WBEZ | Literacy http://www.wbez.org/sections/literacy Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Global Activism: ConTextos expands literacy programs to El Salvador prisons http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-contextos-expands-literacy-programs-el-salvador-prisons <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/GA-ConTextos Prisoners.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-155d2028-16ca-6861-496d-14f15cdaca8d">When we first met Chicagoan and Global Activist, Debra Gittler, she wanted to &ldquo;create conditions on-the-ground through literacy education, opportunity and advocacy&rdquo; to help children in Central America thrive. To do this, Debra started the organization <a href="http://contextos.org/">ConTextos</a>. She now lives in El Salvador. For our </span><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism">Global Activism</a></em> segment, Gittler is back in Chicago and will update us on how her work has expanded into El Salvador&rsquo;s justice system.</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/179980678&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><em>Debra Gittler told us some of what she&rsquo;s been up to since her <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-contextos-aiding-children-central-america-through-literacy">last Worldview appearance</a>:</em></p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;">ConTextos has expanded into the Justice System in El Salvador and are now working with inmates in prisons, juveniles delinquents in the &quot;foster&quot; system, and the teachers and guards who work with both of these populations. The &quot;foster&quot; system in El Salvador is tangled octopus that oversees foster care, orphans, victims of child and sexual abuse, child criminals (including homicide), gangs, and deportees. Child deportees arriving back in El Salvador pretty much get off a bus and have to walk home; those without families end up in foster care.</p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;">...we are overwhelmingly moved by the healing power of story to address issues of trauma in a country plagued by generations of violence. Many of the inmates we are working with are gang-affiliated and directly affected by the reality of transnationalism-- some inmates are English-speakers who spent most of their life in the US. We are just starting to work more and more with the juvenile population...It&#39;s been a fascinating journey to confront stereotypes about this population...</p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;">At the same time, ConTextos is just about to publish our student reading metrics. We use the Early Grade Reading Assessment to evaluate student reading outcomes; this is the same tool that USAID implements all over the world. Our results are stunning...</p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;">Finally, we are thrilled to start partnering with <em>Worldreader</em>, based in Africa, to bring e-readers into our schools.</p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;">...We&#39;ve been working with iPads for quite a while as a tool to motivate writing, but e-readers provide a unique opportunity to bring unlimited numbers of text through an accessible, teacher-friendly (and rural-friendly) technology. We&#39;re still seeking funding to launch the initiative.</p></p> Thu, 04 Dec 2014 09:28:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-contextos-expands-literacy-programs-el-salvador-prisons Global Activism: Bhuvana Foundation aids children in India's Tamil Nadu State http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-bhuvana-foundation-aids-children-indias-tamil-nadu-state <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/GA-Vidya Vanam.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><span id="docs-internal-guid-94ea7097-81b5-8895-dc12-376c8631483d">Statistics show that India&rsquo;s school drop-out rate is very high. Children and their families, marginalized by society and culture, include people from the tribal, lower social strata in the hill regions of India. <a href="http://www.bhuvanafoundation.org/">Bhuvana Foundation</a> was created &ldquo;to provide three nutritious meals, timely and regular primary care and a well rounded education&rdquo; for children in India, especially in Tamil Nadu State. For Global Activism, we speak with neurologist Subramaniam Sriram, founder/president of Bhuvana Foundation and Mridu Sekhar, a </span>Bhuvana trustee, about their work that began with Sriram&rsquo;s vision - &ldquo;to create a fear-free environment of learning so people are nurtured and cherished.&rdquo;</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/175679848&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>Mridu Sekhar feels Bhuvana Foundation&rsquo;s work with Vidya Vanam is a calling:</p><p style="margin-left:76.5pt;">I am on the board and just as passionate to give these kids the choices my grandchildren have at Lab School! I feel that we have all lost our way in educating our young. We are not trying to educate them to be good human beings and good citizens capable of thoughtful relationships with a dynamic and fast paced society! Vidya Vanam is sister schools with Pershing East here on the south side. I feel that mostly all the kids of Vidya Vanam will &quot;make it&quot;, &nbsp;while I can&#39;t say the same with confidence for the kids at Pershing East! Vidya Vanam also has about 30 kids to a class and the live in mud huts with parents who are very violent and alcoholic and can&#39;t read or write and often not enough to eat except in school! Catching them at preschool age ( 3-4) and giving them this nurturing environment for 7-9 hours a day is the key to changing the paradigm.</p></p> Thu, 06 Nov 2014 09:30:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-bhuvana-foundation-aids-children-indias-tamil-nadu-state Global Activism: Sonia Shah Foundation Update http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-sonia-shah-foundation-update-110807 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Sonia Shah_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Accomplished, multilingual Winnetka teenager, Sonia Shah, traveled and studied around the world. She started the <a href="http://www.kulsoomfoundation.org/" target="_blank">Kulsoom Foundation for Girls</a> (now named the <a href="http://www.soniashahfoundation.com/#">Sonia Shah Foundation</a>) to build a school for girls in Pakistan. But before the school was completed, Sonia was tragically taken from us in a 2012 auto accident at age 18. Since then, Sonia&#39;s mother, Iram Shah, has taken the baton to continue her daughter&#39;s work. We <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-kulsoom-foundation-build-girls-school-pakistan-honor-late">first spoke with Iram</a> in 2013. For today&#39;s <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism"><em>Global Activism</em></a>, she&#39;s back for an update.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><em><strong>The Sonia Shah Foundation&#39;s <a href="http://www.soniashahfoundation.com/join-us-september-20th/">annual gala</a> will be Saturday, September 23rd, 2014 at 5:30pm at the Oak Brook Hills Resort, 3500 Midwest Road, Oak Brook IL, 60523.</strong></em></p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/168326357&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe>In 2011, Sonia was the youngest intern at Capital Hill and in 2012, she was one of the youngest intern at Obama campaign headquarters. In his condolence letter, President Obama says &lsquo;although Sonia was one of the youngest interns at the campaign headquarters, she was one of the most determined&rsquo;</p><p><em>Iram reflected on Sonia and her mission ahead of a 2013 Foundation event:</em></p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;">As we prepare for the big day, I want to thank everyone who has been part of this journey&hellip;people who donated, people who contributed through their service, words of sympathy&hellip;you are all awesome!!...You are all part of this journey of helping to change lives of girls, who will change their communities and eventually our world!</p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;"><br />&hellip;For me personally it has been a very emotional but fulfilling journey. Sonia&rsquo;s legacy and mission continues. Although my dream for Sonia to grow up into a mature woman, get married and have children will never be fulfilled but I guess her dream of helping poor girls is more meaningful than my dream for her! I still long for Sonia but slowly beginning to feel that instead of mourning her death, I should celebrate her life more.</p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;"><br />&ldquo;What moves through me is a silence, a quiet sadness, a longing for one more day, one more word, one more touch, we may not understand why you left this earth so soon, or why you left before we were ready to say good-bye, but little by little, we begin to remember not just that you died, but that you lived. And that your life gave us memories too beautiful to forget&rdquo;.</p></p> Thu, 18 Sep 2014 09:14:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-sonia-shah-foundation-update-110807 Global Activism: Women’s Global Education Project celebrates 10 years http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-women%E2%80%99s-global-education-project-celebrates-10-years-110808 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/GA-WGEP.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The Women&rsquo;s Global Education Project (<a href="http://www.womensglobal.org/">WGEP</a>) was one of our first ever Global Activism stories 10 years ago. And Jerome sat down with its founder and Executive Director, Amy Maglio and Adji Senghor WGEP&#39;s Senegal Project Director and Aniceta Kiriga WGEP&#39;s Kenya Project Director. For <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism"><em>Global Activism</em></a>, they&#39;ll all update us on the work the group is doing today.</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/167287651&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></p></p> Thu, 11 Sep 2014 09:51:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-women%E2%80%99s-global-education-project-celebrates-10-years-110808 Global Activism: Somali Women Association of Illinois helping refugees http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-somali-women-association-illinois-helping-refugees-110614 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/ga-nana profile_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-68f46e64-b189-5f5b-2f0a-bc3933c46009">Nana Ahmed grew up as a Somali refugee in Yemen. When she came to America, Nana wanted to give back by helping refugees like herself. She, along with seven other Chicago women, formed <a href="https://www.facebook.com/SWAI2014">Somali Women Association of Illinois</a> (SWAI). They provide education and housing assistance, job training and health access to try and help refugee women and their families settle into their new lives. Nana will share her own experience and how it&rsquo;s helped dozens of refugees.</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/162151706&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%"></iframe></p></p> Thu, 07 Aug 2014 12:27:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-somali-women-association-illinois-helping-refugees-110614 Global Activism: Keeping kids in school in India http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-keeping-kids-school-india-110625 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/ga-pratham.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>According to UNICEF, in India, more than 70 percent of children drop out before finishing school. <a href="http://www.prathamusa.org">Pratham USA</a>, co-founded by Yogi Patel, is dedicated to youth education, literacy and vocational training in India and it reports that over half of India&rsquo;s children in the 5th grade can&rsquo;t read at a 2nd grade level. We&#39;ll talk with Raj Rajaram, president of Pratham USA, about the work they&#39;re doing to try to improve education and opportunity for children in India.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Pratham USA Chicago Walk-a-thon:</strong></p><p><strong>Walk or Run For Literacy</strong></p><p><strong>Sunday, August 17, 2014, 9:00 AM</strong></p><p><strong>Harms Wood Forest Preserve (Grove 3), Morton Grove, IL</strong></p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/160137303&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%"></iframe></p></p> Thu, 24 Jul 2014 09:19:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-keeping-kids-school-india-110625 Global Activism: 'ConTextos' aiding children in Central America through literacy education http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-contextos-aiding-children-central-america-through-literacy <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/GA-debra_gittler.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-5ec3e45c-419f-6c53-a54b-a65dded641a7">While Central American children flood into the U.S. to escape crime &amp; poverty, Chicagoan Debra Gittler works to create conditions on-the-ground through literacy education, opportunity &amp; advocacy, that she hopes will help these children thrive and keep them in their home countries. Debra moved to Central America to start <a href="http://contextos.org/">ConTextos</a>. The group says &ldquo;[We do] more than just develop the mechanical skills of sounding out words. We encourage kids to think deeply, to be curious, and to question their environment.&rdquo; For <em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism">Global Activism</a></em>, Gittler tells us how her work is spreading across Central America.</span></p><p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-5ec3e45c-4188-13cc-6742-dee95fbd88c5"><iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/159145115&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>Just the other day, I was at a school in Usulutan, one of the areas of El Salvador that has had an explosion of violence post the gang truce. I sat with Manuel, a first grader, who told me: &quot;I have lots of family in the United States,&quot; he explained. &quot;Cousins and aunts and uncles. But I want to stay here in El Salvador. I like my school.&quot;</p><p>When we asked Debra to tell us about the importance of her work, she wrote:</p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;">I want to emphasize the relevance of our work in Central America, especially given the refugee kids at the border. To emphasize that the reality is, these kids have access to schools, but no education; ConTextos changes that. We are growing throughout the region and looking for greater support in our hometown here in Chicago. Those kids at the border... those are the same kids that we serve.</p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;">Just the other day, I was at a school in Usulutan, one of the areas of El Salvador that has had an explosion of violence post the gang truce. I sat with Manuel, a first grader, who told me: &quot;I have lots of family in the United States,&quot; he explained. &quot;Cousins and aunts and uncles. But I want to stay here in El Salvador. I like my school.&quot;</p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;">Before ConTextos, Manuel had no books and his entire experience was copy and dictation. He went to school four hours a day. Now, his school is open to him all day long, he has access to books and other materials, and he has real conversations in his classroom. We read a book called &quot;Where are the Giants&quot; about hidden magic in the world. Manuel says to me (I&#39;m translating): &quot;You know--and this isn&#39;t in the news, but it&#39;s true-- I&#39;ve heard that there are fairies in Mexico...&quot;</p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;">I asked his teacher about Manuel. She said that before, she used to scold him for his imagination. Now she encourages it. Her students are encouraged to think and imagine and explore. Classroom attendance is up.</p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;">And this school is in the midst of gang territory. MS 18 is scribbled on the walls of the school. Manuel&#39;s photo is below.</p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;">It&#39;s important to realize that even though we are a literacy organization-- and the only org in the region with the goal and implementation in multiple countries; whereas Africa and Asia have multiple orgs addressing the lack of resources and training across countries, Central Am/ Latin Am have NONE-- we go far beyond just teaching reading.</p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;">At one of our schools--an area of extreme poverty where most live as subsistence farmers-- the school ran out of space for their school garden. &quot;Why can&#39;t we plant on the roof?&quot; asked one of the 5th graders. At first, the teacher balked that it was a ridiculous idea. Now they are growing basil and mint on their roof. The teacher explained: &quot;by changing how we teach-- asking questions, encouraging the kids to question-- we&#39;ve seen changes in how they approach life.&quot; These kids live in areas with plenty of problems. With ConTextos&#39; intervention, they&#39;re encouraged to think about those problems.</p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;">That school was one of our first schools. There&#39;s now 13 schools in their network. Kids read at a &quot;1st world&quot; level. The Ministry uses the schools as models for teacher development.</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 17 Jul 2014 09:14:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-contextos-aiding-children-central-america-through-literacy Global Activism: 'Worldview Education and Care' aiding children in Tanzania and across Africa http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-worldview-education-and-care-aiding-children-tanzania-and <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/GA-Worldview.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><span id="docs-internal-guid-e6e5cb31-4504-0dc8-eebe-ac45629e8353">Chicagoans, Ann Avery, and her husband Robert, founded <a href="http://www.worldvieweducationandcare.org/">Worldview Education and Care</a> after witnessing the plight of young people in the Meru district of northern Tanzania. Among many services, the group helps Tanzanians by providing scholarships for child and adult education, including living expenses and medical care. They also run a girls&#39; empowerment program to help struggling and single mothers attend school as well support an <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MQPEUo8264w&amp;feature=youtu.be">orphanage</a>. For our </span>Global Activism series, Ann and group supporter, Susie Rheault, will talk about their work and a program to foster HIV/AIDS awareness through sports.</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/158146754&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%"></iframe></p></p> Thu, 10 Jul 2014 08:49:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-worldview-education-and-care-aiding-children-tanzania-and What the heck happened to Chicago's truancy officers? http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/what-heck-happened-chicagos-truancy-officers-110282 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/truancy thumb.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/152861576&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_artwork=true&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><em>Editor&#39;s note: This story has an <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/could-truant-officers-return-chicago-public-schools-111101" target="_blank">update that relates to recommendations that a state task force makes regarding attendance policy and school staffing</a>. &nbsp;</em></p><p>Over the past few years, Curious City has answered many questions about Chicago streets: <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/street-sweeping-essential-service-or-revenue-scam-109221">why they get cleaned</a>, why <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/why-some-chicago-streets-got-numbers-others-were-stuck-names-102380">some get names but others receive numbers</a>, and why portions of the Kennedy Expressway <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/how-do-reversible-lanes-kennedy-expressway-work-101384">sometimes switch directions</a>.</p><p>But what caught Saundra Oglesby&rsquo;s attention is what&rsquo;s <em>missing</em> from city streets, or rather <em>who</em> has been missing. We met Saundra just once, but her question needs little clarification:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><em>Why aren&#39;t truancy officers riding around like they used to?</em></p><p>Saundra &mdash; a resident of Chicago&rsquo;s Lawndale neighborhood &mdash; is referring to the men and women once employed by Chicago Public Schools to track down students who did not turn up for class.</p><p>&ldquo;When we was growing up, they would pick us up, take us to the school, call our parents and say, &lsquo;Hey, this kid is not in school, why aren&rsquo;t you in school?&rsquo;&rdquo; Oglesby recalled.</p><p>Hers is a fair question and, we learned, a timely one.</p><p>The city&rsquo;s truancy officers were cut decades ago, but the problem they were tasked with solving &mdash; chronic, unexcused absence from school &mdash; persists and it&rsquo;s hurt kids, communities and the school district itself.</p><p>In May of this year, <em><a href="http://www.catalyst-chicago.org/sites/catalyst-chicago.org/files/blog-assets/files/cps_verified_chronic_truancy_and_absenteeism_data.pdf">Catalyst Chicago </a></em>magazine revealed that a little more than one quarter of CPS students were <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/what-heck-happened-all-cps-truant-officers-110282#def"><em>chronically truant</em> </a>last year. The district verified that report. (At CPS, a student qualifies as chronically truant if she misses 5 percent of the school year &mdash; or about nine days &mdash; without an accepted excuse. Prior to the 2011-2012 school year, the threshold was 18 missed days, or 10 percent of the school year.)</p><p>The truancy situation&rsquo;s considered bad enough that Illinois lawmakers want recommendations of how to get more Chicago kids to show up at school.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Truancy officers don&rsquo;t make the cut</span></p><p>For nearly fifty years truancy officers in Chicago knocked on doors, called students&rsquo; friends and relatives, and stalked neighborhood haunts to find wayward kids. They would also figure out what was happening in children&rsquo;s lives &mdash; at home, in the streets or at school &mdash; that would keep them from class.</p><p>But the job title &mdash; at least at the district level &mdash; disappeared after 1992.</p><p>Aarti Dhupelia, CPS&rsquo; Chief Officer for College and Career Success, says at that time CPS faced a <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1991-04-30/news/9102080222_1_school-year-ted-kimbrough-schools-supt">$315 million</a> shortfall, and the administration at the time <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1992-10-01/news/9203290322_1_truant-officers-bargain-in-good-faith-union-officials">zeroed in on truancy officers</a>. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;We actually had as many as 150 truancy officers district wide,&rdquo; Dhupelia explained. &ldquo;Due to unclear evidence of their effectiveness as well as budget constraints, those positions were eliminated.&rdquo;</p><p>The district estimated a savings of about $15 million that year, and that it wouldn&rsquo;t miss the truancy officers. Dhupelia says officers could find kids and bring them to school &ldquo;but they could not answer the larger question of why did children leave school in the first place.&rdquo;</p><p>In fact, even with truancy officers in place in the early 1990s, Chicago had the highest high school <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1992-09-24/news/9203270085_1_chicago-schools-local-school-councils-test-scores">dropout rate</a> in the country. In the years after the officers were cut, the district&rsquo;s dropout rate improved, but the district&rsquo;s truancy rates remained <a href="http://illinoisreportcard.com/District.aspx?source=StudentCharacteristics&amp;source2=ChronicTruants&amp;Districtid=15016299025">above the state average</a>.</p><p>That&rsquo;s despite various efforts over the years, including dedicated truancy outreach and re-engagement centers.</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/what-heck-happened-all-cps-truant-officers-110282#addlinfo"><em style="font-size: 16px; text-align: center;">(More on CPS&rsquo; anti-truancy efforts)</em></a></p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Truancy and fallout</span></p><p>The consequences of missed days of school add up, a realization all too familiar to <em>Chicago Tribune</em> reporter <a href="http://bio.tribune.com/davidjackson">David Jackson</a>.</p><p>In 2012 Jackson was tipped off to what appeared to be a growing attendance problem. A juvenile court judge told him she was shocked by the number of young kids who were out of school and in her courtroom.</p><p>&ldquo;She noted that those were the kids obviously involved in delinquency and crimes on the streets,&rdquo; Jackson remembered. &ldquo;What they were doing when they weren&rsquo;t in school was either not safe for them or for the community.&rdquo;</p><p>So Jackson and reporter Gary Marx asked for access to a highly-protected CPS attendance database, which tracks &mdash; kid-by-kid &mdash; how often a student misses class. The newspaper team fought a losing legal battle over access to the data. (Jackson said the information is not made public for several good reasons, including privacy.)</p><blockquote><p><span style="font-size:18px;">Truant: A student who is absent for no valid cause. Valid excuses include illness, death in the family, family emergency, special religious holiday and case-by-case special circumstances.</span></p><p><span style="font-size:18px;">Truancy: Being absent without cause for one or more days</span></p><div><p><span style="font-size:18px;">Chronic truancy: Being absent, without an excuse, for five percent of the previous 180 school days (a full school year) &mdash; or, about nine days for CPS students.</span></p></div></blockquote><p>Jackson decided to go at it again in 2012 when CPS was embroiled in several of the biggest stories in Chicago (and the nation): at one time the district faced a punishing teacher&rsquo;s strike, school closings and consolidations and escalating violence. After the Tribune team stripped down the original requests, they received the numbers from the 2010-2011 school year. Jackson concluded that the district was facing a <a href="http://media.apps.chicagotribune.com/truancy/index.html">truancy crisis</a>.</p><p>&ldquo;We found in the database &mdash; and this is an extremely conservative number &mdash; that at least one in eight elementary students in Chicago missed four weeks of school [during the year we studied],&rdquo; Jackson recounted.</p><p>Translation: If students retain that pattern of missing school between kindergarten and eighth grade, they could miss a year of school before they begin high school.</p><p>And, as Yale University criminologist <a href="http://www.law.yale.edu/faculty/TMeares.htm">Tracey Meares</a> explained, education is vital to survival. Meares has spent time studying networks of gun violence in the city of Chicago. She believes the most effective way to save lives &mdash; and prevent a young person from falling prey to gang and gun violence &mdash; is to teach them to read.</p><p>&ldquo;Making sure that children can read by 3rd grade is probably one of the most important things that any city can do with respect to violent crime in the long term,&rdquo; Meares said. &ldquo;Our research shows that people, young men, who drop out from high school, are much more likely to be gang-involved than those who are not.&rdquo;</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="442" mozallowfullscreen="mozallowfullscreen" msallowfullscreen="msallowfullscreen" oallowfullscreen="oallowfullscreen" src="http://cf.datawrapper.de/iR3Sz/4/" webkitallowfullscreen="webkitallowfullscreen" width="600"></iframe></p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">They&rsquo;re going to learn from someone</span></p><p>John Paul Jones, the president of <a href="http://www.sustainableenglewood.org/">Sustainable Englewood Initiatives</a>, said the truancy issue has left the South Side neighborhood with a lot of children learning from others on the street.</p><p>&ldquo;The ex-offenders, the alcoholics, other persons who are just not productive in the community life and those are the ones they&rsquo;re around. And so, it puts them in the way of violence,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;It puts them in the way of doing things that puts them and the community at risk.&rdquo;</p><p>One long-term effect of chronic truancy, Jones explained, is that young people in the community aren&rsquo;t rewarded for getting ahead in school.</p><p>&ldquo;Those who do wrong get celebrated when they come back from prison. They come back, there&rsquo;s a cluster of guys who welcome them back,&rdquo; said Jones. But he feels that kind of welcome&rsquo;s not extended to returning college students.</p><p>&ldquo;You come back and you may have somebody who not as thrilled about you coming back,&rdquo; he said.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Another victim: CPS</span></p><p>So kids are directly hurt by chronic truancy and, according to Jones, a whole community can be, too. But as we dug into this question about the absence of truancy officers in Chicago, we found that there&rsquo;s likely another victim: CPS.</p><p>Public school districts are reimbursed by the state and federal governments based on how many kids show up. This complicated formula can be likened to a mortgage calculator.</p><p>A 2010 internal CPS report, <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-12-24/news/ct-met-truancy-report-20121224_1_anti-truancy-plan-truancy-and-absenteeism-attendance-data">obtained by the Tribune</a>, suggested CPS could have garnered an additional $11.5 million in state funds if district attendance that year had been just 1 percent higher. Or, in numbers more people can digest, CPS estimated it lost $111 each time a student missed a day.</p><p>Jackson and his reporting team found that more often than not, truancy officers practically paid for themselves.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Will Chicago ever welcome back truancy officers?</span></p><p>Jackson and his Tribune colleagues looked at how other school districts around the state and country tackle truancy. Jackson said in many districts, dedicated truancy officers could handle a key function of finding who was missing on any given day of school, and then prioritizing which ones to reach out to. The kids, Jackson, said, were often findable.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s not that they disappear into a Bermuda Triangle,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>But do observations like this an argument make an argument in favor of truancy officers?</p><p>CPS doesn&rsquo;t take it that way.</p><p>&ldquo;I think that tackling attendance truancy and attendance is really an &lsquo;it takes a village&rsquo; issue,&rdquo; said CPS&rsquo; Dhupelia. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s not something that the district can tackle alone. It&rsquo;s something that families need to tackle, that the district needs to tackle, it&rsquo;s something that community partners, elected officials need to help tackle.&rdquo;</p><p>It so happens Chicago&rsquo;s truancy problems are being tackled by elected officials and other stakeholders. The legislature created a <a href="http://www.isbe.state.il.us/TCPSTF/default.htm">Chicago Public Schools Truancy Task Force</a> to recommend how to improve CPS&rsquo; attendance record.</p><p>To find out what the task force thinks of truancy officers, Curious City, spoke to one of its members: Jeffrey Aranowski, who&rsquo;s with the Illinois State Board of Education.</p><p>&ldquo;If you look across the state, most all counties have truant officers employed either by districts or regional offices of education, they&rsquo;re very active. CPS seems to be a little bit of an outlier there,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;But again, whether or not that&rsquo;s something that&rsquo;s appropriate or even will be recommended by the task force is yet to be seen.&rdquo;</p><p>The task force&rsquo;s homework is due soon; as of this writing, it&rsquo;s set for the end of July. By then state lawmakers hope to have final recommendations on how to address truancy in CPS schools.</p><p>Perhaps by then, Chicago will know whether the state would like to see truancy officers return to its streets.<a name="addlinfo"></a></p><p><em>Special thanks to David Jackson of the </em>Chicago Tribune<em> and Melissa Sanchez of </em>Catalyst Chicago<em> magazine.</em></p><p><em>Katie O&rsquo;Brien is a WBEZ producer and reporter. Foll<a href="https://twitter.com/katieobez">ow her @katieobez</a>.</em></p><hr /><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Additional information: CPS&#39; current anti-truancy efforts</span></p><p>Chicago Public Schools is currently expanding what it calls SOAR (Student Outreach and Re-engagement) centers. There are currently centers in three city neighborhoods: Roseland, Little Village and Garfield Park. The centers are to support all students who have dropped out or are at risk of dropping out. Across the engagement centers are 15 re-engagement specialists who focus on recruiting and guiding students back into school. CPS says that since the February 2013 launch, SOAR Centers have served 1,615 students.</p><p>CPS&rsquo; Aarti Dhupelia says that over the past several months, CPS has developed a comprehensive attendance and truancy strategy that focuses on the root causes of truancy. That strategy, she says, is two-fold.<a name="def"></a></p><ul><li><strong>Building universal systems in schools that prevent absenteeism: </strong>Coach schools on how to build a positive culture around attendance and helping them monitor attendance regularly. Dhupelia says the district is building data tools to enable documentation and tracking.</li><li><strong>Targeted interventions:</strong> Identifying the root cause of a student&rsquo;s absence and connecting them to resources to address it so that the child can return to a school environment.</li></ul><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Additional information: Definitions</span></p><p>Attendance rate = percentage of days present out of total days enrolled</p><p>Absence rate = percentage of days absent out of total days enrolled; includes excuses, unexcused and suspensions</p><p>Truant: A student who is absent for no valid cause. Valid excuses include illness, death in the family, family emergency, special religious holiday and case-by-case special circumstances.</p><p>Truancy: Being absent without cause for one or more days</p><p>Chronic truancy: Being absent, without an excuse, for five percent of the previous 180 school days (a full school year) &mdash; or, about nine days for CPS students.</p><p>Chronically absent: Missing at least 18 school days, whether excused or unexcused.</p></p> Wed, 04 Jun 2014 17:10:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/what-heck-happened-chicagos-truancy-officers-110282 Global Activism: Manos Unidas helps deaf children in Nicaragua http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-manos-unidas-helps-deaf-children-nicaragua-109506 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/manos unidas.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><a href="http://www.manos-unidas.org/">Manos Unidas</a> provides access to sign language education and learning resources to the deaf community in Nicaragua. Marie Coppola, founder and co-chair of Manos Unidas, updates us on what&rsquo;s new with her organization.<iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/128707905&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=true" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><a href="https://www.facebook.com/ManosUnidasNica">Manos Unidas</a> says its mission is, &quot;to ensure equal access to educational and vocational opportunities for deaf children and young adults by providing access to sign language, Spanish literacy, numeracy, and real-life job skills so they can become contributing members of society and in the deaf community.&quot;</p></p> Thu, 09 Jan 2014 09:52:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-manos-unidas-helps-deaf-children-nicaragua-109506