WBEZ | chicagolife http://www.wbez.org/tags/chicagolife Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en School board votes to terminate Maine West coach amid hazing allegations http://www.wbez.org/news/school-board-votes-terminate-maine-west-coach-amid-hazing-allegations-104516 <p><p><b id="internal-source-marker_0.0068149082362651825" style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Arial; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">A suburban high school soccer coach still has the support of his former players and students.</span></b></p><p><b id="internal-source-marker_0.0068149082362651825" style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Arial; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">That&rsquo;s after the Board of Education for Maine Township High School District 207 unanimously voted Wednesday night to fire him. &nbsp;&nbsp;</span></b></p><p><b id="internal-source-marker_0.0068149082362651825" style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Arial; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Michael Divincenzo is one of two coaches named in a recent hazing lawsuit. The lawsuit alleges that Divincenzo, other coaches and school staff were aware of a hazing ritual on the Maine West varsity soccer team that led to the sexual assault of four boys. </span></b></p><p><b id="internal-source-marker_0.0068149082362651825" style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Arial; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">A number of former players and students from Maine West High School wrote on a Facebook page created in support of Divincenzo, saying the coach is being made a scapegoat.</span><br /><b id="internal-source-marker_0.0068149082362651825" style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Arial; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">&nbsp;</span></b><br /><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Arial; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Tony Romanucci, the lawyer for the alleged victims, said he wouldn&rsquo;t be surprised if others are let go.</span></b></p><p><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Arial; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">&quot;I&#39;m going to give the school board the benefit of the doubt that they&#39;re not finished with their investigation yet and that Coach Divincenzo was the first to fall,&quot; Romanucci said.</span></b></p><p><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Arial; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">In a written statement, school board president Sean Sullivan said the termination vote does not mean the board agrees with the allegations in the lawsuit.</span><br /><br /><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Arial; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Divincenzo, who is also a tenured gym teahcer, has 17 days to appeal the board&rsquo;s decision with the Illinois State Board of Education.</span></b></p><p><b style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Arial; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Since the allegations surfaced, Maine West has taken several steps to prevent hazing, including having all althletes sign an anti-hazing pledge.</span></b></p></p> Thu, 20 Dec 2012 17:14:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/school-board-votes-terminate-maine-west-coach-amid-hazing-allegations-104516 School leaders say leaked school closing list not part of current plan http://www.wbez.org/news/school-leaders-say-leaked-school-closing-list-not-part-current-plan-104490 <p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F71914067" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>The head of Chicago Public Schools is adamant that there is no plan or list of schools slated to be shut down next year, but public mistrust is not waning.</p><p>It was clear at Wednesday&rsquo;s monthly Board of Education meeting that news about an internal CPS memo <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/education/ct-met-school-closings-1217-20121219,0,4037886.story">leaked to the Chicago Tribune</a> has exacerbated the problem. &nbsp;</p><p>The memo outlined plans to shut down 95 schools across the city and shake up another 25 by firing all the staff or phasing out grade by grade until no students are left.</p><p>Schools chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett immediately went on the defensive, denying such a plan is in use.</p><p>&ldquo;I need to reiterate to this board of education that there is no list of schools to be closed,&rdquo; Byrd-Bennett said. &ldquo;I don&rsquo;t care what is being floated around and I&rsquo;m not sure what is being floated around. We wanted our community engaged at the front end of the process, therefore, whatever plans have been floated are nullified.&rdquo;</p><p>But parents and teachers weren&rsquo;t convinced.</p><p>That&rsquo;s because the leak comes at a time when trust between school officials and the public is at an all-time low.</p><p>Kristine Mayle, financial secretary for the Chicago Teachers Union, gave a personal example of why that is.</p><p>&ldquo;The first time I was personally misled by the board of education was when Arne Duncan told my school, my principal that my school would not be closed,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;Later that year it was.&rdquo;</p><p>Mayle also brought up a WBEZ report that showed that the district <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/truth-squad-enrollment-down-cps-not-much-104297">overstated the number of students it lost</a> in the last decade by using census data, rather than their own enrollment figures. She also noted recent <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/education/independence-independent-schools-commission-questioned-104460">questions about the independence of the group</a> appointed to make school closing recommendations.</p><p>&ldquo;How can the public trust this board of education when they&rsquo;ve been systematically misrepresenting information for the past year?&rdquo; Mayle said.</p><p>Even CPS board member Andrea Zopp called on CPS leaders to be clear with their plans.</p><p>&ldquo;At some point, CPS has to have a view,&rdquo; Zopp said. &ldquo;And my perspective is, we ought to be sharing that view with the public and allowing them to provide some fair commentary about where we&rsquo;re headed.&rdquo;</p><p>Zopp also raised questions about the district&rsquo;s plan to open more than a dozen new schools next year. Eleven had already been approved and six more were okayed by the Board on Wednesday.</p><p>As the head of new schools, Carly Bolger outlined the district&rsquo;s recommendations. Zopp repeatedly asked for specifics about where the new schools would be located.</p><p>&ldquo;As I sit on the board to vote to approve this school when we, CPS, can&rsquo;t say where it&rsquo;s going, while we conduct a review of utilization, how am I supposed to vote?&rdquo; Zopp asked.</p><p>Zopp repeatedly questioned Bolger and said she wants to be sure the schools are opening in neighborhoods where there&rsquo;s a need&mdash;not areas that are already under enrolled.&nbsp;</p><p>Byrd-Bennett pulled two of the four charter schools up for approval but when asked why CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll did not provide specifics, but instead said Byrd-Bennett &ldquo;wanted to do a gut check&rdquo; on the proposals for The Orange School and Foundations College Prep, Carroll did not respond to a request to speak directly with Byrd-Bennett about her reasoning.</p><p>In addition to approving new schools, the Board also appointed five new cabinet level positions. They are: Chief of Teaching and Learning, Annette Gurley; Chief Accountability Officer John Barker; Chief of Innovation and Incubation, Jack Elsey; and Chief Officer of Strategic School Support, Tracy Martin-Thompson; Chief Officer of Networks, Denise Little.</p><p>Gurley is a former CPS principal and network chief and will take over the top position on education issues, which used to be called the Chief Education Officer. Gurley will make $175,000 a year. CPS spokeswoman Robyn Ziegler denied Gurley&rsquo;s appointment to that position last week and did not respond to question about the new name until today.</p><p>Little is also a former CPS principal and network chief. Barker is coming from Memphis Public Schools and will make $175,000 a year, while Elsey, who will earn $165,000 a year, and Martin-Thompson, who will make $170,000 a year, are being brought from Detroit Public Schools, where Byrd-Bennett previously served.</p><p>The new appointments are part of a larger reorganization and are mostly renaming of existing departments. Innovation and Incubation will take over what used to be the Office of Portfolio and the Office of Strategic School Support is absorbing what used to be the Office of School Improvement. There is not a flow chart available yet, Ziegler said.&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 19 Dec 2012 16:27:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/school-leaders-say-leaked-school-closing-list-not-part-current-plan-104490 Investigation timeline: Do urban archaeologists ever take a look inside construction sites? http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/investigation-timeline-do-urban-archaeologists-ever-take-look-inside <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/RS6793_8185623554_6cbbbafb31_b-scr.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><iframe frameborder="0" height="750" src="http://embed.verite.co/timeline/?source=0An_OJm0YASWadE5zdE9SWFlXeTNoczlxYkFqODVxYVE&amp;font=PTSerif-PTSans&amp;maptype=toner&amp;lang=en&amp;width=620&amp;height=750" width="620"></iframe></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/about-curious-city-98756">Curious City</a>&nbsp;is a news-gathering experiment designed to satisfy the public&#39;s curiosity.&nbsp;People&nbsp;<a href="http://curiouscity.wbez.org/#!/ask">submit questions</a>,&nbsp;<a href="http://curiouscity.wbez.org/#!/ask">vote&nbsp;</a>for their favorites, and WBEZ reports out the winning questions in real time, on&nbsp;<a href="http://www.facebook.com/curiouscityproject">Facebook</a>,&nbsp;<a href="http://twitter.com/#!/WBEZCuriousCity">Twitter&nbsp;</a>and the timeline above. &nbsp;</p><p>This round&#39;s winner is Linda Rudy from Chicago&#39;s Old Town neighborhood. Her question is:&nbsp;&quot;Do urban archaeologists ever take a look when streets are torn up for pipes, repairs, foundations?&quot; WBEZ midday producer Susie An will be diggin&#39; deep with this story, perhaps literally.&nbsp;</p><p>Got any leads? Comment below!</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 05 Dec 2012 16:41:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/investigation-timeline-do-urban-archaeologists-ever-take-look-inside What's one thing you can get only in Chicago? http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/whats-one-thing-you-can-get-only-chicago-104083 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/rainbow cone heather quintal.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/investigation-timeline-whats-one-thing-you-can-get-only-chicago-103303">Brenda Guzman asked Curious City</a> to find at least one &quot;thing&quot; you can get in Chicago that you cannot get anywhere else. She says she&#39;s open to interpretation: It can be an object, a food, an experience, a statistic, etc. What do you think? We&#39;re over-achievers and are trying to find not just one thing, but as many as we can. Add your insight via the form below and there&#39;s a chance we&#39;ll include your submission in a song! &nbsp;</p><p>But! Before you start adding Garrett&#39;s popcorn and the like, we challenge you to do a little bit of homework. Ask yourself:&nbsp;</p><ul><li>Can the thing I&#39;m suggesting be experienced or procured outside of Chicago? In the case of Garrett&#39;s, they actually have locations outside Chicago, plus you can ship their popcorn virtually anywhere. In the case of the Chicago Cubs or White Sox, they play games all over the country, so that wouldn&#39;t count, either. Don&#39;t be afraid to get specific. What <em>would </em>count is something along the lines of eating a Chicago-style hot dog at the United Center while watching the Chicago Bulls.</li><li>Does this thing only exist within the Chicago city limits? We hate to elbow out the suburbs and surround areas, but we gotta draw a line somewhere. For example, the Lake Michigan lakefront wouldn&#39;t count because Wisconsin, Indiana and Michigan have that, too.&nbsp;</li><li>Has this suggestion been made already? If so, don&#39;t post it. So far we received and verified (to the extent that we can verify) the following suggestions via the WBEZ Facebook page:&nbsp;</li></ul><ol><li>Nonsensical rivalry between the Cubs and Sox. They don&#39;t even play in the same league!</li><li>Jibaritos</li><li>Polish sausage at <a href="http://www.jimsoriginal.com/jimsoriginal/Locations.html">Jim&#39;s</a></li><li>Pizza pot pie, a la Chicago Pizza &amp; Oven Grinder Co.</li><li>A President of the U.S. who calls Hyde Park his home</li><li>Nighthawks and American Gothic</li><li>Sather&#39;s cinnamon rolls</li><li>Buckinham Fountain</li><li>Anish Kapoor&#39;s Cloud Gate sculpture</li><li>A 75-year-long parking meter contract</li><li>Rainbow Cones</li><li>Kartemquin</li><li><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/27/chicago-has-most-gang-mem_n_1236341.html">The most gang members of any city </a></li><li>The beginning of Route 66</li><li>The nation&rsquo;s worst traffic congestion</li><li>Harpo Studios</li></ol><p>Have at it!</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe frameborder="0" height="640" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0" scrolling="no" src="https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/embeddedform?formkey=dERCVS1QdV9uUEhrcVJ4SmQ5NTk1RHc6MQ" width="580">Loading...</iframe></p><p><script type="text/javascript" src="http://ajax.googleapis.com/ajax/static/modules/gviz/1.0/chart.js"> {"dataSourceUrl":"//docs.google.com/a/chicagopublicradio.org/spreadsheet/tq?key=0Ai7E2pZ6aCZtdERCVS1QdV9uUEhrcVJ4SmQ5NTk1RHc&transpose=0&headers=1&range=A%3AB&gid=0&pub=1","options":{"vAxes":[{"title":"Left vertical axis title","useFormatFromData":true,"minValue":null,"viewWindowMode":"pretty","viewWindow":{"min":null,"max":null},"maxValue":null},{"useFormatFromData":true,"minValue":null,"viewWindowMode":"pretty","viewWindow":{"min":null,"max":null},"maxValue":null}],"titleTextStyle":{"fontSize":16},"title":"Chart title","booleanRole":"certainty","sortColumn":0,"animation":{"duration":500},"page":"enable","sortAscending":false,"pageSize":10,"annotations":{"domain":{"style":"line"}},"hAxis":{"title":"Horizontal axis title","useFormatFromData":true,"minValue":null,"viewWindowMode":"pretty","viewWindow":{"min":null,"max":null},"maxValue":null},"width":450,"height":600},"state":{},"view":{"columns":[0,{"label":"Your suggestion","properties":{"role":"annotation"},"sourceColumn":1}]},"chartType":"Table","chartName":"Chart 1"} </script></p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 28 Nov 2012 13:07:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/whats-one-thing-you-can-get-only-chicago-104083 Investigation timeline: What role does the city play in resettling refugees? http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/investigation-timeline-what-role-does-city-play-resettling-refugees-104050 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/rogers park photo erik allix rogers.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><iframe frameborder="0" height="750" src="http://embed.verite.co/timeline/?source=0An_OJm0YASWadHQwSFRYZHloWC1wRGJtQUtNMTN5bEE&amp;font=PTSerif-PTSans&amp;maptype=toner&amp;lang=en&amp;hash_bookmark=true&amp;width=640&amp;height=750" width="640"></iframe></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/about-curious-city-98756">Curious City</a>&nbsp;is a news-gathering experiment designed to satisfy the public&#39;s curiosity.&nbsp;People&nbsp;<a href="http://curiouscity.wbez.org/#!/ask">submit questions</a>,&nbsp;<a href="http://curiouscity.wbez.org/#!/ask">vote&nbsp;</a>for their favorites, and WBEZ reports out the winning questions in real time, on&nbsp;<a href="http://www.facebook.com/curiouscityproject">Facebook</a>,&nbsp;<a href="http://twitter.com/#!/WBEZCuriousCity">Twitter&nbsp;</a>and the timeline above. &nbsp;</p><p>This round&#39;s winner is Lowell Wyse from Chicago&#39;s Rogers Park neighborhood. His question is:&nbsp;&quot;Does city government actively participate in resettling international refugees, and does it designate certain neighborhoods for this purpose?&quot; WBEZ North Side Bureau reporter Odette Yousef covers a lot of immigrant issues and knows the many communities of Rogers Park well. She&#39;ll be taking on this story in the coming weeks. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>Got a lead to share? Comment below!&nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 27 Nov 2012 15:46:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/investigation-timeline-what-role-does-city-play-resettling-refugees-104050 After this year, Chicago schools could be safe from closure for 5 years http://www.wbez.org/news/after-year-chicago-schools-could-be-safe-closure-5-years-104018 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/cps.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett says after this year, there will be no school closings for five years.</p><p>The announcement comes with direction from Mayor Rahm Emanuel and at the same time school officials are requesting an extension to the state-mandated Dec. 1 deadline for announcing school closures.</p><p>But a five-year moratorium after this year may only serve to soften the blow that could be large-scale school closings at the end of this school year. Rumors have been swirling for months that dozens of schools will be shut down&mdash;anywhere between 80 and 120.</p><p>But members of a commission appointed by Byrd-Bennett to analyze school enrollment, building use and to gather community feedback say that&rsquo;s not the case.</p><p>Frank Clark, the former CEO of ComEd, sits on that commission and said repeatedly at a meeting Monday that &ldquo;there is no list of schools&rdquo; slated for closure.</p><p>Byrd-Bennett appointed that nine-member panel earlier this month. The commission is supposed to make recommendations to her by next spring, but Byrd-Bennett will have the final say.&nbsp;Emanuel also issued a statement in support of the plan this afternoon, saying Byrd-Bennett and her commision on school utilization intend that &quot;Chicagoans will be involved in the conversation about any changes to our district this year....&quot;&nbsp;</p><p>Clark said the Commission on School Utilization will hold five public meetings across the city in the coming weeks and also will try to come up with a list of criteria they plan to use to determine if a school should be closed.</p><p>The five-year moratorium starting next school year hinges on state lawmakers giving Byrd-Bennett and the commission the extra time they&rsquo;re requesting. If lawmakers do not grant CPS a waiver, the moratorium would likely not happen.</p><p>State Sen. Iris Martinez and State Rep. Cynthia Soto have introduced legislation for this week&rsquo;s veto session that would give CPS until March 31st to announce this year&rsquo;s planned closures. Martinez and Soto championed the 2010 school facilities law that established the Dec. 1 deadline.</p><p>If a waiver is granted and a moratorium takes effect down the road, it would only apply to closures and consolidations, not other kinds of school shakeups, like turnarounds. Last month, Juan Rangel, the head of the UNO charter school network, said CPS had been asking charter school operators if they would be willing to do turnarounds or some other kind of neighborhood school takeover.</p><p>It is unclear where charter school fit into the moratorium and CPS officials have been adamant that school closures are not related to charter expansion.</p><p>Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis issued a statement Monday pushing the district to address the charter school question: &ldquo;How can the district cry &lsquo;under-utilization&rsquo; as a justification for school closings while it simultaneously approves the opening of new charter campuses?&rdquo; she said.</p><p>The union wants the district to call a moratorium on school closings this year and have an independent study done to address the cost savings of school closings. School officials say they could save up to $800,000 for every school that is closed, but it is not clear if that includes the costs of demolition or mothballing buildings while they&rsquo;re up for sale.</p><p>At the commission meeting Monday, Frank Clark said school closures are not driven by the budget, but do have budget implications.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 26 Nov 2012 12:30:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/after-year-chicago-schools-could-be-safe-closure-5-years-104018 More standardized tests, more Chicago parents looking for ways out http://www.wbez.org/news/more-standardized-tests-more-chicago-parents-looking-ways-out-103965 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/IMAG0350-1.jpg" title="(Becky Vevea/WBEZ)" /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="http://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F68322094&amp;show_artwork=true" width="100%"></iframe><p>Standing in a friend&rsquo;s kitchen, Sherry Coleman rattles off the list of standardized tests this year at Drummond Elementary school, where she sends her three daughters.</p><p>&ldquo;The REACH test, the Fountas and Pinnell test, the MPG test, the CPS Kindergarten assessment, NWEA, ISAT, EXPLORE test, ACCESS test, Algebra exit exam for 7th and 8th graders, and I know they have the DIBELS,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;Anything else that you guys have that we don&rsquo;t have?&rdquo; she asks the other parents huddled around Sabrina Craig&rsquo;s kitchen counter.</p><p>They&rsquo;re here talking about the testing that happens on almost a monthly basis in Chicago public elementary schools this year.</p><p>In CPS, there are no fewer than 13 different standardized tests that students might come across throughout their school years, and many of those tests are taken multiple times between kindergarten and graduation.</p><p>And these parents aren&rsquo;t very happy about how it all works.</p><p>&ldquo;Some of the kids had to redo the test because the iPad failed and they were doing the math part and half the kids had already done it&hellip; it was taking so long,&rdquo; Cassie Cresswell says about her daughter&rsquo;s school, Goethe Elementary.</p><p>&ldquo;(At a meeting) Grades never came up,&rdquo; says Chris Ball, whose daughter goes to Oscar Mayer Elementary. &ldquo;It was just a series of they&rsquo;re taking this tests and later we&rsquo;ll see on this test and on this standardized test.&rdquo;</p><p>For parent Rita Bramble, whose child goes to Stone Magnet School in Edgewater, it&rsquo;s all the money that gets spent on testing that&rsquo;s frustrating.</p><p>&ldquo;When I&rsquo;m being asked as a parent to fundraise for the art teacher to get a color printer, that really angers me,&rdquo; Bramble says. &ldquo;Because millions of dollars are being spent on these tests that I oppose and we can&rsquo;t even get a color printer.&rdquo;</p><p>But here&rsquo;s the rub: &ldquo;Nobody can really tell me what the benefits of all those tests are either,&rdquo; Coleman says.</p><p>Frustration with testing has been bubbling for a few years.&nbsp;But in Chicago, add some new tests for evaluating teachers, a longer school day, mix in the attention brought to testing by the teachers strike, and it&rsquo;s hitting a boiling point.</p><p>These parents are a microcosm of something happening all over the country&mdash;more parents are boycotting standardized testing&mdash;by simply not letting their kids take certain ones.&nbsp;It&rsquo;s called opting out and nationally, it&rsquo;s gaining momentum, as federal laws push for even more testing in order to evaluate teachers and measure student progress.</p><p>Parents are organizing online in order to have a bigger impact, because, as Coleman puts it, one person opting out isn&rsquo;t going to change the system.</p><p>These parents gathered in Craig&rsquo;s kitchen went to Julie Woestehoff&nbsp;for advice. She helps parents navigate the opt out process. And it&rsquo;s not easy.</p><p>CPS has no official opt out policy and many administrators will tell parents it&rsquo;s simply not allowed.</p><p>That&rsquo;s because a lot rides on student test scores, making opt out all the more risky. Test scores are used to determine if a child can move to the next grade and district officials use test results to classify schools as good or bad. In extreme cases, they also determine when to shut a school down.</p><p>But if people start opting out of standardized tests in large numbers, then what happens?</p><p>&ldquo;If you get a revolt on the part of parents and you only get 70 or 80 or 90 percent of the kids to take the tests then you don&rsquo;t have a true picture of the full enrollment and that&rsquo;s invalid data,&rdquo; says Doug McRae.</p><p>McRae spent more than 45 years in the testing industry, designing national accountability tests for McGraw Hill and working with state and local districts.</p><p>On one hand, he says parents should have a right to opt out of tests they don&rsquo;t find useful, but on the other, districts want to have some way to compare schools accurately.</p><p>His advice?</p><p>&ldquo;Have a stronger policy that says parents should not opt out of their kids taking those tests, but limit the amount of time those tests take,&rdquo; McRae says.</p><p>The barrage of testing in Chicago is partly because CPS is changing how it holds teachers and schools accountable for student achievement.</p><p>A CPS spokeswoman says parents need to know that tests are critical&mdash;because they measure progress and help teachers and administrators know when a student might be struggling.&nbsp; She says before any parent can opt out, the district works to help them understand why having their child take the test is helpful to understanding what they&rsquo;re learning.</p><p>But Drummond teacher Anne Carlson says that&rsquo;s not the case.</p><p>&ldquo;First of all, we already know these things,&rdquo; Carlson says. &ldquo;Even if we look at the children and we see their rank in the class, it&rsquo;s very consistent with what we see already. So it&rsquo;s a waste of time for many of us.&rdquo;</p><p>Whatever the purpose, many parents still want out.</p><p>But given the high stakes placed on the test, Cassie Cresswell is torn.</p><p>&ldquo;To do the business boycott metaphor: I want to boycott the business but my local franchise? I love the owner and the employees,&rdquo; Cresswell says. &ldquo;I love our principal, I love our teachers, it is a great community and I would hate to do something that hurts that school in any way.&rdquo;</p><p>But Sabrina Craig tells her it doesn&rsquo;t need to be that complicated.</p><p>&ldquo;I think there should be some kind of form where you just fill in the form, you check off, I&rsquo;m opting my child out of the following tests, check, check, check,&rdquo; Craig says. &ldquo;Thousands of parents could do all over this city.&rdquo;</p><p>But for now, a spokeswoman for Chicago schools says parents must take all opt out requests to their principals. &nbsp;</p><br /><p>&nbsp;</p></div></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 26 Nov 2012 05:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/more-standardized-tests-more-chicago-parents-looking-ways-out-103965 A look back at – or down from? – Chicago’s observation decks http://www.wbez.org/series/dynamic-range/look-back-%E2%80%93-or-down-%E2%80%93-chicago%E2%80%99s-observation-decks-103901 <p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="http://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F67700461&amp;show_artwork=true" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/sky%20deck%20flickr.jpg" style="float: left; height: 400px; width: 300px;" title="The view down from the Sky Deck at Willis Tower. (Flickr/Ambimb)" />In Saul Bellow&rsquo;s 1987 novel <em>More Die of Heartbreak</em>, protagonist Kenneth Trachtenberg takes his uncle to the observation deck on the 102nd floor of the &ldquo;Electronic Tower,&rdquo; a mammoth skyscraper in an unnamed Midwestern city. Surveying the landscape, the outlook inspires both awe and dread in Bellow&rsquo;s viewers:</p><blockquote><p><em>Any number of disorders can be temporarily forgotten at such a height &mdash; a crime you committed long ago, a fatal error of judgment, even a secret berth of cancer cells &mdash; when you are rapt from yourself with such a view from the 102nd floor. Any amount of human queerness I mean to say, may be checked for a moment, as you face an Egyptian pyramid or a Sistine ceiling.</em></p><p><em>I silently inspected uncle, as he inspected his native city with that cobalt gaze of his. Empty factories, stilled freight yards, upended streets, stretches of river where the water was as still as a fish tank. And then the country side: prairies liberated from the darkness of the city, farmlands under white icing and skies suggesting freedom and eliciting ideas of flight or escape.</em></p><p><em>I wonder if uncle wasn&rsquo;t thinking something like that: What a perfect day to flee.</em></p></blockquote><p>Bellow&rsquo;s Electronic Tower would seem to be a clear riff on Chicago&rsquo;s Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower), with its expansive Sky Deck views at 1,353 feet, or perhaps the Hancock Building, with its similarly impressive and frightening tableaus (though Bellow makes no mention of a strange, waxy ice skating rink in miniature, which one can also find near the top of the Hancock).</p><p>The feelings Bellow describes may be similarly familiar to Chicagoans: City dwellers (and tourists) have always sought out the view from up high, for the way it literally changes our perspective, for the sense of the sublime it brings or for the reminder of our own relative smallness.</p><p>Tony Macaluso, an administrator at WFMT who developed a passion for skyscrapers during his seven years as a guide on Chicago&rsquo;s well-known architectural boat tours, is writing the history of this pursuit. In a forthcoming book due out in 2014, he explores Chicago&rsquo;s love for the tippy-top of tall buildings, starting with our observation decks. As it turns out, the Sky Deck has some pretty good antecedents in Chicago history.</p><p>As the pioneer of tall buildings, Chicago was also a pioneer of the miraculous urban vista, featuring some of the first and most posh observation decks in America.</p><p>&ldquo;Chicago was at (the) forefront of this tourist trend,&rdquo; Macaluso explained at a recent talk. &ldquo;The same year the Eiffel Tower opened, barely six months later is when the Auditorium Building opened,&rdquo; he said, referring to Adler and Sullivan landmark<a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/john-r-schmidt/2011-12-09/december-9-1889-magnificent-auditorium-94530"> that&rsquo;s now part of Roosevelt University</a>. &ldquo;That became the city&rsquo;s first big observation deck. And the comparisons were actually pretty explicit in the press at the time between Chicago and Paris, the Auditorium Building and the Eiffel Tower, even though the Eiffel Tower was four times taller.&rdquo;</p><p>In the audio above, Macaluso delves into the reactions provoked by the Auditorium Building&rsquo;s observation deck. Anyone who has gazed down from the vantage of Willis Tower&rsquo;s Sky Deck will surely understand the particular mix of awe and fear the Auditorium Building inspired in 19th-century Chicagoans.</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/dynamic-range">Dynamic Range</a></em>&nbsp;<em>showcases hidden gems unearthed from Chicago Amplified&rsquo;s vast archive of public events and appears on weekends. Tony Macaluso spoke at an event presented by the Chicago Architecture Foundation earlier this month. Click</em>&nbsp;<em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/chicago-amplified/secret-spaces-atop-chicago-cultural-history-urge-climb-above-city-103424">here</a></em>&nbsp;<em>to hear the event in its entirety.</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Sat, 17 Nov 2012 06:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/dynamic-range/look-back-%E2%80%93-or-down-%E2%80%93-chicago%E2%80%99s-observation-decks-103901 School closings complicated by crowded classrooms http://www.wbez.org/news/school-closings-complicated-crowded-classrooms-103856 <p><p>Leaders at Chicago Public Schools want to close buildings because many have low enrollment.</p><p>But a group of parents has released an <a href="https://www.google.com/fusiontables/DataSource?docid=12eiWHTDrgAuV7QS1TNca5YBYw6joFJ6FMY_EegQ">analysis of state data</a> that throws a curveball into the mix.</p><p>How can a school system have too many buildings and not enough students to fill them, as CPS officials say, but at the same time have overcrowded classrooms?</p><p>Parents with the Raise Your Hand coalition say three quarters of the city&rsquo;s elementary schools have at least one grade with average class sizes above what CPS recommends.</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s this picture, I think right now, of these half empty classrooms in CPS; obviously if you look at the chart, that&rsquo;s not the case,&rdquo; said Raise Your Hand Director Wendy Katten. &ldquo;Even if you have an empty room in a building, they&rsquo;re still cramming kids into classrooms because it would cost money. It&rsquo;s not like they say we&rsquo;ve got an open room, let&rsquo;s hire another teacher.&rdquo;</p><p>CPS plans to close and consolidate schools this year based on enrollment. But closings could affect different parts of the city. Chicago Board of Education member Henry Beinen points out that Chicago has &ldquo;a geographic unevenness, by neighborhood and by area,&rdquo; in the sense that there are more school-aged children living in certain parts of the city than others.</p><p>District spokeswoman Robyn Ziegler said school officials have not seen the report, but noted they&rsquo;ve &ldquo;fought to protect class size despite two years of budget deficits, each nearing $700 million.&rdquo;</p><p>Jeanne Marie Olson did the research and analysis on class sizes using state data. She said she started working on the project in August as a concerned parent and did not think about school closings at the time.</p><p>&ldquo;There are a lot of us out there that are not content with just sitting on the sidelines and being the receivers of such an important thing in our children&rsquo;s lives,&rdquo; Olson said.</p><p>Olson said she hopes the analysis starts a conversation about how CPS calculates school utilization and how it enforces class size limits.<br />&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 14 Nov 2012 19:45:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/school-closings-complicated-crowded-classrooms-103856 ‘Your dad will be able to raise a boy easier than a girl without a mother’ http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/%E2%80%98your-dad-will-be-able-raise-boy-easier-girl-without-mother%E2%80%99-103761 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RS6650_mby009794_g1-scr.JPG" style="height: 414px; width: 620px; " title="Lynette Bisconti and her son, Frank (Photo by StoryCorps)" /></p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="http://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F66683921&amp;show_artwork=true" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>When Lynette Bisconti learned she was pregnant, she was full of joy.&nbsp;But then, a few short weeks later, she got news no parent wants to hear.</p><p>She tells her 14-year-old son, Frank, about her wrenching decision.</p><p>FRANK: &quot;What was going through your head at that time?&quot;<br />LYNETTE: &quot;The only thing that was going through my head was one word, sweetheart. And that word was No. No to cancer and no to the recommendation that everybody was giving me and that was to terminate my pregnancy. So I decided to keep you &hellip; And my pathology report when it came back was really bad. I had an aggressive cancer. It had spread.</p><p>Lynette underwent chemo while pregnant, and then learned she would have a boy.</p><p>LYNETTE: &quot;My first thought was: &#39;Oh, thank God,&#39; because your Dad will be able to raise a boy easier than a girl without a mother.&quot;</p><p>To find out what happens, and hear about the life lessons she passed along to her son, listen to the audio above.</p><p><em>NOTE: Adam Peindl helped produce this report.</em></p></p> Thu, 08 Nov 2012 09:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/%E2%80%98your-dad-will-be-able-raise-boy-easier-girl-without-mother%E2%80%99-103761