CPS board members approved Wednesday the expansion of several charter networks but, in an unusual occurrence for an appointed board that usually accepts all of the administration’s recommendations, the proposals did not all earn unanimous votes.
Carlos Azcoitia, a former principal who has been on the board since November, voted against the establishment of a KIPP Charter School in Englewood. He also voted against renewing and expanding KIPP’s ACT campus and Chicago Virtual Charter School. Board member Mahalia Hines, also a one-time principal, joined Azcoitia in voting against the Chicago Virtual Charter School item.
Considering that the board is in the midst of deciding whether to close 54 schools, Azcoitia said he did not think it was the right time to add seats at schools. He did vote in favor of some of the charter school grade expansions because they are existing schools or adding high school grades. CPS is only planning to close elementary schools this year.
“Before we open new schools, I think first we need to know the impact on our communities of school closings,” said Azcoitia after the meeting. “I just did not think this was the right time.”
Among the charter networks set to expand are Noble Street, Aspira, and UNO's Rogers Park campus, which is adding a high school.
Azcoitia and other board members also questioned and raised concerns about the schools that CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett has recommended for closure. The vote on the closures will take place at their next meeting on May 22.
Board members are trying to visit every closing and receiving school. “We learn something on each of these visits,” Board President David Vitale said.
Vice President Jesse Ruiz added that his school visits have resulted in several questions and he is hoping CPS officials take time to address them. Azcoitia said he wants the board to be briefed on each individual school action with information on academics, safety and facilities, as well as what was learned at community meetings and by hearing officers.
Hines made the strongest statement. She said she had driven many of the routes from closing schools to schools that students will be sent to, and that she was not convinced they were safe. She was particularly concerned about the trip between Melody and Delano.
“It is not a route that I would send my child and there is no way I am voting for anything that I would not send my child [to do],” she said.
Hines also said she was worried about the fact that CPS officials did not account for special education students in their utilization formula. Underutilization is the key factor in deciding what schools are to be closed.
Hines visited Trumbull Elementary School, which has 116 special education students this year. Trumbull parents have said that their utilization rate would be higher if CPS had taken into account the special education students, who are supposed to have smaller class sizes.
“How are we going to address the needs of special education students?” Hines asked.
Special Education Director Markay Winston said her team was taking steps to make sure receiving schools have the services needed, but Hines indicated that the questions are about more than services.
Board members made their comments after public participation, during which speakers once again insisted that their school stay open. One of them was Asean Johnson, a 3rd-grader at Garvey Elementary School.
He said that Byrd-Bennett and Vitale visited his school recently. Addressing Byrd-Bennett directly, he said, “Why would you take Marcus Garvey away from us? You loved how quiet it was and how we were all at work. You tried to surprise us, but we were ready. “
Another strong statement was made by Jalainea Leslie, a mother whose children attend Parkman. She said there’s no way she will send her child to Sherwood Elementary School, some six blocks away.
Recently, she said, someone got shot near Sherwood.
“I want to protect my kids,” Leslie said. “57th Street is too far. I know you have a heart. This is not a right thing because they won’t make it there.”
Before the board meeting, dueling rallies showed the deep divide that exists on the charter school and school closings issue.
Students from several high schools marched chanting: "Rahm Emanuel has got to go" Many of the students were juniors who were supposed to take the second part of the Prairie State exam on Wednesday, but boycotted it. They said they wanted to show their displeasure at using test scores in decisions to close schools and to evaluate teachers.
Brian Stirgus, a student at Robeson High, said he was at the rally to speak up on behalf of his elementary school, Banneker. Banneker is slated for closure and its students will be sent to Mays.
“These school closings are racist,” he said. “We refuse to sit back and let you destroy our neighborhoods.”
In the background, Chicago Parents United, a new pro-charter parent group, also chanted. The parents, whose children mostly attend UNO, Noble Street and Chicago International charters, said they wanted CPS officials to hear their voices and for charter schools to get equal funding.
The Sun-Times, in an editorial, tells public high school juniors not to boycott "a state-mandated test called the PSAE" on Wednesday, as some students have threatened to do to send a message about how their results are being used.
PARENTS COMPLAIN, TEACHER REMOVED: A special-education teacher at Finkl Elementary School in the Little Village community has been removed from her classroom, Chicago Public Schools confirmed Tuesday — with the move coming after parents of her students complained of physical abuse against their children. (Sun-Times)
IN THE NATION
CAUSE FOR ALARM?: Some education observers are alarmed at what they see as increasingly aggressive moves by education companies to make money from the K-12 system; others say the expanding role of for-profit ventures is just a natural evolution of the interplay between the private and public sectors in efforts to improve schools. (Education Week)
REFORM GONE WRONG: Many of the reforms instituted under former DC Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee and continued under Chancellor Kaya Henderson have done more harm than good for the school system, according to a new report. (The Examiner)
RANKING HIGH SCHOOLS: California again this year leads the nation in the 2013 ranking of Best High Schools from U.S. News and World Report. Maryland came in second with 25.7 percent of its high schools receiving the top designations, and Connecticut was third at 18.9 percent in the analysis. The Top 4 high schools in Illinois are all in Chicago: Northside College Prep, Walter Payton College Prep, Jones College Prep and Whitney M. Young Magnet.
Under the newly formed group Charter Parents United, privately run charter schools and their allies are expected to announce at this week's Board of Education meeting a May 8 downtown rally and present the board with a petition demanding equity in funding for charters, according to the Tribune.
STUDYING CITY COLLEGES MODEL: A World Bank delegation is traveling to Chicago on Wednesday and Thursday to participate in a “learning journey” to explore the City Colleges of Chicago’s College to Careers initiative. The delegation of 15 senior World Bank staff will connect with leaders of the College to Careers program, launched in December 2011, to learn about its design and implementation of the program. The delegation hope that the model can be instructive for designing education and workforce development programs elsewhere around the nation and the world. (Press release)
BOARD MEMBER INTERVIEW: Retired president of Northwestern University Henry Bienan, talks with Chicago Magazine's Carol Felsenthal about the "ups and downs of serving on the CPS Board." Other than saying he's "positively inclined" toward charter schools and admitting to be a "social friend" of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the interview isn't that revealing.
IN THE NATION
COMMON CORE BACKLASH: Republicans have launched an attack on the Common Core State Standards, an initiative that more than 45 states and the District of Columbia signed onto but that has been facing increasing opposition in recent months from both right and left. (The Washington Post)
TEST SCORING ERRORS: Nearly 2,700 New York City students were wrongly told in recent weeks they were not eligible for seats in public school gifted and talented programs because of errors in scoring the tests used for admission, the Education Department said on Friday. (The New York Times)
TEST TAKER, TEST MAKER: An eighth grader from upstate New York designed a standardized test that makes fun of standardized tests “because teachers are always teaching to the test instead of teaching stuff that would interest us or that they are good at teaching," she said. (The Washington Post)
CHEATING CHARGES: Michelle Rhee, head of an influential education advocacy group that backs using student test scores to evaluate teachers, last week fended off accusations that she failed to pursue evidence of cheating when she ran the District of Columbia school system. (Education Week)
This post has been updated to correct the name of Charter Parents United.
Two new charter schools will open up this fall in Chicago, but neither will have a formal connection to CPS.
After CPS rejected Concept Charter School’s proposal to open two schools, the operator turned to the Illinois State Charter School Commission, which was created two years ago to handle appeals when proposals are turned down. The commission last month approved Concept’s plan to open two kindergarten-through-12th grade schools.
District officials considered a legal challenge to the approval, but eventually decided against it, says CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll. Still, it is not clear that the district will just accept the decision. The district "is engaged in ongoing discussions to determine next steps in response to their actions," she says. The deadline to file a challenge was last Friday.
Concept Schools already operates the Chicago Math and Science Academy, a Level 2 school in Rogers Park that opened in 2004.
The approval of the Concept proposal means a new reality is taking hold in CPS, one in which the district does not have total control over charter school decisions. Because the operator was approved through the state commission, the charters will receive their funding through the state. The state, in turn, will deduct the money from the district’s funding.
Concept Charter is seeking to get a building in the North Side neighborhood of Bowmanville--typically called Lincoln Square--rezoned to allow the school to locate there. A slew of residents showed up at a community meeting to speak against the zoning change.
The other Concept school is planned for McKinley Park, and has the support of the alderman.
At full capacity, the new Concept Schools will only enroll 1,450 students, a small number. But eventually, a number of Chicago students could end up attending charter schools that have no connection to CPS.
Charters approved through the commission receive a tuition rate of $9,120 per student, about $1,600 more than the per-pupil funding that CPS gives charters. Commission-approved charters also get state and federal funding for special education and low-income students directly, rather than through CPS.
Greg Richmond, executive director of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers and a member of the commission, says charter operators think they will fare better financially by getting the funds directly, but it is unclear whether this is true. CPS subsidizes special education services at charter schools, making up the difference in what the services cost and what the state provides. CPS-approved charters also get stipends to help pay for facilities.
But Salim Ucan, executive director of Concept Schools, says that the additional per pupil funding given by the state end up significantly higher, especially when multiplied by more than 1,000 students. He says thinks it is more than enough to run the schools.
Yet he emphasizes that his charter school management company has a good relationship with CPS and that he considers the district as a partner.
Charter operators in Illinois have always had the power to appeal to the Illinois State Board of Education if a proposal is denied, says Richmond. Over the past decade, about a dozen made such appeals, but in only three cases—none of which were in Chicago—did the state board override a district.
In 2011, when lawmakers first considered the bill creating the commission, “the discussion was about how to reduce the politics involved in the process,” Richmond says. Because charter schools are a hot-button issue in education, politics and ideology often come into play whether it is a school district or the state board of education approving a charter.
All but five states that have charter schools have a non-district authorizer, Richmond says.
The commissioners include an Evanston science teacher; a retired Joliet superintendent; the founder of Target Area Development Corporation, Patricia Van Pelt-Watkins; and Angela Rudolph, policy director of Democrats For Education Reform.
Richmond says the commissioners look mainly at the merits of a proposal and try not to get mired in other details. Members also look at the need in the community. Richmond says he and others were convinced the Concept Charter Schools are needed because of the low graduation rates of nearby high schools.
Questions of performance
Exactly why CPS denied the Concept Charter proposal is unclear. The charter school mistakenly uploaded an incomplete narrative with its application, and because the deadline had passed, CPS officials would not allow them to resubmit. Evaluators subtracted points based on the incomplete proposal.
Evaluators also said that Concept’s current campus, Chicago Math and Science Academy, is not among the highest-achieving schools in the district and is not out-performing other schools in its area network—two of the criteria for replicating a charter, according to the district’s Request For Quality Schools proposal form.
CPS officials also questioned whether the charter management company had enough money in its budget for teacher salaries. According to hearing documents, CPS officials were worried that the schools would not be able to compete for good teachers.
The average teacher salary in the district is $74,839, according to data on the CPS website. But at Concept, the most a teacher can earn is $50,000, Ucan says. However, he says the starting salary in Concept schools is not all that much different than in CPS.
Ucan says Concept Schools does not have problems finding quality teachers. The charter management company runs 27 schools for 10,500 students across the Midwest.
He also says conflict with the Bowmanville community stems from delays caused by CPS. Originally, the second Concept campus was to be located in Belmont-Cragin. Ucan says his staff reached out to the community and had strong support.
But CPS board members did not vote on proposals until February. By then, the lease on the original building in Belmont-Cragin had expired.
Recently, they were able to find a new location in Bowmanville.
Ucan is confident that once Concept Schools is able to do more community outreach, people will like what they hear. Concept Schools are focused on providing a strong math, science and engineering base. Students also do more project based learning than at traditional schools.
“All the design elements prepare students for college,” Ucan says.
A group of Chicago high school students plans to boycott part of this week’s state exam, because they say it’s unfair to judge whether their schools are good or not based on one test, WBEZ reports.
Two student-led groups, Voices of Youth in Chicago Education and Chicago Students Organizing to Save Our Schools, called on their classmates to walk out of the second day of testing for the Prairie State Achievement Exam, or PSAE, Wednesday. Students take the ACT during the first day and many don’t want to jeopardize their chances at college.
A HARD SELL: The Tribune writes that many of the school buildings that CPS will try to sell will have a hard time finding buyers, which suggests they could end up vacant in neighborhoods struggling with boarded-up houses and crime. Finding new uses and occupants for former school buildings, which have odd spaces such as gymnasiums, auditoriums and large hallways, will be challenging, experts said.
IN THE STATE
SPANISH ONLY: The Deerfield Public Schools District 109 Board announced last week that Spanish will be the only foreign language offered to incoming sixth graders at Caruso and Shepard Middle Schools next year. (Deerfield Patch)
IN THE NATION
FEDERAL FUNDS AND COMMON CORE: Sen. Chuck Grassley, a Republican from Iowa wrote a letter to Sen. Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat, asking him to include language in the bill that funds the U.S. Department of Education prohibiting the education secretary from using any of the money in the measure to oversee state implementation of Common Core Standards, develop tests to go along with the standards, or give a leg up in any federal competition to states that adopt the standards. (Education Week)
In the midst of Chicago’s school closings, Las Vegas plans to send recruiters to claim some of Chicago’s best teachers. (Medill Reports)
Chicago’s closing of 54 schools will put approximately 1,000 teachers out of work, according to the Chicago Teachers Union. But half way across the country, in Clark County School District, the fifth largest school system that encompasses Las Vegas, they are set to hire 2,000 new teachers for the 2013-2014 school year – many positions they hope to fill with Chicago teachers.
VOICE FOR CHARTER PARENTS: Chicago Public Schools parents from across the city have formed a new grassroots organization that intends to voice the concerns of one group whose views have been missing from the current debate about improving Chicago Public Schools – parents of CPS charter school students. Charter Parents United (CPU) is proposing a Charter Parents Bill of Rights, which they say will "ensure that Illinois and CPS support their children’s schools and continue to provide them with the quality education and stable environment they have worked so hard to find," according to a new release issued Thursday.
HEARINGS ON RECORD: Chicago is holding more than 190 community meetings and public hearings this spring—all required by law—to gather feedback on its proposal to close an unprecedented 54 schools. CPS contracted with a vendor to record public meetings that took place between April 6 and April 15 on these proposed school changes. Through an open records request, WBEZ obtained those audio files and has posted them to its website. Listen to them here.
IN THE NATION
PARENTS ON SCHOOL IMPROVEMENT: A report from Public Agenda on parent attitudes toward parental involvement in education details why and how school leaders must tailor their approaches to more effectively engage parents in school improvement. The report, "Ready, Willing and Able? Kansas City Parents Talk About How to Improve Schools and What They Can Do to Help," indicates that parental involvement means very different things to different parents, with some drawn to advocacy and school reform while others are more comfortable participating in time-honored tasks like helping with school clubs, sports and bake sales.
COLLEGE READINESS VIEWPOINTS: High school teachers think their students are ready for college, but college professors beg to differ. A survey by ACT finds that 89 percent of high school teachers think report their students are "well" or "very well" prepared for college-level work in the subject they teach, while just 26 percent of college instructors say incoming students are "well" or "very well" prepared for entry-level courses. (Education Week)
A year after winning state funding to expand a program aimed at getting parents actively involved in their children’s education, advocates spent Thursday in Springfield fighting to keep it going.
Since 1995, Logan Square Neighborhood Association and the Southwest Organizing Project have run parent mentor programs in their communities. Last year, these organizations and the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights won $1 million in the state budget to expand the Parent Mentor Program across the state.
The program is now in 57 schools in ten Chicago communities, Aurora, Bolingbrook, Chicago Ridge, Quad Cities and Skokie. The parent mentor program trains parents on how to work in a classroom, alongside a teacher, and provides them with stipends of $500 per 100-volunteer-hours for their work.
The funding, from Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), is now however at risk due to state budget cuts. Bridget Murphy, an Education Organizer at LSNA said that although they were not included in the governor's budget proposal, they have a lot of support among state legislators and are working hard to restore and grow parent mentor funding for FY14.
There are 491 parent mentors, mostly low-income immigrant and African American parent leaders working two hours daily with struggling students in classrooms in their children's schools. Murphy says that this is when the Parent Mentor Program becomes a triple-win.
“It provides daily one-on-one support for early childhood students; it builds a strong network of parents (mostly women) leaders deeply engaged in their schools; and it breaks down barriers between home and school as parents have the opportunity to become immersed in classroom life and teachers can build trusting relationships with parents,” she said.
Recently, at the first Statewide Parent Mentor Convention, parent mentors from across the state and the Chicago region came together for the first time. At the convention, parent mentors pinpointed their No. 1 goal to have a parent mentor in every classroom by 2023.
“To a newcomer that goal might sound outlandish, but for schools with the Parent Mentor Program, it is common sense,” Murphy said.
Carmina Hernandez, a parent mentor and a mother of four, says that when there are so many kids for one teacher, the children need all the extra help that they can get to get proper attention.
“It makes a difference when one person stayed there and helped the teacher,” says Hernandez, who works as a parent mentor at Goethe Elementary School. “You help them and you help the kids too. The parents learn from the kids and they learn from us, and the same way goes for the teachers.”
The parent mentor program not only helps teachers with an extra adult to work with students, but it also empowers parents, mostly moms.
Five years ago, Monica Espinoza remembers her first day in parent mentor training. She says she imagined ways to run away. “What am I doing here?” she asked herself. “Growing up I’ve only heard words like ‘you are good for nothing, you’ll never be nobody, because you are so dumb.’ I had such low self-esteem.”
A high-school dropout, working more than 10 hours a day, Espinoza was pregnant with her second child and extremely depressed. She knew there was more to her life but she just couldn’t see it happening.
That was five years ago. Today Espinoza is a parent coordinator overseeing a group of 11 parents and helping to start up new parent mentor programs. She feels lucky to have found the opportunity that changed her life.
“It integrates you within the community and makes you feel like you belong to or are a part of something that makes your family, makes yourself and your community better place,” she says. “It takes people from where they were to where they never dreamt that they could be.”
Espinoza and Hernandez are worried about the program’s future, should it fail to get funding. “I hope that others might be able to see this and realize the importance of training the parents of the students. Parents are the first teachers of the children at home,” Espinoza says.
The vast majority of CPS middle school and high school students have access to the Internet, but only half of them regularly use it to do academic work.
That is one of the more unexpected findings of a Consortium on Chicago School Research study on technology use among CPS students, released today.
The report found a “digital divide” among students in different types of schools, with--perhaps not surprisingly--students at selective enrollment high schools, magnet schools and higher-performing schools using technology the most for school work.
The culture of the school and the level of academic expectations appear to be the biggest factors driving technology use. Leadership is also key.
“If principals are not strategic and emphasize use of technology, it can fall to the wayside,” says Stacey Ehrlich, senior research analyst for the Consortium and an author of the study.
Using the 2011 My Voice, My School survey that is administered yearly to students, teachers and principals, researchers sought to answer the broad question of whether students are using technology--, whether computers, smartphones or tablets--to complete work.
Some of the access students have to the Internet is likely through smartphones, which is not the best way to do research or other school projects. However, Ehrlich notes that 75 percent of students reported having access to high-speed Internet, which is usually associated with a computer, rather than a cell phone.
The study did not look at how much students used computers in school.
CPS officials say they are taking steps to address the digital divide. In February, more than 1,000 teachers attended a "Tech Talk" and this past July adminitrators and some teachers went to a Leadership Tech Summit. Also, the district has several schools with Science, Engineering Math and Technology programs and several more coming on line this year.
Differences by type of school, race
Charter school teachers are the least likely to expect their students to use technology at least once a week. Ehrlich says that technology use varies among charters, as among other schools.
“Some charters are focused on particular things and technology is not their focus,” she says. “The point to emphasize is that this affects kids in all different types of settings.”
Boys and high-risk students--defined as special education students, poor students or those who are over-age for their grade—also use technology less than their peers. And though race doesn’t seem to be the main determinant of technology use, it is a factor: White, Asian and multi-racial students use the Internet for school more than black, Native American and Latino students, according to the study.
Seventy percent of white students report using the Internet for an assignment more than once a week, compared to 60 percent of black students. Some of the differences are explained by the school the student attends, the study found.
The amount of time teachers use computers and the supportiveness of the administration correlates with the amount of time students spent on them. About half of teachers ask their students to do homework using technology at least once a week, but 70 percent of students do not use technology regularly to create something new and creative for school.
Other studies have found that low-income students are the least likely to use technology in ways that prepare them for college. And they don’t use computers at home, either because of no computers or because they don’t know how to use the resources.
Integrating technology in learning
Ehrlich says the findings point to a continuing divide among CPS students. “But it is also a wonderful moment of opportunity,” she says.
Though there’s no consensus, researchers say that a minimum expectation of technology use is once a week. Ehrlich says there’s no magic number. “I think the question that needs to be asked is if using technology is a regular, ongoing thing,” she says.
The report notes that the Common Core standards, which are currently being implemented, call for technology to be embedded in learning.
A decade ago, a previous Consortium report that showed that lack of hardware, software and technological knowledge was a key barrier to learning. By 2005, some of those issues had been addressed. Yet few teachers had any professional development around computers and few said they were incorporating technology into their classroom.
The situation has improved since 2005, according to the new study. But more needs to be done. Researchers conclude that the use of technology for academic purposes “remains quite low.”
A local chapter of the national education reform group Stand For Children, the well-funded, pro-charter organization that helped push through Illinois legislation for a longer school day and teacher evaluations, has been canvassing Chicago neighborhoods most affected by schools closings, according to WBEZ.
DISMISSING OPPOSITION: Mayor Rahm Emanuel told reporters Tuesday he isn’t worried by threats from the Chicago Teachers Union to make him a one-term mayor. Emanuel said that while others play politics, he's busy governing, focusing "like a laser" on education. (Chicagoist/DNAInfo)
BUDGET DISARRAY: School closings and a new budget system are causing principals to receive budgets later than usual, one administrator says. (Lincoln Square Patch)
CHILDHOOD WEIGHT: A disproportionately high number of Hispanic and black school children in Chicago have weight problems, the city’s public-health department announced Wednesday, reporting results of the first citywide childhood-health survey. (Medill Reports)
TRIGGER LAW SUPPORT: A recent poll of 1,010 Chicago residents found that 61 percent support a Parent Trigger law, which allow a majority of parents whose children attend a failing school to require change through petition, according to The Heartland Institute.
IN THE STATE
COMMON CORE ELITE: Indian Trail Middle School 6th grade math teacher Michelle Schade is part of an elite national team of teachers helping educators learn how to best implement the new Common Core mathematics learning standards. Schade is one of only 28 teachers nationwide – and the only one from Illinois – chosen to participate in the “Master Teacher Project,” sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. (Tribune)
IN THE NATION
CHARTER FUNDING: D.C. charter schools received about $13,000 less in funding per student in fiscal 2011 than traditional public schools, according to a report released Wednesday by the Walton Family Foundation, a donor to D.C. Public Schools. In 2010, the foundation was one of four donors that helped fund performance-based bonuses for teachers under a new contract. (Washington Examiner)
COUNTER PUNCH: The Philadelphia School District plans to launch its own online school this summer, part of an effort to reclaim thousands of students and millions of dollars now going to independently operated cyber charters. (The Notebook)
RACISM DEFENSE: A first-grade teacher in Texas cited her own racial prejudice against black students in denying allegations that she fondled a girl in her classroom last month, according to court records. (Houston Chronicle)
CPS faces more intensive state monitoring following a ruling that the district isn’t doing a good enough job helping students transition from Early Intervention services into preschool special education.
The ruling in March came as the result of a complaint filed by the non-profit Health & Disability Advocates. Early Intervention programs provide services for developmentally disabled children from birth to age 3, when they are legally guaranteed transition into preschool special education.
The district has long suffered from a shortage of staff to evaluate preschool children for special services, and children in Early Intervention programs have also been affected.
The complaint said that families have found delays at every step in moving into preschool, including meetings CPS is supposed to set up with parents and evaluations the district is supposed to schedule. The state agreed, finding that there are “district delays of a systemic nature in developing Individualized Education Plans for children referred from Early Intervention services.”
As a result, the state has ordered CPS to provide information on the status of each child who was supposed to transition from Early Intervention into preschool special education since Jan. 7, 2012.
The district was supposed to turn in that information by last Friday. It also must detail its plans for hiring more professionals to more quickly evaluate preschool students for special needs, and must prove that it is communicating with Early Intervention service providers.
Five children named in the complaint (representing more than 2,000 who were potentially affected by the delays) have also been awarded catch-up services to compensate for months of delays in services.
Amy Zimmerman, director of the Chicago Medical Legal Partnership for Children at Health & Disability Advocates, says her organization knows CPS is working on fixing the problems.
“We’ve been meeting with them and we are cautiously optimistic. But it’s a big system and I think [the Early Intervention issue] probably needs more time and attention than the resources they are currently giving to it,” Zimmerman says.
CPS would not offer details on its plans to make sure the transition process is brought into compliance.
Markay Winston, chief officer of diverse learner supports, said in a statement that "CPS is committed to providing the supports and services necessary to ensure our youngest students transition from early intervention into preschool programs that meet their needs in a timely manner."
The eldest daughter of the famous Olympian Jesse Owens attended the final hearing Tuesday evening in an effort to save the West Pullman school named for her father from the Chicago Public Schools’ closing list, the Sun-Times reports. Jesse Owens Community Academy is one of 54 schools proposed for closing, and at least a dozen schools named for prominent African Americans on the closing list.
BRINGING UNIONS TO CHARTERS: The Wall Street Journal reports on a branch of the American Federation of Teachers that is looking to organize one of the nation's largest nonprofit charter-school groups here in Chicago. Under an agreement last month, the United Neighborhood Organization, which runs 13 charter schools in the city, agreed to provide the union with contact information for its 400 teachers and to let union organizers meet with them on school grounds, even as the charter-school group didn't take a position on whether the teachers should organize.
ANOTHER CLOSING ARGUMENT: Chicago Public Schools plans to close 54 schools in June, but a new Chicago Teachers Union study raises questions about whether the district has the capacity to close that many in such a short time, given its issues with closing at least one of four schools last year. (Progress Illinois)
IN THE NATION
CLASS SIZE DEBATE: Supporters of legislation endorsed by North Carolina lawmakers say doing away with limits on class sizes will allow each school district to decide how best to spend state funding for teacher positions. But critics say the bill will cause districts to assign more students per teacher, moving the state’s public schools away from the academic benefits gained by having smaller classes. (Charlotte Observer)
SUING OVER EVALUATIONS: The National Education Association, on behalf of three affiliates of its Florida chapter and seven teachers, has sued the state education department, contending that the formula used to assess some teachers in the Sunshine State violates their constitutional rights. The suit, filed Tuesday in Federal District Court for the Northern District of Florida in Gainesville, says Florida’s two-year-old evaluation system violates teachers’ rights of due process and equal protection. (Education Week/The New York Times)
When Kansas City was faced with the prospect of three dozen empty school buildings, city officials there took the unusual step of lending the district a city planner.
As director of the repurposing initiative, Shannon Jaax said five of about 30 buildings have transformed from schools to affordable housing, senior housing, a charter school and a community organization.
CPS is about to have an even bigger glut of shuttered buildings in its inventory as it plans to close 54 schools. A study released recently from Pew Charitable Trusts found that CPS has 24 empty buildings. CPS had put some of those buildings on the market last summer, but so far none has been sold.
In February, Chief Transformation Officer Todd Babbitz told the Chicago Educational Facilities Task Force that one of the district’s key priorities will be building reuse. He said CPS plans to partner with other city agencies and community organizations to serve an urban planning function. He also said CPS plans to collaborate with community action councils, local school councils and other community representatives to determine the best use for facilities.
But since the announcement, little has been said about what CPS plans to do with the vacant buildings. None of the projected savings from closing the schools are from the sale of shuttered buildings. Until the buildings are sold, CPS officials estimate that they will spend $1 million annually to heat and maintain them.
CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll said that CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett meets with elected officials and faith leaders on a regular basis and the issue comes up. “We've already started these discussions,” she wrote in an e-mail.
Jaax was in Chicago this past weekend at the American Planning Association conference. She and Emily Dowdall from Pew Trusts gave a talk titled “Transforming Closed Schools into Neighborhood Assets.”
A national problem
Dowdall said that cities across the country are grappling with what to do with closed schools. Right now, the 12 cities studied by Pew (including Chicago) have a combined 267 vacant school buildings. With this year’s closings, at least 100 more will be shuttered.
“Finding new functions for them can be daunting,” Dowdall said. When they have been sold, school districts have often gotten much less for them than original projected.
Dowdall said charter schools are the most likely buyers because they need and can use building features such as cafeterias and gyms. Charters also have access to funding, but Dowdall believes that in some places charter school expansion is plateauing.
Senior housing also is popular. Detroit has found interesting uses for 63 of its former school buildings, but still has 100 sitting vacant. One of them has been turned into a recording studio.
Among those buildings that have found new purposes, 40 percent had become charter schools, according to the Pew study. However, Byrd-Bennett has said she will not allow any of the schools closed this year to house charters in the future.
If the buildings sit on the market and further deteriorate, they become harder to sell, Dowdall said.
Jaax said Kansas City School District, which serves the city’s urban core, has gone from 70,000 students to 17,000. Over the past decade, the district has closed more than half of the schools and now has more closed schools than open ones.
When closing 21 schools in 2010, officials realized that schools are assets to community and set about to take a “community-driven approach.”
“A lot of times, school districts and cities have different boards and there is not much communication,” Jaax said. “We started to hear that closing schools were having an impact on the quality of life in communities.”
In many neighborhoods, schools are the largest buildings and when schools close, it influences how people feel about communities, she said. The first thing Jaax did was have a technical assessment of each school completed, including information about possible reuses.
“We had to spell out what was feasible for each site,” Jaax said.
Jaax said the school district has been careful to make sure the buildings go to the right developer. They even include closing contingencies that require the buyer to have zoning changes made and funding in place before a deal can go through.
“[In the past,] we have had some buildings that we sold and then they sit vacant,” Jaax said. “We want to make sure that the buildings go to a responsible developer who can pull off the project.”
Jaax said one of the problems is that school districts are not well-equipped to deal with real estate.
It is important for school districts to determine their goals for the buildings, Dowdall said. Is it to get the highest sales price, to get ongoing tax revenue or to support the community?
Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis Monday vowed to launch a “comprehensive and aggressive political action campaign” with the ultimate goal of defeating Mayor Rahm Emanuel and other local elected officials supportive of school closings. (WBEZ)
NEW TACTIC: Stymied in its efforts to stop the city from closing scores of schools, the Chicago Teachers Union on Monday said it will turn its attention to a voter registration campaign and efforts to oust Mayor Rahm Emanuel and other elected officials. (Tribune)
SCATHING REPORT: The Chicago Teachers Union released a report examining the upheaval at two elementary schools—one in West Englewood and one in East Garfield Park—slated for closure in recent years by Chicago Public Schools. "A Tale of Two Schools: The Human Story Behind Destructive School Actions in Chicago" used testimony from parents, staff, administrators and community leaders to address district neglect, barriers to improvement, low student morale and other concerns at Simon Guggenheim Elementary and Jacob Beidler Elementary schools, and examine the overall causes and effects of school actions, according to a news release by the union.
POOR ATTENDANCE: The Austin High School campus’s large auditorium was nearly empty during a Chicago Public Schools meeting held to address public concern for the closure of Emmet and Key Elementary Schools. About 30 people sat scattered around the auditorium on April 13 for the Francis Scott Key Elementary School meeting, held from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. That number only grew by a few people at 7:30 p.m. when the Emmet Elementary School meeting started. (Austin Talks)
IN THE NATION
BILINGUAL DECREE: A judge Monday approved changes to a consent decree for Denver Public Schools that will establish new rules for bilingual education classes for the district’s 36,000 students who do not speak English. Nearly 90 percent of those students are Latinos. (KDVR.com)
SUPERINTENDENT TRENDS: Katherine Schultz, a professor and dean of the School of Education at Mills College in Oakland, notes two trends that have come to characterize the urban school district superintendency in recent years. First, urban superintendents rarely stay in their positions for more than a few years, she says. And second, new superintendents tend to start with their own bold visions, in order to make their mark. "This is nearly always a mistake; this strategy inevitably slows the momentum of progress and the consequent discontinuity often causes disruption in the lives of children, teachers and families." (The Washington Post)
GED OVERHAUL: Several dozen states are looking for an alternative to the GED high school equivalency test because of concerns that a new version coming out next year is more costly and will no longer be offered in a pencil and paper format. (AP/Philly.com)
AHEAD OF THE CURVE: New York City public school students are undergoing rigorous preparation for the redesigned exams, which are likely to cover some material that is not yet in the curriculum. (The New York Times)
The school improvement strategies highly touted by leaders such as U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and former D.C schools chancellor Michelle Rhee, have produced overwhelmingly disappointing results for the poor and minority children in Chicago, New York, and the District of Columbia, a forthcoming report written by a national group that favors a more holistic approach to improving public schooling, contends. (Education Week)
In the three districts, National Assessment of Educational Progress scores grew more slowly and achievement gaps widened more when compared to other TUDA participants, the report found. In Chicago, white and Asian students posted modest gains on the NAEP reading exams between 2003 and 2009, while Hispanic students gained little and black students gained nothing, widening the racial achievement gap.
LEWIS SEEKS RE-ELECTION: Karen Lewis announced that she will run for re-election as president of the Chicago Teachers Union Sunday morning. Her "core" team will also be running again vice president Jesse Sharkey, recording secretary Michael Brunson and financial secretary Kristine Mayle. (ABC7)
IN THE STATE
STREET SAFETY: State Rep. Elaine Nekritz, a Democrat from Northbrook, is sponsoring legislation, which she expects will come up for a vote this week in the Illinois House, aimed at strengthening the 20 mph speed limit around schools to reflect the reality that vehicle-pedestrian crashes involving children don't occur only during school hours. (Tribune)
SUSPENSION GAP: Minnesota Public Radio News reports that black students in Minneapolis are nearly seven times more likely to be suspended than are white students. Nearly 14 percent of African-American students were suspended last year, compared with just 2 percent of white students. (SFGate.com)
TESTING BOYCOTT: A small but vocal group of parents in New York State is planning to boycott the annual tests their children must take, saying those hours could have been better spent. (SFGate.com)
TEACHERS WITH FIREARMS: The response to a firearm training program for teachers was mostly positive at a grammar school in Central Missouri, where some have shot their first deer by age 6. (The New York Times)
Calhoun North Elementary in the East Garfield Park neighborhood has logged some of the best math scores in the city, but CPS says it's significantly underenrolled and should be closed next fall in a sweeping cost-cutting effort pushed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Its students will be sent nearly a half-mile north to Cather Elementary next fall. Calhoun parents say their school turns in standardized test scores that are not only well above the city average but also superior to Cather's, which aren't bad themselves. (Tribune)
ANALYZING THE CLOSINGS STRATEGY: CPS officials say that on average, students whose schools are closing will have to travel less than two additional blocks to get to their new school come fall. But the district acknowledges that by that calculation, about 50 percent of students shifting schools will have a trip that's an additional two blocks or more to their new school. A Tribune review shows that many students could be in for a much longer walk after their old school is shut.
GOING DEEPER INTO DEBT: CPS, which says it faces a $1 billion deficit, is going deeper into debt to pay for improvements at welcoming schools, turnarounds, schools with co-locations and a few other special district projects, according to a supplemental capital budget released last weekend. CPS spokesman David Miranda says the district is projecting debt service payments, including principal and interest, of about $25 million a year for 30 years, starting in 2015.
TRENDING ON TWITTER: "CPS closings" remains a hot topic on Twitter if you follow the hashtag #cpsclosings, which led us to this video by StrongChicago of the massive March 27 march and rally sponsored by UNITE HERE Local 1, SEIU Local 1, the Grassroots Education Movement and the Chicago Teachers Union.
IN THE NATION
URBAN EDUCATION AND SCHOOL REFORM: Founded 20 years ago, the Annenberg Institute for School Reform was launched in an equity-dominated era. AISR Executive Director Warren Simmons exhorts federal education policy-makers to return to an equity-driven agenda that builds stronger systems nationwide and a more promising future. Watch an interview with Simmons here.
RAMPANT CHEATING: District of Columbia Public Schools officials have long maintained that a 2011 test-cheating scandal that generated two government probes was limited to one elementary school. But a newly uncovered confidential memo warns as far back as January 2009 that educator cheating on 2008 standardized tests could have been widespread, with 191 teachers in 70 schools "implicated in possible testing infractions." (USAToday)
To help sell their plans for a district shakeup, CPS leaders have touted a variety of school improvements. But paying for those improvements will mean taking the district deeper into debt at a time when the district is already facing substantial debt service obligations.
Should it be approved by the Board of Education, CPS will issue a $329 million bond to pay for improvements at welcoming schools, turnarounds, schools with co-locations and a few other special district projects, according to a supplemental capital budget released last weekend. Though the bond details haven’t been worked out yet, CPS spokesman David Miranda says the district is projecting debt service payments, including principal and interest, of about $25 million a year for 30 years, starting in 2015.
The debt service payments will be more than covered by the $43 million a year in operating costs saved by closing schools, Miranda says.
“It is a good thing to invest in these schools and we would want to do it regardless of whether we close schools,” he says. “It is difficult to educate students when there’s no air conditioning or students are not warm or dry or safe.”
One looming question, however, is whether CPS can afford to take on more debt.
CPS leaders have repeatedly said schools had to be closed because of a projected $1 billion budget deficit. Yet one of the reasons CPS is facing such a large deficit is its already-existing debt: In the upcoming fiscal year, the district’s payment on principal and interest is scheduled to go up by about $100 million to $475 million.
Some of the expenses that CPS is categorizing as capital spending also are a bit curious. For instance, CPS leaders want to spend $40 million on new textbooks aligned to the Common Core. However, textbooks are commonly considered operational expenses, says Bobby Otter, education and fiscal policy analyst with the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability.
Miranda, however, says that textbooks are used over the course of several years and therefore can be considered a long-term investment.
The supplemental budget also includes money to provide upgrades in schools that are part of CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett and Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s special initiatives. For example, high schools that will now either be wall-to-wall International Baccalaureate or have IB programs will receive upgrades to their buildings, such as new science labs with equipment.
In addition, 18 elementary schools that are being provided support through the Office of Strategic School Support Services will be renovated. Miranda says the office works with schools that are struggling and the spending is Byrd-Bennett’s attempt to counter the complaint that closing schools didn’t get the support needed to prevent being shut down.
As Byrd-Bennett has promised, the receiving schools will get building upgrades as needed, as well as air conditioning, libraries and iPads, all of which will be paid for with the supplement capital budget. The school getting the most improvements is Sumner, at $8.5 million. The school getting the least is DePriest, which was built in 2002.
Also, the supplemental budget includes tax increment financing money for an addition to Coonley and money to create a sports field for Jones College Prep, which will be two miles away on the field south of National Teachers Academy.
A Hyde Park parent and blogger who goes by the name of Southside CPS Mom has launched a blog called Chicago Public Fools. She said she chose the title, which is a parody of Chicago Public Schools, to grab the attention of both parents and CPS administrators. (Hyde Park Herald)
BILLION-DOLLAR TAG: Mass closings of public schools will cost Chicago Public Schools (CPS) nearly $1 billion, according to Chicago Teachers Union analysis of the CPS FY2013 budget, Capital Improvement Program data and Board of Education reports. (Daily Kos)
RHETORICAL FOOTBALL: "The rhetoric of charter schools has become a political football, used by politicians of every stripe for self-serving purposes," writes Greg Richmond, chair of the Illinois State Charter School Commission and president and CEO of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, in the Sun-Times.
CHARTER ARGUMENT: In denying the application for a virtual charter school this week, St. Charles Unit District 303 may have revealed the cornerstone of the argument up to 18 school districts involved in the decision will soon bring to a state commission. (Daily Herald)
IN THE NATION
MATHEMATICAL DISADVANTAGE: In many U.S. schools, students struggling the most in mathematics at the start of high school have the worst odds of getting a qualified teacher in the subject, new research finds. (Education Week)
BUDGETING FOR EDUCATION: President Barack Obama's budget proposes new money for a big expansion of prekindergarten programs, a new competitive-grant program for high school improvement, a new Race to the Top competition focused on higher education—and level funding for the two formula grants school districts depend on most: Title I grants for disadvantaged students and special education. (Education Week)
As the city shifts preschool seats to better programs in needier areas, at least nine community agencies that are losing their funding say they will likely be forced to replace their state-certified preschool teachers with child care staff who hold lesser credentials--associate’s degrees, bachelor’s degrees without teaching licenses, or no degrees at all.
Several center directors contacted by Catalyst Chicago say they have not yet received information about helping students transition to new programs. It’s unclear what, if anything, the district will do. One center director whose agency serves dozens of special-needs students said she got a clear message from a meeting with CPS this week: “I have to do my own plans.”
The deadline for applying to early childhood programs in CPS schools is less than a month away, and a number of agencies contacted by Catalyst Chicago on Tuesday said they had not been notified of the competition’s results.
The agencies are losing funding as part of CPS and the city’s “Ready to Learn” preschool funding competition.
In all, 42 agencies that either lost the competition or did not apply will not receive funding this year. (The city and CPS have not yet released a list of agencies that applied but were not funded.)
Here’s a map of agencies and schools that lost or gained funding.
The city says it is using $10 million of new funding to offer 2,300 additional preschool seats, but no specifics have been released yet about where those seats will be.
Excluding children, paring services
Some of the families in the affected agencies pay “co-payments” for the program, with the rest of the cost subsidized through state Child Care Assistance Program dollars as well as CPS funds. But where families are not eligible for the assistance – for instance, if a parent is not working or in school during the time the program is operating – the agency relies on CPS for its funding.
With their CPS funding gone, agencies may have to exclude children who are not eligible for child care assistance, and pare down services to keep the classes running with funding that has been cut by more than half.
Sharon Berkley, site administrator at Children’s Garden Child Development Center, says that most of the 20 preschool children in her program this year wouldn’t have been able to attend without CPS dollars. “We have lost a lot of jobs in this community, and many of our parents we serve don’t work,” she says. Without jobs, parents are only eligible for child care assistance on an intermittent basis, when they are attending class for GEDs or participating in job training.
Berkley says she will have to replace her current teachers with staff who have associate’s degrees or less. “That compromises the quality of the program,” she says.
Cachet Cook, director of First Start Child Care Academy, says her agency – which serves 38 children ages birth to 5 with CPS money – is in a similar position. Paperwork delays can leave families waiting for months to be approved for child care assistance, which pays for just half the children in her program.
The children whose seats are paid for by CPS will probably lose their spots. But for those whose seats are paid for by the state, a change in teachers could be coming.
“With the CPS program, we are required to have a Type 04 [certified] teacher. There is no way we can afford him without the funding from the city,” she says. She expects the infant-toddler teacher will also be laid off or have to take a pay cut.
Special needs students in limbo?
Other preschool programs are concerned about placement for special education students, as well as for those who are on the waiting list for special services because of the backlog of children in preschool who need to be evaluated.
Brenda Owens, director of Kenyatta’s Day Care Center, says she has not heard anything about transition plans for three special education students who receive services from CPS, three students who are waiting to be evaluated, and an additional 14 students whose slots are paid for by CPS.
Michelle Redd, owner of Building Blocks Learning Academy in Englewood, says she hasn’t heard about transition plans for her students either. Thirteen of the 60 preschoolers enrolled at her agency are entitled to receive special services.
Though Building Blocks lost its funding, the city announced plans to open a 370-seat birth-to-5 center in Englewood, saying there are no providers who met quality standards.
Redd is puzzled by this, noting that children in her program have earned high scores on the district’s kindergarten readiness assessment. Magnet schools and other local elementary schools, Redd says, recruit students and parents from the preschool in hopes of finding high achievers.
A Community Partnership Program staff member told Redd that they were “baffled” as to why she failed to make the cut. Redd plans to take her case to local aldermen and the mayor’s staff.
If Building Blocks’ funding isn’t restored, she says, she will likely have to lay off certified teachers and replace them with teachers who have taken just a few college credits of early childhood development courses.
Looking to donations to fill gaps
At Ezzard Charles School Day Care Center, which has two locations in Auburn Gresham that serves 44 children from infants to age 3 and 40 preschool students, director Eldora Davis says she was “devastated” at losing funding. The school currently has about 25 students on the waiting list.
State child care funds help support seats for 80 percent of her students, but Davis says that the CPS dollars she is losing “make up for almost half of my budget. I’d like to know, if we didn’t receive it -- who did?”
The school has the second-highest possible rating in the state’s four-tiered Quality Rating System, and is accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children. “We have always maintained compliance with what they asked us to do,” Davis says.
Staff members have gone back to school to meet CPS requirements, she adds. All of the school’s preschool teachers are state certified, and last spring, six staff received associate’s degrees and two received bachelor’s degrees.
Davis is hoping that donors can help her fill in the missing money until she can reapply for city funding down the road.
Pastor Bruce Ray, executive director of Lutheran Day Nursery on the Northwest Side, says his agency will seek donations to support scholarships for the five 3-year-olds who are in CPS-funded slots.
The agency did not reapply to be part of Ready to Learn, Ray says.
“Over the years we have become more concerned with how academic [the CPS program] has become,” he says. “The expectations in terms of reading readiness [and] kindergarten readiness were not really following developmental guidelines. We feel that especially in the areas of reading readiness, [CPS assessments] were expecting boys in particular to do much more than what they were developmentally ready to do.”
Great learning and great teaching happen in my classroom and school every day. Life is good for 2nd graders at Hamilton Elementary School: They get to publish animal research books, find ways to balance pencils on Popsicle sticks, and design their own math problems. Life is good for teachers at Hamilton, too: We have the autonomy to design instruction that fits the individual needs of our students.
Recently, Chicago Public Schools announced a formal Instructional Materials Adoption Plan, starting with Literacy and Language materials for the 2013-2014 school year. As a third-year teacher in the district, I value the autonomy I have in making curricular decisions. Teachers should have the ability to design and create classroom curricula fitted to the unique needs and interests of their students.
Recently, our class has been engaged in a massive project to create a 40-inch by 60-inch, 3D map of the damage caused by the Great Chicago Fire. The areas burned in the fire have orange buildings, and buildings that went untouched are green. Roads are made from Popsicle sticks, as streets at the time were made of wood. Important historical sites are labeled. Most importantly, the project was completely designed and created by the students and me, with students doing the majority of the work—I acted largely as the facilitator.
Is the project messy? Yes. Have I wanted to pull my hair out because tape and construction paper are everywhere? Of course. But, have my students learned to work together? Are they learning material that is applicable to their lives? And have they begged me to work on the project every day since we began? Absolutely.
The project does not just fulfill social studies goals. It also integrates a range of topics, as students read about the fire, write expository essays about the fire, write as though they are citizens during that time, record video explaining the project, and use a grid system to locate points on the map. It is an all-encompassing learning experience. It is possible because of the freedom we currently have to plan curricula that is relevant to our interests. It is also just the kind of curricula that could be used to meet the Common Core State Standards in my classroom.
I worry about what mandates will be placed on teachers with the new Instructional Materials Adoption Plan. From what I have read, curriculum adoption will be universal across the district with only narrow choice options. While new materials are being purchased to accommodate the Common Core, I wonder how teachers will have time to adequately learn a new curriculum for the 2013-2014 school year if many do not even know that new materials are being purchased and no dates have been given for their arrival or for trainings.
Recently CPS sent out an email inviting teachers to be a part of a committee to help identify Literacy and Language Instructional Materials. I couldn’t wait to sign up. I quickly emailed my principal to ask for permission to participate (yes, principal approval is mandatory), only to realize that the meetings were scheduled over spring break. Like most teachers, I have already made plans for the week. Spring break was just two weeks away when we received the initial email.
Teachers are professional educators who know how to design, plan, modify, and implement curriculum that works best for our students. In fact, according to Domain 1 in the new Framework for Teaching, the framework used to evaluate teacher performance, teachers should be able to plan and prepare effective instructional outcomes, assessments, and instruction that demonstrate knowledge of content, pedagogy, and students. I am uncertain about the flexibility teachers will have to demonstrate this skill or the ability administrators will have to evaluate it if curriculum is mandated.
Teachers should play an integral role in the adoption and implementation of all new materials. We are professionals who know our students and know our craft. The new Framework for Teaching presents an opportunity for CPS to identify teachers who are particularly effective at designing innovative curricula, and target those teachers to advise the district or even coach colleagues. Let us ensure life continues to be good for students and teachers alike, that they have a choice and play an active role in the learning and instruction in their classrooms.
Paige Nilson is a teacher at Hamilton Elementary and a member of Teach Plus, an organization that supports teachers in urban schools.
Two University of Illinois professors say the number of students who will see their lives changed by the proposed school shake-ups could be as many as 47,000—58 percent higher than the figures CPS has given, according to a Sun-Times editorial, which also says, "In its sales pitch for closing specific schools, CPS often deliberately paints an incomplete picture."
CPS counts only school consolidations in its figure, the Sun-Times editorial continues. The UIC analysis covers the full scope of proposed school shake-ups, including 108 consolidated schools, about 19 co-locations (two schools in one building) and six “turnarounds” (CPS replaces the staff but the children remain).
DOING THE WALK: On Tuesday, a bunch of King Elementary supporters, including Aldermen Bob Fioretti (2nd) and Jason Ervin (28th), braved vacant lots, a pockmarked garbage-strewn viaduct, homeless shelters, a halfway house and several boarded-up homes on the roughly eight-block walk from King, which is on the CPS closing list, to Jensen Elementary. The march was the first in a series called “Walk the Walk” in which school communities are showing community members and the media the paths children might take if their current schools close. (Sun-Times)
CPS CHIEF TAKES A WALK: Staging their own walk Tuesday afternoon was CPS. Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett walked with four students along a designated "Safe Passage" route at Fenger High School on the Far South Side. She hopes to illustrate that Safe Passage routes, already in place at 39 city schools, work and will work when instituted at CPS's 53 receiving schools next fall. (ABC Local)
IN THE NATION
STUDENTS AGAINST CUTS: About 1,000 students from a half-dozen Newark high schools walked out of class today and gathered on Rutgers-Newark campus to protest deep cuts to the district’s budget. (NJ.com)
DIGITAL TRACKING: Educators from nine universities are testing technology from a Silicon Valley start-up, CourseSmart, that allows them to track their students’ progress with digital textbooks. (The New York Times)