose the edTPA, which was designed by educators at the Stanford Center for Assessment, Learning, and Equity (SCALE).
The edTPA has been field-tested nationally, including in Illinois, and is modeled after the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. Pearson’s Evaluation Systems group won the contract to provide the infrastructure to administer the assessment after a request-for-proposals at Stanford University, which owns the assessment.
“The Board and Superintendent have said that if another product becomes available that meets the criteria, we would certainly evaluate it as well, but at this time the edTPA is the only one of its kind so we had to go through the sole-source process in order to make it available,” said ISBE spokesman Matthew Vanover in an e-mail to Catalyst.
No other vendors spoke out against the single-source contract during ISBE’s meeting in February, nor did any attend a public hearing last week on the contract.
Objections to the assessment
Critics of the state’s decision to use the edTPA say they don’t have major complaints about the assessment itself, which includes a review of a video of the students’ in-class instruction, lesson plans and other work samples. But they worry about the number of high-stakes assessments necessary for licensure. And they don’t understand why scorers hired by the private company, and not university faculty and professors who know the teacher candidates personally, are the ones who will grade portfolios.
“Our objection is that it takes a form of assessment that should be organic and come from the local community of educators, and turns it into something standardized and nationalized,” says Savannah Mirisola-Sullivan, a graduate student in education at the University of Illinois-Chicago. “We worry about a conflict of interest, because they’d profit off of our failure.”
Pearson, which also administers the Assessment of Professional Teaching (APT) tests required for Illinois teacher candidates, stands to make at least $2 million annually from administering the edTPA. The five-year contract will cost nothing for ISBE, as teaching candidates will carry the burden of paying fees to Pearson.
A Pearson spokeswoman said she could not comment on the contract and referred questions on the edTPA to SCALE.
Raymond Pecheone, executive director of SCALE, said states have the discretion to allow local faculty to score their own students’ edTPA portfolios – but explained that they would have to use the Pearson platform.
“If they’re willing to step up, it’s the best way to use the assessment,” he said. “It’s also an opportunity for faculty to learn about their candidates’ performance.”
Pecheone said he recognizes that the pushback across the country against the testing industry, and against Pearson in particular. But he assured that the company had no involvement in the decisions made about the design, development, training and other procedures associated with the edTPA.
“Pearson doesn’t fail candidates. The standard setting for the edTPA was done through professional panels of key policy makers and faculty across the country,” said Pecheone.
Individual states are responsible for setting the scores needed to pass the edTPA, which has a maximum score of 75. Professional panels convened by SCALE recommend that states use a maximum cut score of no more than 42 points. Just under 58 percent of teacher candidates who took the assessment during national field-testing last year would have passed at that cut score, although that percentage is expected to rise as teaching programs become more familiar with the assessment.
ISBE sent a survey to university faculty in February for suggestions on scoring bands, and will suggest a required passing score of 35 for the first two years. The state then plans to raise the cut scores during each of the remaining years of the contract, settling on 41 in the 2019-2020 academic year, Vanover wrote in an email.
Public hearing on contract
Last week, Mirisola-Sullivan and other students, as well as professors from the University of Illinois at Chicago and St. Xavier University, voiced their concerns about the edTPA during the public hearing on ISBE’s approval of the single-source contract with Pearson.
Jason Helfer, ISBE’s assistant superintendent for Teacher and Leadership Effectiveness, explained that using the edTPA assessment ensures that “individual scorers are seeing the same thing,” because all scorers receive the same training.
Pearson pays scorers $75 per portfolio. The company provides SCALE-designed training for scorers – who are university faculty at teacher education programs or teachers in the field – as well as technical assistance, and the web-based platform for submission of the assessment.
Although the students got answers to some of their questions at last week’s hearing, they knew it wasn’t the appropriate avenue for the big-picture debate on how or whether the assessment should be administered.
“This is a hearing on the method of source selection,” reminded Adam Alstott, deputy general counsel at the Illinois Executive Ethics Commission, who administered the hearing. “These hearings are not the proper avenue for challenging statutory mandates, agency rulemakings, or […] other state agency business decisions.”
The UIC students, who have vowed to boycott the edTPA, say they will continue to look for ways to challenge the new requirement.
“We know we’re losing the battle,” says Jessica Suarez, an undergraduate student at UIC. “Higher education is under attack. I failed the TAP so many times and have spent so much money taking all these tests. […] The question is, can you afford to become a teacher?”
The edTPA is just one of a series of tests that teacher candidates must pass in order to obtain licensure. The state also requires the Test of Academic Proficiency (TAP) or high scores on the ACT or SAT; a content-area test; and the Assessment of Professional Teaching tests, as well as successful completion of program coursework and other graduation requirements.
Five Chicago Public schools are adding International Baccalaureate programs for elementary and middle schoolers in the fall, joining several dozen other Chicago schools that already offer the internationally recognized model. (Sun-Times)
AIR CONDITIONING ALL AROUND: The Sun-Times' Michael Sneed is reporting this morning that Mayor Rahm Emanuel has now ordered the Chicago Public School system to add air conditioning to every classroom in the city that doesn’t have it, starting this summer. (Sun-Times)
IN THE NATION
DATA REPOSITORY TO CLOSE: In a setback for the nearly $8 billion prekindergarten through 12th-grade education technology software market, inBloom, a non-profit corporation offering to warehouse and manage student data for public school districts across the country, announced on Monday morning that it planned to shut its doors. Financed with $100 million in seed money from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation along with the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the venture promised to streamline how teachers and administrators accessed student records. (The New York Times)
BRAND NAMES IN K-12: President Barack Obama has reshaped the education policy landscape over the past five years by dangling money—much of it in the form of competitive grants—in front of cash-strapped states and districts. But, as his administration enters its twilight years, the future is in doubt for programs that have become brand names in the world of K-12 policy, including Race to the Top, Investing in Innovation and Promise Neighborhoods. (Education Week)
MORE AID FOR POORER DISTRICTS: Kansas' Republican Gov. Sam Brownback signed a school funding bill on Monday that increases aid for poor districts to satisfy a portion of a State Supreme Court ruling and that also ends the state’s mandate for teacher tenure. (Associated Press)
The Common Core State Standards have been reshaping the American education landscape for four years, leaving their mark on curriculum and instruction, professional development, teacher evaluation, the business of publishing, and the way tests are designed. (Education Week)
MAJOR CUTS FORECAST: Most of Illinois’ 860 school districts would see cuts in funding if the state’s temporary tax increase is rolled back as scheduled, according to a document being circulated as part of Illinois Democrats’ campaign to preserve the tax hike and push to update the state’s school funding formula. (Northwest Herald)
Last week the University of Chicago's Institute of Politics welcomed Elizabeth Dozier, Principal of Fenger Academy High School who's been heavily featured in CNN's "Chicagoland" series, and others to explore successful intervention methods and CPS discipline policies. The panel was moderated by The Chicago Tribune's Noreen Ahmed-Ullah. Watch a video of the discussion here.
IN THE NATION
HIGH SCHOOL DIPLOMA NOT ENOUGH: As part of her push to promote higher education, First lady Michelle Obama is encouraging high school students to dream big about their education beyond graduation. "No longer is high school the bar. That is not enough," Mrs. Obama told students during tour of Howard University last week. "You have got to go to college or get some kind of professional training." (Education Week)
With the 60th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education ruling approaching, a new paper says the decision failed its mission. School segregation is still a problem, and initial school integration gains stalled shortly after the ruling. (Economic Policy Institute)
TURNAROUND TESTIMONY: Valerie F. Leonard, co-Founder of the Lawndale Alliance, was among those offering public comments on CPS' proposed turnaround of Dvorak Math Science Technology Academy. Substance News reprinted her testimony here.
MARIACHI COMES TO CPS: Five Chicago public grade schools will have mariachi classes by next fall, a move that will require principals to add a full-time music position at each school. (DNAInfo)
IN THE NATION
EDUCATION REFORM HOSTILITY: A former Teach For America teacher who's now an education researcher with the New America Foundation, says he's tired of being attacked as someone who's opposed to public education and teachers just because he has written about some education reform initiatives without absolute condemnation. (Education Week)
(Editor’s note: This story is an abridged version of an article from the upcoming spring issue of Catalyst In Depth, which will examine teacher retention and turnover in CPS. The issue is scheduled for publication in May. Previous issues of In Depth can be found here.)
With three proposed turnarounds scheduled for a Board of Education vote next week, Chicago Public School officials justify the move by pointing out that most turnaround schools have higher- than-average student growth on standardized tests.
Yet it has been a rocky experience for many of the 32 schools that have undergone turnarounds, a drastic action in which the entire staff must reapply for their jobs and typically, most are not rehired. Nationally, Secretary of Education has promoted turnarounds as a key strategy for school improvement.
In CPS, however, more than half of turnaround schools are still among the lowest-performing schools. Some started badly and had to undergo another turnaround. Others have improved more than other schools, yet are still far from meeting district averages, much less the higher statewide averages.
What’s more, large chunks of the new staff—teachers who were hand-picked and spent weeks over the summer getting to know each other, becoming a team and learning how to spark improvement when the school reopened—leave within a few years.
A Catalyst Chicago analysis of Illinois State Teacher Service Records and CPS employee rosters found that:
-- At 16 of the 17 schools that underwent a turnaround between 2007 and 2011, more than half of teachers hired in the first year of the turnaround left by the third year.
-- Among all turnarounds, an average of two-thirds of new teachers left by year three, an attrition rate that is higher than for CPS overall—even among low-achieving, high-poverty, predominantly minority schools that typically have high turnover.
-- The troubling trend has continued among newer turnarounds. In the 10 schools that were turned around last year (the 2012-2013 school year) a third of the faculty left by the start of the current school year. In comparison, only 7 percent of CPS schools have a third of teachers leave in one year.
On average, the year-over-year turnover rate in CPS is 18 percent.
CPS officials did not respond to specific questions about turnover in turnarounds. In a statement submitted via e-mail, CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said she understands that to retain teachers, she must set them up for “success in the classroom and support their professional growth.” The district is doing this by investing in mentoring, professional development and having teachers share best practices, according to the e-mail.
Still, the fact that turnaround schools have such low teacher retention raises questions about the effectiveness of a strategy that relies on firing and hiring an entire staff to spark improvement.
Plus, as CTU President Karen Lewis and others have pointed out on many occasions, turnarounds result in a loss of veteran black teachers, who have cultural experience with the African American neighborhoods where most turnarounds are located.
Prior to the turnarounds, more than two-thirds of teachers at the targeted schools were black; among black teachers, two-thirds had more than 10 years of experience, according to Catalyst’s analysis. In the year after the turnaround, less than half of the teachers were black and just 20 percent of them had more than a decade of experience.
“Does not have to be the same teacher”
With large numbers of new teachers, turnarounds are already likely to have high turnover simply because young people switch jobs more often. The tendency is compounded by the inherent challenges of working in a turnaround, and the intense pressure to accomplish the difficult job of transforming a chronically low-achieving school.
Most of the district’s 32 turnaround schools are run by the non-profit Academy for Urban School Leadership, which would also run the turnarounds CPS will vote on April 23. AUSL has a specific model that, at least initially, emphasizes discipline and how the school and classrooms look, as well as the use of data to drive instruction.
Former turnaround teachers told Catalyst they felt too much emphasis was placed on the appearance of the school, too many visitors were paraded through the building and teaching was micro-managed, leaving little room for creativity.
Yet AUSL Managing Director Jarvis Sanford says he is not that worried about losing teachers. “It has never been our model that staff stay for three to five years,” he says. “We want to put the effective teachers in front of students. It does not have to be the same teacher.”
Some of the attrition happens by design, as successful principals in the AUSL network are moved to new turnarounds and take their best teachers. Sanford notes that the lauded Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in North Carolina have successfully used this approach.
In other cases, good teachers are encouraged to become coaches or are promoted to leadership roles within the network.
Many teachers who don’t go to other turnarounds stay within CPS, which means that Chicago students benefit from the training AUSL provides, Sanford points out.
However, Catalyst’s analysis shows that about half of the teachers who leave turnaround schools do not take jobs in any CPS school. Catalyst located several: One returned to her previous job and career as a nurse, another is now a real estate broker and a third is working as a grocery cashier.
Sanford insists that the results speak for themselves. Not only do many of the AUSL turnaround schools perform better than CPS in helping students raise their test scores, they also have better attendance. The fact that students come to school shows they are not negatively affected by having teachers leave year after year, he says.
“You may cause more harm than help”
Sanford’s stance is contrary to that of most experts, who agree that schools do better when they have a stable teaching staff.
In the 2009 report “Why Teachers Leave,” the Consortium on Chicago School Research begins with the premise that, while some turnover is to be expected, high attrition is problematic. “It can produce a range of organizational problems at schools, such as discontinuity in professional development, shortages in key subjects and loss of teacher leadership.”
Michael Hansen, senior researcher for the American Institutes for Research in Washington, D.C., says there has been surprisingly little research about whether changing the majority of a school’s staff will lead to a better school. “The strategies that are being prescribed under Arne Duncan are under-researched,” says Hansen.
One study showed that turnarounds in California improved more than schools subjected to other, less drastic action. But Hansen points out that turnarounds also get extra money to address students’ social and emotional needs, and that might be the real reason for any improvement. “There is not great data on what else is happening,” he says. “There are many moving parts going into it.”
In looking at rapidly improving schools in Florida and California, Hansen found that new teachers and veteran teachers appeared equally responsible for the positive changes.
Hansen says he would be concerned about high attrition following a turnaround. “It is possible you may cause more harm than help,” he says.
“I don’t want to lose the team”
While the management of AUSL might not think retention is important, some administrators do.
Morton Principal Peggie Burnett says that she is doing her best to hang onto the staff she inherited when she took over the school--the highest-performing AUSL turnaround--in East Garfield Park last year.
“I love my teachers,” Burnett says. “It is good for the community to keep the same teachers and also I make an investment in my teachers. We are a team and I don’t want to lose the team.”
Teachers point out that students are negatively affected by the constant churn, were sad to see them go and still call them and reach out to them on Facebook.
Lindsey Siemens, a teacher at Bradwell Elementary in South Shore, says that so many teachers have quit or moved on to other jobs that students are hyper-sensitive. Of the 35 new teachers hired in 2010 with the turnaround, only eight remain. None of the administrators are still there.
“If a teacher is absent for a few days because they are sick, the students start to wonder if they are ever coming back,” Siemens says.
She points out that this turnover is taking place in schools in high-poverty neighborhoods, where children often cope with adults coming and going from their lives.
“They experience so much loss that it is important for us to develop relationships with them,” she says.
Despite lackluster academic results at Bradwell, Siemens still believes that the turnaround process can work, but that it will only happen if the school has a stable staff for three to five years.
This fall, Noble Street’s Hansberry College Prep campus in Auburn Gresham will become the first charter school in Illinois to offer the International Baccalaureate Diploma program. The school will offer the Diploma Program for juniors and seniors during the 2014-2015 school year.
Hansberry is the only school in the Noble Street network with current plans to offer the highly regarded IB program, but Director of External Affairs Angela Montagna said other Noble Street schools may follow suit in the future.
Principal Lauryn Fullerton began the application process to become an IB school before Hansberry opened two years ago. A graduate of Lincoln Park High School, she credits the IB program with making it easy for her to transition from high school to college and hopes to achieve these same results with her students.
“We’re excited about giving this opportunity to our students, because it will improve their transition to college and ensure their likelihood to persist and graduate,” says Fullerton. “The IB courses are great preparation for a challenging college curriculum.”
A 2012 study from the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research found that students from IB programs in Chicago (13 at the time) were more likely to attend a four-year college, as well as more likely to attend a selective college. Once enrolled, they were also more likely to stay in college for two years, an important predictor of eventual graduation.
The results prompted Mayor Rahm Emanuel to launch 10 new IB programs in neighborhood high schools. The centerpiece of the programs is the IB’s two-year-old career certificate program.
“International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme’s are recognized across the world for their innovative approach to education,” saiys Drew Deutch, director of IB America. “The fact that Hansberry has now successfully completed the authorization process and can soon offer IB marks an exciting time for Noble’s educators, families and, more importantly, for the students who will benefit from an IB education."
Teachers must be IB-certified to teach courses in the program. The IB teachers at Hansberry have all been identified and will complete their training and curriculum requirements by the end of this academic year, according to Fullerton. Being a candidate school for the last two years provided time to adequately train staff. In fact, more teachers received the training than are expected to teach the IB courses.
Currently, about 55% of students are taking prerequisite courses. At the end of April, teachers will evaluate student performance and make recommendations based on how well they believe a student would do in the IB program. A lower evaluation, however, will not keep students out—students who want to take IB courses will be able to, regardless of academic history or recommendations.
Hansberry’s “open admissions” policy sets it apart from other IB schools in Chicago, which typically have a formal application process or academic requirements for admission. All CPS schools offering the Diploma Program require that students submit an application and meet minimum test score requirements. Several schools have additional selection criteria to ensure students can succeed in the rigorous program.
For example, students wishing to enter the Diploma Program at Lincoln Park High School, Fullerton’s alma mater, must reach specific 7th-grade ISAT scores, go through a student/parent interview process, and complete a supervised writing sample. Other CPS schools have minimum grade or course requirements.
Fullerton emphasized that she wants as many students as possible to have access, so as long as the student expresses a desire to be in the program. While not every student will earn an IB diploma, increasing access to these high-level courses is Fullerton’s primary goal.
“IB is a full curriculum of study, and we don’t expect every student to take every class at the higher level,” she says. “Our goal is to make sure all of our students get the chance to take these courses, because it will help transition them into a successful college career.”
The University of Illinois at Chicago faculty union reached a tentative contract agreement on Wednesday with the university administration, averting a strike that had been scheduled for next week. (Tribune)
LIMITING SUSPENSIONS: The Illinois State Assembly is considering legislation that would limit the length of suspensions for all but the most serious infractions and put an end to disciplinary fines. The bills, which would limit out-of-school suspensions to no more than three days for infractions that do not threaten the safety or disrupt the education of other students, have the support of a group of student activists in Chicago who gathered for a rally downtown on Wednesday. (Tribune)
IN THE NATION
COMPETING VIEWS OF TEACHER TENURE: In a case that has drawn national attention, lawyers have been arguing over whether California’s laws on teacher tenure, firing and layoffs violate students’ constitutional right to an education. (The New York Times)
TURNING TO TURNAROUND NETWORK: By forming a network of turnaround schools, the State Department of Education said the state will offer intensive support directly to school leaders in some of the state’s lowest-performing schools. (Chalkbeat)
Students from Voices of Youth in Chicago Education (VOYCE) rallied in the Loop Wednesday to build support for student-drafted legislation that would eliminate monetary fines imposed for disciplinary reasons in schools, as well as limit out-of-school suspensions and expulsions.
The proposed bill, SB3004, is now pending in the state Senate. The crowd of students and supporters from the Campaign for Common Sense Discipline in Chicago Public Schools marched from CPS headquarters to the State of Illinois Building to urge lawmakers to support the bill.
VOYCE has called attention to harsh discipline in CPS, and has also been among those criticizing charter discipline policies, which are often tougher than the CPS Student Code of Conduct.
Noble Street Charter Schools have come under fire not only for a strict discipline code but also for levying hefty fines against students for relatively minor infractions. Last week, Noble Street announced it would drop one of its more controversial fines, the $5 fee assessed against students who earned detentions.
“We want common sense discipline, instead of the zero-tolerance policy we have now,” said Mariama Bangura, a junior at Roosevelt High School. “Schools need to support their students, not kick them out for minor issues.”
"Keeping students in the classroom and connected to their school communities is important to the District, which is why CPS revised its disciplinary policies to focus on instructive and corrective responses to misbehavior, resulting in a 36% drop in out-of-school suspensions for high school students over three years," said CPS spokesman Joel Hood in a statement. "While CPS and VOYCE are aligned in their efforts to reduce suspensions and keep students in school, SB3004, as drafted, places strict limitations on administrators' ability to manage school safety and could potentially interfere with law enforcement's jurisdiction and ability to enforce safety on school grounds or at school-sponsored events."
Though high school suspensions have declined, elementary suspensions have risen dramatically in recent years, Catalyst found, and the racial gap in disciplined has widened.
Harsh discipline has a disproportionate impact on African American male students and has long been an issue in CPS. School discipline is also in the spotlight nationally, with federal education officials urging districts to find ways to keep students in school instead of suspending and expelling them.
In addition to banning fines for discipline infractions, SB3004 would amend the Illinois School Code to put limits on the actions that could lead to suspension or expulsion. For one, students could only be expelled “for posing a significant threat of imminent serious harm to other pupils or to staff” instead of for the more subjective “gross disobedience or misconduct.”
Students could be suspended, for not more than 10 days, for “a serious act of misconduct” rather than “gross disobedience or misconduct.”
“I’m the first one to take action if a student is disrupting my class, but I see kids being suspended and expelled for minor infractions all the time,” said Roosevelt teacher Tim Meegan. “This undermines my ability to teach and hurts the students.”
The student group was joined by Jessica Schneider from the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Inc., who, echoing other experts across the country, said school discipline has become a civil rights issue. Schneider pointed to data showing black students in CPS are 30 times more likely to be suspended than whites, and said that disciplinary fees are an exclusionary practice that further disadvantages low-income students.
Smoking among Chicago high school students has decreased by more than 20 percent since 2011 and is now the lowest recorded rate in youth smoking, the mayor's office announced Tuesday. Based to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a study shows that less than 11 percent of Chicago high school students reported smoking in 2013, down from more than 13 percent in 2011. (Press release)
IN THE NATION
THE PARENT TRAP: Most forms of parental involvement, like observing a child’s class, contacting a school about a child’s behavior, helping to decide a child’s high school courses, or helping a child with homework, do not improve student achievement, say the authors of “The Broken Compass: Parental Involvement With Children’s Education,” in an opinion piece. In some cases, they actually hinder it. (The New York Times)
DEBATING TEACHER FIRING: A bill awaiting the signature of Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback would essentially make teachers in the state at-will employees of their school districts, and teachers would be able to challenge termination only if they allege the firing violates their constitutional rights. (The Kansas City Star)
LOOKING FOR TEACHERS: About 1,800 applicants were in Portland Tuesday, looking for teaching jobs at the Oregon Professional Educator Fair. Almost 170 school districts and other educational agencies have booths at the two-day fair. They’re looking for new staff as teachers retire or move out of the area. (OPB)
Fewer college students are enrolling in traditional undergraduate teaching programs in Illinois, with whites accounting for the biggest drop. After years of holding steady, enrollment fell significantly in 2011 and 2012—by 23 percent overall, according to a Catalyst Chicago analysis of data from the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE) for 2003 through 2012. White student enrollment fell at an even higher rate of 25 percent.
Black enrollment in teaching programs showed no clear trend between 2003 and 2010, but, as with white students, declined significantly in 2011 and 2012. Hispanic enrollment, however, grew steadily between 2003 and 2010, only to fall in the next two years. But that growth means that more Hispanics than African Americans are now entering teaching.
Still, enrollment trends are important because of the mismatch between students and teachers that can lead to a cultural divide in the classroom: About half of students in Illinois public schools are minorities, but close to 84 percent of teachers are white, according to state records. In Chicago, the need for a diverse teacher workforce is especially evident: 86 percent of students are children of color but less than half of teachers are minorities.
Despite the mismatch, it’s not likely that the state will experience a massive overall shortage of public school teachers anytime soon. Illinois has long produced an overabundance of teachers in all but a few instructional categories, and the state’s population of elementary and high school aged students is expected to continue on a slight decline through at least 2019, according to national projections.
At Illinois State University, the state’s biggest producer of teachers, enrollment has gone through ups and downs during the past decade. But it hit a new low in 2012, when the numbers were 16 percent lower than a decade earlier.
“We have a very strong history of educating teachers and seeing those numbers decline has been a concern,” says Stacy Ramsey, ISU interim director of admissions. "It’s just getting harder and harder to become a teacher, with all the testing standards and continuing education […]. I don’t think it’s a career choice that is as attractive as it used to be.”
Illinois teaching institutions aren’t the only ones losing students. According to a national survey by the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, the number of full-time undergraduates enrolled in education degree programs fell by 6 percent between 2006 and 2011 – even though overall enrollment at the 581 institutions surveyed grew by more than 7 percent during that time period.
“With everything that’s going on right now, the profession is just not well received because of the [2012 Chicago teachers] strike and the closing of schools,” says Chamiyah Pugh, a first-year teacher at Mays Elementary School in Englewood. “The teacher turnover rate is so high you will meet teachers who tell you to get out of this field and to save yourself.”
Harder exams, less prestige
University leaders and others in the field say the toughened entrance exam for education colleges that was put into place in 2010 is responsible for much of the decline. That year, the Illinois State Board of Education restructured and raised the cut scores for the required entrance exam for education colleges, now known as the Test for Academic Proficiency (TAP), and also imposed a limit on the number of times students could take the test. Overall, fewer than a third of students who now take the TAP pass it – a far cry from the previous pass rate of more than 80 percent overall.
Yet leaders also point to other circumstances that may have made teaching less attractive, such as school closures and layoffs in Chicago as well as the fight over pension reform and the growth of alternative teaching programs.
“Teaching just doesn’t seem to be appealing to certain students anymore,” says Sterling Sadler, dean of the College of Education at Western Illinois University. “What we are seeing is that the quality of those students who do enroll is improving, which is a good thing.”
Much of the public dialogue about the sharp drop in pass rates on the TAP has focused on black and Hispanic students, whose scores are significantly lower than for white students. But the numbers are bad across the board: Only 34 percent of white students passed the exam in the final quarter of 2013.
“When you change the cut score, it’s going to affect all students,” says Brian Schultz, a professor and chair of the Educational Inquiry & Curriculum Studies Department at Northeastern Illinois University. “The cut score needs to be changed, or let’s eliminate that as a requirement because it doesn’t predict performance in the classroom.”
Schultz and other critics of the test, including the organization Grow Your Own Teachers—which partners with community organizations in low-income neighborhoods to recruit community members into teaching—want the state to find alternative methods of assessing the quality of prospective teachers.
“ISBE is in a tough situation in terms of how they have decided to go down this path in terms of using rhetoric such as ‘raising the bar’ on teachers, because to change that now would suggest that they’re now ‘lowering’ the bar,” he said. “But that would be the moral thing to do. They’ve made a mistake and it’s having a disparate impact [on students of color]”.
“We know that those individuals that have the cultural competencies and are able to connect in culturally respectful ways to their students are the most successful in the classroom,” Schulz adds.
Mary Fergus, a spokeswoman for ISBE, says the agency hasn’t conducted a formal analysis of the downward trend.
“While it may be the case that TAP has momentarily stopped individuals from pursuing a teaching license, it is also the case that the higher expectations serve as a gate, keeping individuals who cannot perform those foundational functions from moving forward until they can reach that point,” she added.
Last month ISBE voted to eliminate the limit on the number of times students could take the TAP, explaining that the measure sought to diversify the teaching workforce. The state board also formed a working committee that includes educators and young teachers of color to study the issue and has given colleges discretion to allow students to enroll into education programs prior to passing the TAP.
However, during ISBE’s meeting in April, state officials said many universities have chosen not to use that discretion. Staff at NEIU, for example, decided after much discussion not to allow students into the program before passing the TAP to avoid potentially burdening them with debt if they ultimately fail the exam.
Opting for other careers
Of course, not everyone who earns a bachelor’s degree in education goes on to earn a teaching certificate, and even fewer wind up teaching in public schools. A longitudinal study published last year by the Illinois Education Research Council, at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, showed that less than half of those who get certified wind up teaching in an Illinois public school, with some entering private schools and other educational jobs in the private sector.
The study sought to inform the design of policies meant to improve the supply of academically skilled and racially diverse teachers in Illinois by tracking students who graduated from high school in 2002 and 2003, through college and into the workforce. Among its findings: Minorities are far less interested in becoming teachers starting in high school, when they indicate their desired career on their ACTs. The trend continued all along the teacher pipeline.
“Regardless of academic preparation, minority high school students still aspired to teach at lower rates, minority bachelor’s degree recipients were less likely to have earned teaching certificates, and minorities with teaching certificates were less likely to become teachers in Illinois public schools, compared to whites,” according to the study. “These all indicate that other factors besides academic preparation also have a large impact on the relatively low minority representation of new public school teachers in Illinois.”
Certified black teachers, according to the study, are the least likely ethnic group to become a public school teacher in Illinois.
“Amongst people of color, becoming a teacher has zoomed down to [no] more than 8th place in their interest level,” says Dominic Belmonte, president and CEO of Golden Apple, a non-profit organization dedicated to recruiting and developing good teachers in Illinois. “There is a sense out there that teaching is a difficult task that has a limited payoff as far as salary, as far as prestige, as far as challenge. Trying to make teaching cool again with all of these obstacles is a tad difficult.”
That’s part of the reason why educators at ISU launched the Chicago Teacher Education Pipeline more than a decade ago. The program seeks to prepare students from high schools in Little Village, Auburn Gresham and Albany Park for college – and careers as Chicago teachers.
“The end goal for students that we’re recruiting from CPS is that they’ll return home to teach,” explains Robert Lee, the program’s executive director. “And many of our alums will continue living in these communities we serve.”
About 800 students have successfully gone through the pipeline and are now teaching in Chicago Public Schools, Lee said.
Another facet of the program brings ISU students into Chicago neighborhoods, where they live for a month while taking teaching classes and interning at a local community organization. Pugh, the first- year teacher at Mays Elementary School in Englewood, spent the summer of 2012 in the program, which she said prepared her to teach in the city.
Pugh was impressed with the program’s community and cultural emphasis.
“As an African-American girl growing up in Chicago, most of my teachers didn’t understand what it was like for us,” she says. “I wanted to be the person who ‘got’ the kids because I rarely had anybody I could relate to.”
Alternative routes to the classroom
The growth of alternative teaching programs, such as Teach for America and the Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL), may also be influencing some students to pursue a teaching certificate post- college instead of earning a bachelor’s degree in education.
Mike Konkoleski, a math teacher at Solorio High School, knew since his senior year in high school that he probably wanted to become a teacher. But he chose to study math at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and later added a double major in Spanish. Fulfilling the requirements for both majors made it difficult to also schedule the education courses he’d need to earn a teaching certificate.
He considered staying at U of I for a fifth year in order to get his teaching certificate, but instead applied to several post-college alternative teaching programs in Chicago. He entered the AUSL program in 2008, where he earned his teaching certificate along with a master’s degree in education while spending a year in the classroom under the watchful eye of a mentor. Konkoleski says he has no regrets.
“No matter what education program you look at, you only learn so much in the courses. The only way you learn is by teaching,” he points out.
Konkoleski and others in his cohort earned traditional teaching certificates through the AUSL master’s degree program at National-Louis University. Those who enter Teach for America, meanwhile, earn provisional teaching certificates during their first year on the job, and an initial certificate after their second year, provided they have fulfilled the necessary coursework and other requirements through Dominican University, National-Louis University or the University of Phoenix.
In 2005, ISBE granted 337 alternative teaching certificates to new educators that received their training through alternative programs. The number peaked in 2010, when 1,302 alternative teaching certificates were granted in Illinois, and has since dropped to 514 in 2012, the most recent year for which ISBE had data.
Despite the growth, however, it’s important to note that the vast majority of teachers still earn traditional certificates. In 2012, for example, 14 times as many traditional teaching certificates were granted when compared to alternative teaching certificates.
Millions of American students this spring are piloting new online standardized tests linked to the Common Core State Standards. You can try out sample tests and see for yourself if they boost your critical thinking skills. (The Hechinger Report)
The main reason for the trial run is to see if computer systems are ready to handle millions of students logging on to take the exams at the same time. But it’s also a public relations test. Students are getting a first look at the exams in full, and educators will now have a better sense of whether they will live up to their promise.
IN THE STATE
FREE ACT COULD END: Illinois lawmakers are considering whether to continue paying for high school juniors to take the ACT and debating whether to pass along the $52.50 exam fees to students and their families as a way to save money. (State Journal Register)
SCHOOL IMPROVEMENTS: The Springfield School District will undertake more than $5 million worth of building improvements this summer, including repaving parking lots, installing central air conditioning and replacing two roofs. The upgrades are part of $90 million in health and life safety improvements for which the Springfield School Board agreed to issue bonds in late 2008. (State Journal Register)
IN THE NATION
DENVER CONSIDERS HIRING UNDOCUMENTED TEACHERS: The Denver Public School system has joined with Teach for America to hire undocumented immigrants who were granted temporary legal presence and work authorization under a presidential initiative known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. (Think Progress)
CLARITY ON STUDENT PRIVACY: Several groups are working to establish more clarity and guidance with new policies for K-12 schools that are struggling to deal with the atmosphere around issues of student-data privacy. (Education Week)
African American students are more isolated than they were 40 years ago, while most education policymakers and reformers have abandoned integration as a cause. That reality is explained in a new report called “For Public Schools, Segregation Then, Segregation Since: Education and the Unfinished March” by Richard Rothstein of the nonprofit Economic Policy Institute, which looks at the reasons and the implications of continued school segregation. (The Washington Post)
WINDFALL FROM PENSION PLAN WILL HELP CPS: Crain's Greg Hinz is reporting that Mayor Rahm Emanuel's plan to restructure two city pension funds brought to light a little-noticed quirk in state law that will result in a windfall for the city—and help Chicago Public Schools. For many schools, the windfall could be enough to "hire a couple of teachers, or put in some new programs," said Ald. Ameya Pawar, 47th, who along with colleague Will Burns, 4th, unearthed the money.
GOING AFTER SCHOLARSHIPS: With college costs increasing and the prospect of paying back student loans intimidating, Chicago Public Schools are becoming increasingly aggressive about encouraging students to pursue scholarships. According to the district, students received $400 million in scholarship offers during the 2012-13 school year, up from $266.7 million the year before. (Tribune)
NOBLE DROPS DISCIPLINE FEE: The Noble Network of Charter Schools has dropped a $5 fee charged to students hit with a detention, one of the most controversial aspects of its strict discipline policy. Noble informed parents of the change a day after the Tribune detailed the privately run school's tough approach to student discipline. (Tribune)
CHEMICAL CONTENTS: It took a Freedom of Information Act to get the Chicago Public Schools to disclose what's in the chicken nuggets they serve in their cafeterias. NPR's Scott Simon reveals the chemical contents: brown sugar, salt, onion powder, maltodextrin, silicon dioxide, citric acid, potassium chloride, sodium phosphates and, oh, yes, a little chicken.
IN THE NATION
POOR STUDENTS GET POOR TEACHERS: The Center for American Progress released a new report that finds that poor and minority students are more likely to be taught by a teacher rated ineffective and less likely to be taught by one who is exemplary. “We’ve known for awhile that poor and minority students attending U.S. public schools are more likely to be taught by underqualified or brand-new teachers,” said Jenny DeMonte, co-author of the report and associate director for education research at the Center for American Progress. “Our new report takes this idea a step further. Using new evaluation data, we found that these same children are also more likely to be taught by a teacher rated ineffective.” (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and his challenger, Bruce Rauner, met for the first time this afternoon at the Illinois Education Association's 160th Representative Assembly and annual meeting in Chicago.
The Democratic governor and his Republican oponent sat down for an hour with IEA President Cinda Klickna, who asked hard questions about everything from funding and pension reform to charter schools and the minimum wage. She asked Quinn why teachers should trust him this time around, and Rauner about his admiration for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. Neither candidate was too popular with the 1,000+ educators in the room. The Chicago Teachers Union is not part of the IEA.
Catalyst live-tweeted the event from the back of the International Ballroom at the Hilton Chicago Hotel, along with several other journalists and political junkies. The following is a Storified compilation of tweets. The IEA has posted a video of the event online.
[&amp;amp;lt;a href="//storify.com/CatalystChicago/quinn-rauner-debate-before-teachers" target="_blank"&amp;amp;gt;View the story "Quinn, Rauner debate before teachers" on Storify&amp;amp;lt;/a&amp;amp;gt;]
Students who have teachers who make them “feel excited about the future” and who attend schools that they see as committed to building their individual strengths are 30 times more likely than other students to show other signs of engagement in the classroom—a key predictor of academic success, according to a report by Gallup Education. (Education Week)
SCHOLARSHIPS FOR SINGLE MOMS: The 2014 recipients of the Chicago State University Foundation’s “Essence of An Angel” Awards will share their stories of challenge and triumph at an event Sunday that celebrates the achievements of some of Chicago’s most successful single mothers while funding scholarships for single mothers who attend the university. Honorees are Brenda Palms Barber, Executive Founder, North Lawndale Employment Network; Cristina Baines, Manager, Chicago State University Creative and Print Services; Aundrea Holland, CSU Student; Lisa Haley Huff, Senior Vice President, PNC Bank and Gwendolyn Mackel Rice, Non Profit Consultant. (Press release)
HOST OF SUMMER PROGRAMS: The Chicago City of Learning initiative will bring together more than 100 Chicago city agencies, youth serving and community organizations to offer free summer programs to the city’s youth and provide digital badges to those who participate and gain skills through them. (Press release)
IN THE NATION
TEST SCORES FACTORED OUT: Departing from the past decade's heavy reliance on test scores to determine which students advance to the next grade, the New York City Department of Education said Wednesday that schools will use a basket of measures instead. (The Wall Street Journal)
NO TESTING FOR VOUCHER STUDENTS: Republicans in the Florida House on Wednesday firmly rejected a proposal to require students who attend private schools with state-sponsored vouchers to take the same high-stakes tests given to students in public schools. (The Tampa Tribune)
THE PROBLEM WITH GRIT: Author Alfie Kohn offers 10 concerns about the "let's them grit" fad championed by the school reform crowd. Grit, he writes, can be counterproductive and unhealthy. The push to teach kids “grit,” to make them more persistent, has become wildly popular in the last couple of years, spurred by journalist Paul Tough’s bestseller How Children Succeed and the widely publicized views of Angela Duckworth, a University of Pennsylvania researcher. (The Washington Post)
After a racially charged debate over weakening a state charter schools panel, the Illinois House voted down union-backed legislation Wednesday to give more power to local school districts to veto charter-school applications.
FUNDING FORMULA BILL ADVANCES: A proposed overhaul of the state’s complex school-funding formula got the green light Tuesday to come before a full Senate committee. The overhaul also calls for the elimination of the Chicago Block Grant and would fund Chicago Public Schools the same way as the rest of Illinois’ schools. Sen. Kimberly Lightford, D-Maywood, said CPS is not opposed to the measure. (State Journal-Register)
UNIFORM ASSESSMENTS FOR SELECTIVE SCHOOLS: Chicago Public Schools is adopting the Northwestern Evaluation Association Measures of Academic Progress as the uniform assessment for all students applying to a selective enrollment school, academic center or gifted school for School Year 2015-16. (Press release)
CHOSEN FOR SCIENCE PILOT: Kenwood Academy High School, Ariel Community Academy and University of Chicago Woodlawn Charter School are three of 46 schools that have been chosen by Chicago Public Schools to pilot its new computer science curriculum next fall. (Hyde Park Herald)
IN THE NATION
DROPOUT PREDICTORS: A new research report, "College Choice Report: Part 3—Persistence and Transfer," suggests that students at the greatest risk of dropping out of college are those who earn lower ACT college readiness assessment scores, particularly those with less educated parents and lower educational aspirations themselves. Also, dropout rates tend to run significantly higher for students who planned to earn less than a bachelor’s degree, those who attended a college with less-selective admission requirements and those whose parents did not attend college. (Press release)
ACHIEVEMENT GAP PERSISTS: Maryland's Montgomery County’s efforts to close the gap in achievement between its high-poverty and low-poverty high schools have not worked, with widening disparities on many measures of student success, according to a report released Tuesday. The study found that the schools are increasingly divided by income, race and ethnicity, with African American, Latino and low-income students more isolated than they were three years ago. (The Washington Post)