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In the News: Mayor Emanuel welcomes principals' ideas

May 15, 2014 - 10:17am

In response to principals' concerns about district policy and the ability to speak publicly aired this week in blogs and opinion pieces,  Mayor Rahm Emanuel says that he “welcomes the concerns of principals.” In fact, he told the Sun-Times, the expansion of the International Baccalaureate program into elementary schools was the idea of principals. Who knew?

PUBLIC SERVICE WORKERS VICTORY. A Sangamon County Circuit Court judge granted a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction that will prevent pension law from being implemented, for now. A coalition of unions is arguing that the law is unconstitutional because it scales back benefits and raises retirement ages. The case is expected to reach the Illinois Supreme Court. (Chicago Tribune)

A STANDOFF. On Wednesday, a house committee approved a $13 billion education budget that is partly dependent on the income tax increase staying in place, reports WUIS.org. Democrats, of course, support keeping the 5 percent income tax and not letting it roll back to the pre-2011 level of 3.75 percent. Democrat House Speaker Mike Madigan says the spending plans for the departments “set the bar.” But Republicans are dead set against it. 

JUST A REMINDER: civil rights laws also apply to charters, writes a U.S. Department of Education Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights in a letter released Wednesday. The letter includes guidance for charter schools on issues related to admissions, students with disabilities, discipline and English language learners.

Along those same lines, a bill that is moving along in the Illinois legislature requires that charters follow the law as it pertains to students with disabilities and English language learners.  In 2012, Catalyst wrote about charter schools being the subject of a number of civil rights complaints stemming from alleged violations of the rights of special education students.

SPEAKING OF CHARTER SCHOOLS: The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) took a step on Wednesday toward establishing the official rules on what information charter school authorizers must report to the state, as well as a process to sanction authorizers that don’t comply with the law. ISBE voted to seek public comment through July 14 on the proposed amendments to the rules that govern charter school authorizers, which already provide most of the information to the state. The new rules follow a 2011 law on charter schools. (Catalyst)

CONTINUED TESTING PUSHBACK. Finally, the Washington Post’s Answer Sheet points to a roundup by FairTest.org of all the pushback against standardized tests. While here in Chicago parents and teachers protested the ISAT earlier this year, over the past month, students have been quietly been taking the NWEA. Yet the NWEA is tied to grade promotion and admission to selective enrollment high schools, so few parents will mess with that. 

In the News: Byrd-Bennett 'surprised' by principals' complaints

May 14, 2014 - 7:53am

Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett vowed Monday to get to the bottom of a respected principal’s complaints — first voiced in an op-ed in the Chicago Sun-Times — that CPS bullies its principals, leaving them “paralyzed by fear.” In a telephone call Monday, Byrd-Bennett said she was surprised to read the op-ed by Troy LaRaviere, principal at Blaine Elementary School in Lake View, whom she called “clearly one of our most distinguished.”

CPS SUSPENSIONS: More than 50,000 Chicago Public Schools students got out-of-school suspensions last year, according to a WBEZ analysis of state and district data. That’s about 13 percent of the district's population. At about a dozen high schools, more than half of the students enrolled served at least one out-of-school suspension. All of those schools are majority African American and only a few are charter schools.

IN THE NATION
GOOD TEACHING, POOR TEST SCORES: In the first large-scale analysis of new systems that evaluate teachers based partly on student test scores, two researchers found little or no correlation between quality teaching and the appraisals teachers received. The study, published Tuesday in Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Educational Research Association, is the latest in a growing body of research that has cast doubt on whether it is possible for states to use empirical data in identifying good and bad teachers. (The Washington Post)

PRINCIPALS AND URBAN SCHOOLS: A seven-year study of a national principal-preparation program called New Leaders finds that urban schools where principals received rigorous leadership training and support experienced larger gains in student achievement than schools led by principals who did not participate in the program, according to a new RAND Corporation report. (Press release)

TAILORING THEIR TEACHING: More teachers nationwide have adopted blended learning — an instructional method that, in some cases, allows them to flip their classrooms, tailoring lessons to students' individual needs. (Christian Science Monitor)

In the News: CPS principals speak of 'air of repression'

May 13, 2014 - 8:38am

Since a Chicago Public School principal wrote about what many say is a code of silence imposed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s image-conscious schools administration, other principals have joined the chorus, WBEZ's Linda Lutton reports. CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett calls it all a "perception" of retribution.

UNO SETTLES WITH FIRED TEACHER: Documents obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times show that the taxpayer-funded charter-school network run by the clout-heavy United Neighborhood Organization paid a gym teacher $150,000 to settle a wrongful firing case.

DIFFERENT PERFORMANCE STANDARDS: Under a dramatic new approach to rating public schools, Illinois students of different backgrounds no longer will be held to the same standards—with Latinos and blacks, low-income children and other groups having lower targets than whites for passing state exams, the Chicago Tribune has found. In reading, for example, 85 percent of white third- through eighth-grade students statewide will be expected to pass state tests by 2019, compared with about 73 percent for Latinos and 70 percent for black students, an analysis of state and federal records shows. (Education Week)

OPPOSING TESTING CHANGES: Rebellion is brewing in the suburbs over Illinois' new school testing program. More than 30 high school and K-12 districts in DuPage, Cook, Kane and Lake counties have joined in opposition to testing changes next spring, when the state plans to launch a new exam called PARCC and expand the grades tested from third through 11th. (Tribune)

IN THE NATION
BIAS IN CLASSROOM OBSERVATIONS: New research illuminates a troubling source of bias. School principals—when conducting classroom observations—appear to give some teachers an unfair boost based on the students they’re assigned to teach, rather than based on their own instructional savvy. (Education Week)

PUBLIC, CHARTER CHASM: Two decades since charter schools began to appear, educators from both systems concede that very little of what has worked for charter schools has found its way into regular classrooms. (The New York Times)

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