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Updated: 2 hours 27 min ago

In the News: Snow make-up days will vary by districts

January 15, 2014 - 7:55am

Local school districts are figuring out how to make up the two days of class lost to last week's snow and bitter cold. Niles District 219 officials opted to have students come to school this Friday. Other districts will expect students in class on such days as Presidents Day, Pulaski Day and other previously scheduled off days. Chicago Public Schools will make up one missed day of instruction March 28, at a time administrators thought would allow for more meaningful instruction. The other make-up day is June 11. (Tribune)

NO MORE CROWDING: Students at Edison Park Elementary School will no longer have to study in hallways, the cafeteria and on the auditorium stage. A long-awaited annex has been completed, and parents, school leaders and elected officials Monday celebrated an end to overcrowding at the Edison Park school. (DNAInfo)

SUPERINTENDENT SEARCH: Indian Prairie Unit District 204 is inching closer to choosing its next superintendent, as the search firm the district hired has finished accepting applications for the position and is working to narrow the field of candidates. (Daily Herald)

DESEGREGATION...DECADES LATER: In Little Rock, Ark., a federal judge is considering a deal that would end one of the longest-running school desegregation cases in the country. The state, its largest districts, and lawyers representing black students have agreed to settle a complex lawsuit over unequal education. If the judge approves, the settlement would phase out those programs and the state's $70 million a year payments, even though the makeup of Little Rock schools hasn't changed much. (NPR)

PUSHING FULL-DAY KINDERGARTEN: Several states are moving toward full-day kindergarten as a growing body of research underscores the importance of learning in the earliest years. The percentage of kindergartners attending full-day programs has grown from 10 percent in the 1970s to 76 percent in 2012, according to Child Trends. Thirty-four states require districts to offer half-day kindergarten and 11 states and the District of Columbia require districts to offer full-day kindergarten, according to an ECS analysis.

For the Record: Turnaround principal turnover

January 14, 2014 - 12:07pm

CPS has relied heavily on turnarounds to improve failing schools, but a Catalyst Chicago analysis shows that turnarounds face challenges in one area: Keeping top leaders in place.

Among 42 principals at the 18 schools that have been turnarounds for at least three years, about a quarter -- 10 -- have left either within a year of the turnaround itself or of taking over leadership at the school. Another quarter -- 11 -- left after two or three years.

In all, CPS has launched 34 turnaround schools, most of which are managed by the non -profit Academy for Urban School Leadership.

A RAND Corp. report found that about 20 percent of principals in urban districts nationwide leave within 1 to 2 years. But among CPS turnarounds, that figure was nearly double -- 38 percent. What is more, there are other turnaround principals who have only been on the job for a short time and may quit before two years are up.

“For change to be endemic and sustained usually takes three to five years,” says William Robinson, executive director of the University of Virginia Partnership for Leadership in Education, which runs a program that trains principals as turnaround specialists. “You want either a consistent leader for at least five years or a systemic succession plan where there is continuity of effort across at least five years.”

But, Robinson notes, school turnarounds are often unsuccessful and must, in effect, hit the reset button if a principal is not sparking enough improvement.

“You can tell through leading indicators whether or not a leader is successful within the first year,” he notes. In these cases, a different principal might create more positive results for students in the long run.

Principal turnover often goes hand in hand with teacher turnover and is thought to create instability that, in turn, can jeopardize school improvement.

One example is Orr High School, where new turnaround principal Tyese Sims faced a rocky start in taking over from previous turnaround principal Jammie Poole, Catalyst Chicago reported in early 2011. Along with a rotating cast of assistant principals and a number of teacher firings, the change of leadership contributed to what students and staff described as a chaotic environment.

The challenge of running a turnaround school can prompt principals to leave, Robinson says. “Oftentimes, people are in over their heads, are overwhelmed, and aren’t experiencing a work-life balance,” he notes.  For that reason, his program advocates that districts create system-wide policies that support school improvement instead of just relying on individual principals.

It’s not clear what is behind the overall turnaround turnover in CPS.

Sometimes, principals may be recruited fresh from one turnaround to launch another.

Other times, turnaround principals face extra scrutiny from higher-ups about how much progress they’re making. They may even run into disciplinary issues with CPS policies and procedures, says Clarice Berry, head of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association.

“It’s just like an airplane crash,” Berry says. “Sometimes it’s pilot error; the principal makes a bad decision, doesn’t do something that is required, or doesn’t follow a policy – and that happens no matter what kind of school you’re in.”


Contributing: Jenna Frasier


Turnaround turnover  

Among 42 principals of 18 schools that were turned around at least three years ago, here’s how many principals… 

Left after less than 3 years


Left after 3 to 5 years


Left because school closed


Still on the job (less than 3 years)


Still on the job (more than 5 years)


NOTE: Includes all schools that were turned around at least three years ago, including those that have since been closed.

SOURCE: Catalyst Chicago analysis of state data and interviews with school staff

In the News: Rauner one of Payton Prep's biggest donors

January 14, 2014 - 9:30am

After pulling strings to get his daughter into Walter Payton College Prep, Bruce Rauner, a Republican candidate for governor, became one of the elite Chicago public high school’s biggest benefactors, records examined by the Chicago Sun-Times reveal.

The Rauner Family Foundation gave $250,000 to the Payton Prep Initiative for Education on Dec. 14, 2009 — about a year and a half after Rauner called then-Chicago Public Schools CEO Arne Duncan to overturn his daughter’s rejection for admission.

DITCHING STYROFOAM: Within 24 months, Chicago Public Schools students will be carrying their breakfasts and lunches on an “affordable alternative” to Styrofoam food trays at a cost reduced by pooling the purchasing power of six cities, aldermen were told Monday. Leslie Fowler, CPS director of nutrition support services, disclosed the environmental change at a Finance Committee meeting where aldermen took testimony, but no action, on a proposal to ban Styrofoam and other polystyrene food containers. (Sun-Times)

POSSIBLE PLAGIARISM: University of Illinois at Chicago officials are reviewing the dissertation of a high-ranking Chicago State University administrator amid allegations that parts of it were plagiarized. Chicago State interim Provost Angela Henderson, who took over in July as the campus' senior academic official, received her Ph.D. in nursing from UIC in August. (Tribune)

POLITICAL AMBITIONS: At a meeting of delegates, the CTU recently adopted a resolution authorizing union leadership to pursue a slate of activities geared toward building a more concrete political infrastructure and pursuing an ambitious plan of action around its objectives. These include “developing, electing and supporting” candidates for office, along with leading “strong electoral and legislative campaigns.” (

NCLB DATA: Sophomores who started in 2002—at the start of the No Child Left Behind Act's accountability wave and before the massive flood of college- and career-readiness initiatives—ended up in dramatically different places 10 years later, depending on whether they continued their education after high school. A first look at new federal longitudinal data finds 48 percent of students who started 10th grade in 2002 had not earned any kind of college degree or certification in the decade since, even if they did take some postsecondary credits. (Education Week)

PAUSING COMMON CORE: The "pause" in Indiana's rollout of the Common Core standards would stretch into yet another year if lawmakers adopt proposed legislation. Senate Bill 224 would give the state board an extra year -- until July 2015 -- to continue its review of the Common Core, adopt a set of academic standards, and select a statewide test to match those standards. (State Impact)

CHARTER EXPANSION BILL: Opponents of charter school expansion legislation in Wisconsin are concerned it would further reduce aid to traditional districts and open the door for more private companies to run public schools. Advocates of the bill argue it would offer more choice options and bring Wisconsin's charter-school law in line with other states. The bill would eliminate district-staffed charters and empower a new slate of authorizers. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

In the News: CPS watchdog targets faked student data

January 13, 2014 - 8:44am

The wrongdoing laid out in the latest report from the inspector general for Chicago Public Schools includes cases of school administrators faking data, a problem the district watchdog said has been a particularly troubling development in recent years. (Tribune)

COALITION TARGETS ZERO-TOLERANCE: On the heels of the Obama administration’s call for schools to abandon harsh student suspension and expulsion practices, a coalition of community organizers and academics in Chicago announced Friday that it has developed and will advocate for a plan that calls for use of peaceful, restorative justice practices in addressing student disciplinary problems. More than 15 different not-for-profit entities across the city have been involved in the policy-making effort. Among objectives, the new plan developed by the Chicago-based group known as “Embrace Restorative Practices in the CPS Collaborative” calls for personnel, community practitioners,  parents, youth and volunteers to work together in implementing restorative practices that deal with disruptive students and support school communities. (Press release)

CTU SUPPORTS CHALLENGER: In a development in the campaign for state representative in the 39th District, the Chicago Teachers Union announced its support for progressive Democrat Will Guzzardi, who is challenging six-term incumbent Toni Berrios in the March 18th Democratic primary. (Klonsky blog)

NEW LAW FOR JUVIES: Chicago police began turning 17 year olds over to the juvenile courts last week, under a new Illinois law that sets the bar for felony prosecution at 18. (The Chicago Reporter)

SELLING CHARTERS: Charter schools have been relentlessly marketed to the American populace as a silver bullet for “failed” public schools, especially in poor urban communities of African-American and Latino/a students. Politicians in both parties speak glowingly of these schools – which, by the way, their children seem never to attend. And, opening charter schools has become the latest fad for celebrities including athletes and rap stars. (Salon)

‘Market approach’ to high schools has serious drawbacks

January 10, 2014 - 4:35pm

The question of whether Chicago’s market for high school choice works by weeding out low-performing schools is two-fold: It works somewhat for traditional public schools, but definitely not for charters.

The idea for this article stems from reports by WBEZ and Catalyst Chicago about the rapidly growing number of high schools in the city, with most of the new schools being charters.

The growth in high schools is certainly not the kind of problem most people think about when they think of CPS. Who would have guessed that in an era of massive school closings, Chicago would increase the total number of high schools by 50% in a decade? But it’s a big concern. As the number of schools increases, some schools become under-enrolled and have to cut extracurricular programs and special academic classes that no longer have enough students to support them. They also end up requiring extra financial help from the district just to maintain a functioning building.

If you wanted to put a positive spin on this, of course, you might say that Chicago has created a functioning market in high schools. Students and their families are free to choose the ones that offer a better education, and if that creates winners and losers, good! The bad schools ought to fail. That’s exactly what charter proponents have been asking for all along.

But that concept only works if students are leaving bad schools and enrolling in good ones. If we’ve just created enrollment churn without moving students from bad to good, all we’ve managed to do is add another serious problem to a district that already has plenty.

So which outcome is it?

Happily, CPS provides data that can tell us: enrollment and ACT scores for every school in the district. (Here is the obligatory caveat about how good ACT scores do not equal a good education. Given the district’s laser-like focus on test scores, though, it seems fair to judge them – on a you-have-to-at-least-be-good-at-this basis – by whether they’re moving this particular needle at all.)

So, using the district’s numbers, I calculated how much enrollment has changed in every high school between the 2005-06 school year and the 2012-13 school year. I grouped all the schools by their ACT scores – all the schools that scored 15 in one bucket, 16 in another bucket, and so on – and added up the positive and negative enrollment changes for each bucket. Here’s the graph:

What we should see, if the market is working, is big red bars on the left side, indicating that lots of students are leaving low-scoring schools, and big blue bars on the right side, indicating that students are flocking to high-scoring schools. Obviously, that’s not quite what’s happening. 

True, it looks like schools with above-average ACT scores are mostly gaining students, while lots of students at below-average schools are leaving. But a lot of those students are going to other below-average schools. That’s why you see sizeable blue bars even on the far left side of the graph. Why, if the market is working, are we seeing any enrollment increases at schools with average ACT scores of 13 or 14, both of which are truly, truly abysmal? Random guessing, for comparison’s sake, will result in a score of 12. A score of 20 is considered the minimum to get into college.

Just to be clear about what these graphs show: It is not only that some students are enrolling at bad schools. People move, and new classes come in, and so on--so it would be highly surprising if any school was so bad that not a single new student showed up. But what these numbers show is that some terrible schools are seeing their total enrollment increase, to the tune of about 4,000 additional students at schools with an average ACT score of 15 or lower.

The fact that enrollment losses outnumber enrollment increases doesn’t change the fact that some of the schools that are “winners” in this market scenario are providing some of the worst education in the district. That suggests a problem.

Enrollment gains not a sign of quality

Part of the problem is explained by separating that graph into charter schools and non-charter schools:

Now the situation becomes a little bit clearer. There are still some enrollment increases at non-charter high schools with very, very bad ACT scores, which is still a problem. But these increases are a much smaller proportion of all student migration, and are massively outweighed by the simultaneous enrollment decreases at low-scoring, non-charter high schools.

But look at the charter numbers. The high-scoring charters have enrollment increases. The mediocre-scoring charters have enrollment increases. The low-scoring charters have enrollment increases. The very-low-scoring charters have enrollment increases. 

Basically, all charter schools have gained students, no matter the quality of their education.

I can think of two possible explanations for that:

1. Charter schools provide a better education than non-charters in ways that don’t show up on ACT scores. For example, a zero-tolerance approach to discipline that creates a safer learning environment, a curriculum that encourages more creative and critical thinking skills or teachers and administrators who forge tighter, more nurturing relationships with students and parents.

2. Charter schools get better public relations than non-charters, and so parents want to enroll their children there whether or not they actually provide a better education.

Obviously, Possibility 1 would be much better news for the market than Possibility 2, which suggests a major failure. My guess is that both are going on.

But I suggest that there is almost no way that the unmeasured benefits of Possibility 1 actually outweigh the awfulness of any high school where the average ACT score is 13 or 14. I am definitely in the camp that believes we make too much of standardized tests in education. Yet, having been (very briefly) a teacher myself, I know that there are scores below which there is just no way that a student has received a decent education--scores low enough to pretty much guarantee a failure in literacy and numeracy that not only rules a chance at any kind of higher education, but even the most menial of non-physical work as well as physical work that requires any kind of computation or written communication. 

In other words, these low-scoring schools are graduating people who simply have not been prepared to participate as adults in our society. And we’re rewarding them by handing them, through the growth of the charter sector, the responsibility for thousands of extra students.

Winners and losers, but no solutions

These numbers have established that on one end of the spectrum – low-performing charter schools – the market is failing spectacularly.

But it’s clear that, overall, there is some movement to higher-scoring schools. The median decline has been from a school with an ACT score of 14.9, while the median increase has been to a school with an ACT score of 17.7. That’s a huge and heartening gap.

Unfortunately, it also indicates one of the major problems with the “school market” approach. Why? Mostly because the minimum ACT score that demonstrates college readiness is 20. Very few of the schools gaining more students graduate a large minority – let alone a majority – of seniors who score that high.

Plus, half of all enrollment increases have been at schools that have ACT scores below the district’s average, which is below the minimum needed for college. 

Why would that be? I don’t know, but I can take a couple of guesses. For one, the top-scoring high schools in the city are mostly selective enrollment, and unlike neighborhood schools – which have to find room for students in their attendance areas no matter what – they won’t grow significantly unless they get extra room. Or maybe, since parents often send their children to schools where they know other families, there’s something going on with social networks.

More importantly, I would imagine, is the geographical problem. Most of the city’s very bad high schools are in certain neighborhoods on the South and West Sides, and a disproportionate number of the above-average ones are on the North Side. One-way commutes of over an hour would definitely be a disincentive to send your kid to the better high school across town – especially if you live in an area where getting to and from the nearest public transportation means crossing gang lines.

What does this all mean? Even though there is some movement to higher-scoring schools, Chicago’s market in high schools has some serious drawbacks:

….Half the city’s enrollment increase is happening at schools with ACT scores that are below district average.

…Charter schools, which make up virtually all of the schools added to the district over the last decade, grow rapidly regardless of whether they provide a good education or not.

…There are major structural impediments to moving kids from low-scoring to high-scoring schools.

Chicago’s market is creating clear winners and losers. Whether the outcome is worth it for the city overall is to some extent a judgment call. But what does seem clear is that the market isn’t getting rid of extremely low-performing schools—and the more charter schools the city creates, the worse the market will perform.

Daniel Hertz is a master’s degree student at the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago. This article was originally published on his blog at

In the News: 'This is not choice, it's chaos'

January 10, 2014 - 8:20am

Wendy Katten, director of Raise Your Hand, has an op-ed in Crain's today addressing the expansion of charters schools in Chicago. She writes: "CPS now has a shocking 31 new charter proposals on the table to open in the next two years. This should stop us all in our tracks — because district schools will lose more funding and have to face further cuts, which will lead to weaker educational outcomes for many students across Chicago. This is not choice, it's chaos."

RATIONING BATHROOM TIME: A Chicago Public School elementary teacher shared a memo with Education Week that was delivered to faculty members last week. The memo spelled out how two new restroom policies could help teachers to "maximize student learning and reduce the loss of instructional time." Under the new policies, teachers were told to sign up for a "restroom time slot" and to take their class to use the restroom only during allotted times so that multiple groups aren't competing to use the facilities and to use a watch or stopwatch to time the students, and to also praise students when they meet "behavior and time expectations."

AP EXAM TAKERS: A new analysis of test-taking data finds that in Mississippi and Montana, no female, African American, or Hispanic students took the Advanced Placement exam in computer science.  In fact, no African-American students took the exam in a total of 11 states, and no Hispanic students took it in eight states, according to state comparisons of College Board data compiled by Barbara Ericson, the director of computing outreach and a senior research scientist at Georgia Tech. (Education Week)

TRACKING CHARTER TRANSFERS: Pupils are not more likely to leave New York City charter schools than their counterparts at traditional public schools, but that is not the case for special education students, a study found. (The New York Times)

In the News: CPS urged to change punishment policies

January 9, 2014 - 7:55am

With the Obama administration criticizing zero tolerance policies that have led schools to often turn over routine discipline issues to police, the federal government on Wednesday released new discipline guidelines for states and school districts. Student groups and the Chicago Teachers Union, both of which have argued that Chicago Public Schools has one of the harshest and most discriminatory disciplinary policies among large urban school districts, welcomed the new guidelines and urged CPS to implement them. (Tribune)

THE RANGEL CHRONICLES: Chicago Magazine and the Better Government Association chronicle the rise and fall of Juan Rangel, or the man who turned a small activist group in the nation's biggest charter school operator.

LAW TURNS 12: No Child Left Behind, the Bush-era education law that was supposed to forever change the nation's schools by giving the federal government far more say over accountability, particularly for poor and minority children, turned 12 years old on Wednesday. (Education Week)

LET'S NOT MOVE: Just one in four teenagers between the ages of 12 and 15 engaged in the recommended 60 minutes of daily moderate-to-vigorous physical activity in 2012, according to new data released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Education Week)

TEACHER HIRING BACK ON: After an extended period of layoffs and hiring freezes, the Los Angeles Unified School District has resumed bringing on new teachers, while also being more selective about their quality than in the past. The nation's second-largest school system forecasts hiring 1,333 instructors for next year; it hired 718 for the current year. The total teaching force numbers about 26,000. (Los Angeles Times)

CHARTER STANCE TARGETED: Calling school choice the best route out of poverty, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor took aim at New York City’s new mayor on Wednesday for his cooler stance toward public charter schools and warned that Republicans may hold congressional hearings on the education policies of Democrat Bill de Blasio’s administration. (The Washington Post)

More transparency on suspensions and expulsions, but racial disparity lingers

January 8, 2014 - 6:14pm

UPDATED: With the Obama administration taking a stand Wednesday against zero-tolerance discipline that forces students out of school, CPS is readying itself for a major release of detailed school-level statistics on expulsion and suspension.

The upcoming data release is the result of a huge battle activists won when CPS agreed to not only post information for individual schools, but also to provide detailed breakdowns by demographics, including race, and disability.

The agreement is another step forward in creating more transparency on discipline in the district. CPS has come under harsh criticism for having one of the highest suspension rates in the nation, as well as stark racial disparities in who gets suspended and expelled.  

Prior to CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett’s administration, school-level information was only obtained by the media and advocates through the Freedom of Information Act.

Yet there will still be a big missing piece: Information on charter schools and school arrests, which will not be included when the data is posted by the end of February. The information collected by the district is currently too incomplete to be reliable, said Mariame Kaba, founding directory of the juvenile justice advocacy organization, Project NIA.

(Also, any category of students that is fewer than 10 will be redacted due to a federal privacy law.)

Kaba announced the agreement between CPS and a coalition of advocates at December’s School Board meeting.  She says CPS leaders also agreed to hold three summits on discipline.

Collecting demographic information on suspensions and expulsions and using it to improve student outcomes is one of the recommendations in guidelines issued jointly by the departments of justice and education on Wednesday.

The Obama administration guidelines also recommended public school officials use law enforcement only as a last resort for disciplining students. The guidelines note that suspensions and expulsions lead to “serious educational, economic and social problems” and suggest that districts explicitly limit exclusionary discipline and require that steps such as restorative justice or social and emotional skill-building be taken before disciplinary action. 

On Wednesday, the citywide student advocacy group, VOYCE (Voices of Youth in Chicago Education), urged the city and the state of Illinois to adopt the guidelines. Marshawn Earvin, a student at Dunbar, said he was suspended for three days for saying something disrespectful. He says he was falsely accused.

But given the strong correlation between suspensions and subsequent dropping out, he says he is fighting to stay in school and make the situation better.

“I will not be another statistic,” he said.

The Chicago Teachers Union leaders issued a statement saying they welcomed the guidelines and noted they have long advocated for alternative discipline measures. However, they emphasized that implementing such alternatives requires an investment in such staff as social workers, psychologists and counselors.

CPS spokeswoman Keiana Barrett says that the district is "aggressively" examining its discipline procedures and already has working groups looking at the issue. District officials plan to roll out a comprehensive program aimed at implementing restorative justice and stemming the "school to prison" pipeline later this month or in early February.

They also are considering adopting the federal guidelines.

Racial disparities

CPS’ current administration has been quietly making information on discipline more available. This year, for the first time, school progress reports include the suspensions per 100 students, as well as the average length of suspensions. An analysis of this data shows that CPS’ suspension rates are high and the racial disparity is enormous.

Suspension rates increased for elementary schools, as well. At elementary schools that are predominantly African American, the rate was 27 per 100 students last year, up from 21 per 100 in 2012. At schools that had substantial populations of white students or a mix of white and Hispanic students, an average of 2.7 students were suspended in 2013, no change the previous year.

In high schools, there were an average of 52 suspensions for every 100 students and the racial disparity was even starker: At predominantly black high schools, there were 83 suspensions for every 100 students. At 14 schools there were more than 100 suspensions per 100 students, meaning that multiple students are being suspended multiple times.

Meanwhile, at predominantly Latino schools, there were 27 suspensions per 100 students. But  schools with significant white enrollment, or a diverse student body—typically the selective high schools or North Side schools—recorded only 17 suspensions for every 100 students.

Illinois and Chicago have come under harsh criticism regarding student discipline, after studies and U.S. Department of Education statistics pointed to some of the highest rates of suspensions and widest disparities in the nation. A 2012 study by the Civil Rights Project at the University of California-Los Angeles found that, compared to any other group of students in the nation’s 100 largest districts, black students in Chicago had the second highest rate of suspension. At the top of the list was Henrico County Public Schools, which includes Richmond, Virginia.


Big picture still not clear

The federal statistics and other research use state data, which has a lag time of several years. Plus, it is difficult to get data broken down by race, gender and disability.

The lack of good information prevented experts from being able to see the big picture of discipline in CPS, says Jessica Schneider, staff attorney in the educational equity project at the Chicago Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law. Her organization often represents students at expulsion hearings.

“We can address individual cases, piece by piece, but it is hard to make any big changes,” she says.

Having suspension and expulsion information readily available also will aid organizations in making their case for alternative disciplinary measures and figuring out which ones work.

CPS’ Code of Conduct emphasizes restorative justice, such as peace circles and peer juries, over harsh discipline such as suspension and expulsion. But use of restorative justice has been spotty, and many times depends on whether school principals work with a community group, which runs the peace circles and trains the peer juries.

Kaba said many of the community groups running these programs have been unable to figure out whether their work results in fewer suspensions and curbs harsh discipline.

The new data CPS will post “gives us an exciting opportunity to move beyond anecdotes,” she says.

Originally, the coalition of community groups and activists wanted CPS to have something similar to the New York City Student Safety Act, which requires quarterly reporting of student safety and discipline information to the City Council.

When Kaba brought the idea to Ald. Joe Moore, he suggested they meet Beth Swanson, who is Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s deputy chief of staff for education. She put them in touch with CPS’ head of safety and security, Jadine Chou.

Then, when John Barker came on board as chief of accountability, he was immediately clear that the information could easily be made available. Last year, he put the first discipline indicator on school report cards.

Advocates are now planning to lobby to get the Board of Education to pass a resolution promising to make the information available in the future. Kaba says this would ensure that the practice continues after this current administration leaves office. 

In the News: Obama officials target zero-tolerance policies

January 8, 2014 - 10:50am

The Obama administration issued guidelines on Wednesday that recommended public school officials use law enforcement only as a last resort for disciplining students, a response to a rise in zero-tolerance policies that have disproportionately increased the number of arrests, suspensions and expulsions of minority students for even minor, nonviolent offenses. (The New York Times)

COLD CONTINUES, CLASSES RESUME: Chicago public schools reopened Wednesday after being closed for two days because of the heavy snow and bitter cold. Many of the other Chicago area schools closed this week by the wintry weather also plan to reopen Wednesday. But some districts in northwest Indiana, including Hammond and Hobart, will remain closed, according to the WGN Radio Emergency Closing Center. Northwestern University announced today that classes would resume Wednesday. (Tribune)

UPHEAVAL IN UPTOWN: Some parents and teachers say the third floor of Mary E. Courtenay Elementary School in Uptown has become a "war zone." The floor, home to middle-school classrooms, is where kids from two very different school communities were brought together after the Board of Education's controversial vote to merge Joseph Stockton Elementary School with Courtenay last May. It's also where the majority of fights at the school break out, students and staff say. A teacher — five months pregnant — was punched in the head while trying to break up a fight between two eighth-graders on the third floor on Dec. 17, the Chicago Police Department confirmed. (DNA Info)

In the News: Minorities the new majority in IL schools

January 7, 2014 - 9:54am

The latest enrollment numbers show that Illinois' public school system for the first time does not have a white majority, with Latino, black, Asian and other racial groups combined eclipsing white students across the state's classrooms. (Tribune)

Whites fell to 49.76 percent of the student body this school year, the new data show, a demographic tipping point that came after years of sliding white enrollment and a rise in Latino, Asian and multiracial students. The black student population also has declined, but it still makes up almost 18 percent of the state's public school students.

NO SCHOOL—AGAIN: Chicago Public Schools will again be closed Tuesday, CPS boss Barbara Byrd-Bennett announced at a news conference Monday. (DNA Info)

DEFENDING REVERSAL: Chicago Public Schools chief Barbara Byrd Bennett, asked about the district's reversal on closing schools Monday, said she was unaware of the public outcry and CTU President Karen Lewis' tweet about CPS' original decision over the weekend to keep schools open Monday, a day of record-breaking subzero temperatures. (CBS Chicago)

ATLANTA CHEATING SCANDAL: The cast of characters was mostly former teachers and principals, six of whom pleaded guilty on Monday in a Fulton County courtroom for their part in what has been described as the largest cheating scandal in the nation’s history. Their pleas bring to 17 the number of educators who have already pleaded guilty, with a handful more in active negotiations.  (The New York Times)

DIGITAL EXPLOSION: The school publishing industry appears to be reaping benefits from rebounding state and local budgets, increased demand for materials aligned to the common core, and the continued evolution from print to digital products. Sales for print and digital instructional materials in schools jumped 25 percent in September and 9 percent in October over the previous year, according to the Association of American Publishers. (Education Week)

In the News: CTU, public pressed CPS to close schools

January 6, 2014 - 8:53am

Chicago Public Schools decided to close all schools today in the face of dangerously cold temperatures and high winds after the Chicago Teachers Union and social media users criticized the district over its weekend announcement saying parents should determine whether to send their children to school. (Tribune)

NEW REWARD SYSTEM: Teachers in one of the highest academically ranked school districts in Illinois, Lincolnshire-Prairie View School District 103, are about halfway through a process that will determine whether they get raises the following school year. Their contract requires them to earn a “proficient” or “excellent” rating in order to get a bump; those who earn the higher rankings receive a 2.4 percent raise on their base pay and a cash bonus that varies based on their rating.  Teachers who fail to obtain the higher rankings get no raise, but the teachers’ negotiator says the 150-member staff is so skilled and dedicated and the contract so expansive, it’s a fair deal. (Sun-Times)

Reports of low college completion rates may be giving up on college students too soon. New data released by the federal Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System suggest a significant portion of students do finish college degrees and professional certificates—in double the traditional time allotted for those programs. (Education Week)

GED MAKEOVER: The GED test, for decades the brand name for the high school equivalency exam, is about to undergo some changes. The revamped test is intended to be more rigorous and better aligned with the skills needed for college and today's workplaces. The new test will only be offered on a computer, and it will cost more. What consumers pay for the test varies widely and depends on state assistance and other factors. (NPR)

In the News: Districts turn to less costly tablet devices

January 3, 2014 - 10:00am

Districts nationwide are replacing textbooks with computers, but many are finding less costly ways than L.A. Unified's $768 per device. (Los Angeles Times)

The Perris Union High School District in California is paying $344 apiece for a Chromebook for every student. Nearby, Riverside Unified purchased a variety of devices, including the Kindle Fire and iPad Mini, for as low as $150 each. In San Diego Unified, some students are using a $200 tablet. The Los Angeles Unified School District, however, is paying $768 per device for its students, teachers and administrators, making it one of the nation's most expensive technology programs. The reason: L.A. Unified selected a relatively costly product — a higher-end Apple iPad — and also paid for a new math and English curriculum installed on the tablets.

HOME-SCHOOLING AND CHARTERS: Through an unusual partnership between a California school district and an educational-management group, a charter school helps reconnect home-schooling families to local public schools. (Education Week)

A LATER SCHOOL BELL?: The plight of sleep-deprived teenagers will soon get a closer look in Anne Arundel County, Va., where school officials are creating a task force to study the hours of the school day across grade levels. (The Washington Post)

In the News: Despite charter hearings, critics unsatisfied

January 2, 2014 - 10:30am

The Chicago's Board of Education's efforts to gather community input on proposals for 21 new charter campuses, which the district is set to vote this month, has done little to satisfy critics of the privately run schools.

Opponents say charter advocates have been given too much influence over several of the Neighborhood Advisory Councils set up by Chicago Public Schools to discuss proposals in Northwest and Southwest side neighborhoods where charters have yet to gain a foothold. (Tribune)

RUSHED ROLLOUT: As the new Common Core State Standards are rolled out across the country, a growing number of educators and parents say they're worried about the tests being developed and tied to the new, more rigorous standards in reading and math. The test results after all won't just be used to gauge kids progress but to evaluate teachers, rate schools and rank states. (NPR)

PARENT POWER: In urban districts across the country, a new crop of education advocacy organizations promoting ideas like school choice and free-market practices for K-12 public education has begun tapping into parents to press for changes to the public school system on state and local levels. (Education Week)

MISTAKEN EVALUATIONS: Faulty calculations of the “value” that D.C. teachers added to student achievement in the last school year resulted in erroneous performance evaluations for 44 teachers, including one who was fired because of a low rating, school officials disclosed Monday. (The Washington Post)