WBEZ | magnet schools http://www.wbez.org/tags/magnet-schools Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Emanuel defends proposed property-tax hike for schools http://www.wbez.org/story/emanuel-defends-proposed-property-tax-hike-schools-90330 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//story/photo/2011-August/2011-08-09/Emanuel_3.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has promised to take on City Hall’s budget gap without raising taxes. But he’s taking a different tack with red ink at the school district he controls.<br> <br> Emanuel on Tuesday defended a $150 million property-tax hike proposed by Chicago Public Schools last week.<br> <br> “We’ve got to make the tough choices,” Emanuel told reporters.<br> <br> The mayor praised the school district for trying to balance the books without packing more kids into classrooms. “We’ve not only protected the classroom, we’ve expanded educational choices and opportunities for the parents that rely on the school system,” Emanuel said.<br> <br> Emanuel pointed to new charter schools and additional funds for magnet schools, full-day kindergarten, a teacher-training academy and security cameras.<br> <br> The schools budget also includes hundreds of millions of dollars of program cuts affecting students. The reductions range from staffing at “turnaround” high schools to a dual-language pilot program.<br> <br> The district is also trimming its central office. “I have no tolerance for an overblown bureaucracy,” Emanuel said.<br> <br> But some Chicago aldermen say school officials should cut more spending before turning to homeowners and renters.<br> <br> CPS says the owner of a $250,000 home would pay about $84 more each year and that property-tax payers would face a separate levy for school construction.<br> <br> Asked whether the city could do anything to shift school funding away from the property tax, Emanuel stuck to the theme of his news conference: economic development. He said he was trying to generate revenue by encouraging job creation.</p></p> Wed, 10 Aug 2011 04:01:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/emanuel-defends-proposed-property-tax-hike-schools-90330 Diverse neighborhoods, segregated schools http://www.wbez.org/story/news/education/diverse-neighborhoods-segregated-schools <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//IMG_0238 fixed.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>In neighborhoods across Chicago where development and gentrification have taken hold, middle-income families are staying in the city and raising children. But there’s one aspect of city life many have been slow to embrace: their nearby public school. WBEZ looks at the dynamics that come into play when higher income neighbors don’t feel the neighborhood school is good enough for their kids.</p><div>Jeff Rosen thinks he lives in one of the best neighborhoods in Chicago, the area around the University of Illinois.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>ROSEN: We’re a vibrant university community, a very racially and socioeconomically diverse community.&nbsp; We’re really a microcosm of the entire city.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>And every morning, all the middle-class public schoolkids in the community scatter across the city, to more than a dozen magnet and gifted schools where they’ve won seats in the district’s lottery.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Last year, Rosen applied to all those schools for his kindergartener. He says you don’t realize how difficult the Chicago schooling situation is until you’re in it. Pretty soon, Rosen had a stack of rejection letters.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>ROSEN: You know, your greatest fear takes hold, and you think to yourself, ‘My gosh. I don’t have any option for the fall.’ Other than the neighborhood school, which you don’t consider to be an acceptable environment for your child.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><i>Ambi: Smyth school kindergarteners and first graders read details they’ve written about toads</i></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>More than 600 kids attend Rosen’s neighborhood school, Smyth. Rosen’s daughter has a guaranteed seat here, no lottery needed. But nearly all Smyth students are black, and nearly all are poor, many from public housing.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>It’s essentially a segregated school, one of dozens that exist in otherwise diverse Chicago neighborhoods.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>And Smyth is struggling. It posts some of the worst test scores in the city. In fact, scores here are 20 points below the district’s average for both African-American and poor students. Rosen never even considered sending his daughter here.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>That stirs up a lot of emotion in Delora Scott-Wimberly, a Smyth parent who’s had to explain to her seventh grader why white people won’t send their kids to her school.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>SCOTT-WIMBERLY: If you come inside and get an actual visit of the school, then maybe they’ll change their perception of the actual school and the people that’s inside of it.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><i>Classroom ambi, 6<sup>th</sup> grade </i></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Inside Smyth, the spacious, 100-year-old classrooms are bright and welcoming, floors polished until they gleam. Smyth’s main hallway features fish tanks and flags from around the world. Every kid here studies Mandarin and is part of the highly touted International Baccalaureate program.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Principal Ronald Whitmore was an award-winning teacher and oversaw early childhood education for the entire school district before coming to Smyth. But just about every other year since Whitmore arrived, CPS has closed a low-performing school nearby, and assigned those kids to him.&nbsp;Whitmore says his attention is on improving Smyth.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>WHITMORE: I can only welcome people that come. I can’t make people come that don’t want to.&nbsp; So we’re focusing on how to make Smyth a better place for the students that choose to come here.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>O’NEILL: Smyth— I think the principal is doing a very good job there. It is not yet seen, however, as an acceptable alternative.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>That’s Dennis O’Neill, speaking to the Chicago Board of Education. O’Neill directs the well-connected University Village Association. He’s met privately with top CPS officials and twice with the mayor about getting what he calls an acceptable school option for the neighborhood.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Demands from O’Neill’s group are probably the main reason CPS is thinking about adding magnet school seats to this area—O’Neill says fixing Smyth is a long-term project. He says people’s property values are on the line—and so is a plan to build 2,000 more market-rate homes here.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>A segregated school is something nobody wants.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>MURPHY: They say, ‘Oh, it’s not socio-economically or racially diverse.’ Someone has to start that trend.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Tamara Murphy has a second grader at Smyth.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>MURPHY: They were willing to move into this area knowing it’s not racially diverse. If they were willing to take that step in the real estate market, then why not be willing to go all the way and diversify the school system?</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>ORFIELD: Most people who move into a neighborhood like this are not racist. They’re perfectly willing to be in a diverse setting—but they don’t want to be the only one.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Gary Orfield is a national expert on racial integration in schools. He says integration leads to equity—and it brings connections and resources that middle-income families possess to kids who need them.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Orfield says few urban school districts have figured out how to promote integration in schools like Smyth. Chicago has a tiny bag of tricks to lure higher-income parents into neighborhood schools—things like gifted programs, and preschools that charge tuition.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>But while CPSspends lots of time and money promoting diversity in magnet schools—it has nooverarching strategy for supporting integration in dozens of neighborhood schools where that would be possible.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>That leaves a lot up to parents.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>EDELBERG: So here’s our lunchroom. We turned it into Bistro Louis</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Jacqueline Edelberg is showing me around Nettelhorst School in Lakeview. It’s become the textbook example of a local school that middle-class parents finally bought into. Today, every inch of Nettelhorst is covered with painted murals. There is a new science lab and a jaw-dropping kitchen <span style="color: navy;">…<br> <br> </span></div><div>EDELBERG: All of this is the work of people in this neighborhood who wrapped their arms around the school and said, ‘We want this school to be the heart of the community.’</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>In her book, <i>How to Walk to School</i>, Edelberg describes how she and a small group of parents took nine months to get the school to a point where their friends would enroll their children. Scores were still dismal, but parents signed on.&nbsp;Looking back, Edelberg says the transformation was both maddeningly difficult and “shockingly easy.”</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>KAHLENBERG: It’s not as if the school has to overnight has to turn to 50-50. If the kindergarten class is economically mixed, that’s the key variable.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Richard Kahlenberg says as few as 10 or 15 kids can meaningfully integrate a classroom. Kahlenberg helped design Chicago’s new magnet school admissions policy, which mixes kids up by income.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>He says high-poverty schools aren’t good for anyone—not for poor kids, and not for middle-income kids either. At Nettelhorst, integration has meant higher test scores for minority and low-income students. But every year there are fewer of those students represented at the school… that is a whole other story.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>There’s been an interesting side effect to the debate over schools near UIC: people are looking more closely at Smyth.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Leslie Thomas lives four blocks away. She’s applying to magnet schools for her five-year-old—the deadline is today. But she’s also visited Smyth, and is considering&nbsp;it, even if her son would be the only white kid. He wouldn’t be the only kid, she points out.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>THOMAS: I didn’t move here so that we could drive across town and go to school in another neighborhood. I moved here so that we could contribute to this neighborhood. We’re torn and we’re really trying to think about what the best thing for our son and our community is right now.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Thomas has hung flyers up near her loft development…to try to find other families who might be interested in looking at Smyth. She says no one has called her back yet.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Maybe they will when rejection letters go out from the city’s magnet schools.</div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 17 Dec 2010 10:58:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/news/education/diverse-neighborhoods-segregated-schools New admissions criteria for top Chicago schools http://www.wbez.org/story/new-admissions-criteria-chicagos-top-schools <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//story/photo/2010-November/2010-11-04/2690663984_0bea7ab6a5.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>More than four weeks into the application period, Chicago Public Schools finally laid out the admissions criteria for its vaunted magnet and selective enrollment schools Thursday.</p><div>The new policy makes a handful of significant modifications to a complex formula the school district came up with last year, which relies on socio-economics rather than race to determine admissions.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Numbers show that formula resulted in more white students being admitted to the top elementary schools than in previous years. African-American students saw their representation at top schools decrease, both at the elementary and high school levels. The admissions policy was changed after a federal judge ended the district&rsquo;s decades-old desegregation plan last September.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The new policy unveiled Thursday still divides the city&rsquo;s students into four different tiers based on the socio-economic characteristics of the census tracts where they live. To determine what tier a particular census tract falls into, the district considers five factors: median household income, the percentage of single-parent households, educational attainment, home ownership and the percentage of households that speak a language other than English at home.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>This year, the district will also consider a sixth characteristic: whether a neighborhood&rsquo;s attendance-area school is low- performing. If it is, that could give students an advantage.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Adding that sixth neighborhood characteristic means the tier designation has changed for more than 86,000 students across the city.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Schools chief Ron Huberman said the goal of the complicated formula is to maintain racial diversity in the schools without actually considering race in admissions.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The district had said last year it would be presenting permanent policy this year, but Huberman highlighted the need to continue to monitor the effects of the admissions policy.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;We may need to tweak it again, it may need to be altered again,&quot; Huberman said.&nbsp;&quot;Until we actually live through it for a year, and we see how it impacts schools. We don&rsquo;t really know for sure.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Other changes include:</div><div>&nbsp;</div><ul type="disc" style="margin-top: 0in;"><li><b>A greater emphasis on socio-economic tiers.</b> Last year, 40 percent of selective enrollment seats were given to students based on strict rank-order scores, without consideration for what socio-economic tier they came from. This year, 30 percent of students will be admitted that way; the remaining 70 percent of seats will go to the top-scorers within each tier. &nbsp;District models show this will mean slightly more seats for African-American and Latino students and fewer places for white students.</li></ul><div>&nbsp;</div><ul type="disc" style="margin-top: 0in;"><li><b>Support for keeping siblings together at magnet schools.</b> In magnet schools, all open seats will go first to siblings. Parents will now be allowed to link magnet school applications of twins or triplets. This will make it easier for same-aged siblings to be admitted to the same magnet school.</li></ul><div>&nbsp;</div><ul type="disc" style="margin-top: 0in;"><li><b>Continued opportunities for students to transfer under No Child Left Behind to top schools.</b> Top-performing students from dozens of the district&rsquo;s lowest-scoring elementary schools will again be given the opportunity to attend the top high schools. But this year, they will have to apply for the program and test in. The district will target these students through a special recruitment campaign.</li></ul><div>&nbsp;</div><ul type="disc" style="margin-top: 0in;"><li><b>Safeguards to keep schools from re-segregating.</b> This is the first provision of the policy that actually takes race into account. If a magnet school enrolls more than 50 percent of its students from any one race, and 50 percent of the school&rsquo;s students also live nearby, a safeguard is triggered, and the lottery held that year will not include a preference for neighborhood children.</li></ul><div>&nbsp;</div><ul type="disc" style="margin-top: 0in;"><li><b>Fraud provisions.</b> Families will now have to verify their address before enrolling. If they move between the time they apply and the time they enroll, they must prove they lived at the application address or the application is voided. Principals at elementary magnet schools will not be given discretion to admit students.</li></ul><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Despite going through meticulous calculations and modeling showing the effects of particular changes, the district said it will still allow principals at selective enrollment schools to set minimum cut scores. Those cut scores last year resulted in fewer students being admitted from the most disadvantaged socio-economic tiers.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Many of the changes were recommended by a blue-ribbon panel of educators and activists that looked at the effects of the district&rsquo;s policy last year. Among them was Mary Davidson, who served as a monitor for the district&rsquo;s desegregation plan for a decade in the 1980s. At that time the desegregation order included provisions forcing the school system to provide compensatory services at racially isolated schools.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Davidson hadn&rsquo;t been involved in desegregation issues for 20 years, and she said it put a knot in her stomach to return to find so many of the city&rsquo;s children still attending racially isolated schools.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;I said, 'How can we have these same conversations that we had 20 years ago?'&rdquo; Davidson said.&nbsp;&ldquo;I came back to this surprised that we had abandoned the racially isolated schools&mdash;that part of the [desegregation] plan. And we were focusing solely on selective enrollment&mdash;really, very few seats for thousands of children.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>But Davidson says she is heartened by what she perceives to be the district&rsquo;s commitment to keeping integrated CPS schools racially diverse. The panel will re-convene next year to track the effects of this new policy.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The Board must still approve the policy and is inviting public input before then on its website. The Board is expected to vote on the policy at a Nov. 17 meeting.</div></p> Fri, 05 Nov 2010 00:05:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/new-admissions-criteria-chicagos-top-schools