WBEZ | Chicago Public Schools http://www.wbez.org/tags/chicago-public-schools Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Chicago High Schoolers Launch Website Against School Food http://www.wbez.org/sections/food/chicago-high-schoolers-launch-website-against-school-food-113980 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Foodfight.png" alt="" /><p><p>Two years ago, something pretty revolutionary happened in Chicago Public Schools.</p><p>The district made every meal in nearly every CPS lunchroom free for every student.</p><p>The idea was to end the mountains of <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-01-13/news/ct-met-cps-lunch-fraud-20120113_1_free-lunches-reduced-price-lunches-lunch-applications">sometimes fraudulent</a> lunch paperwork, move lunch lines faster, reduce stigma on low-income kids and make it easier for everyone to get a school meal.</p><p>Given the new federally subsidized program, officials expected to see a big bump in the number of kids who take the meals.</p><p>But that&rsquo;s not at all what happened.</p><p>Instead, that number dropped by about a million lunches in the first year and more than 800,000 in the second, according to CPS records (The drop did accompany enrollment declines in the district but outpaced them).</p><p>So what happened? Why would so many kids reject food that had become completely free for everyone?</p><p>&ldquo;Because that food is disgusting,&rdquo; said one North Side high schooler who recently talked to me in a lunchroom while munching Flamin&rsquo; Hot Cheetos with a Powerade. She didn&rsquo;t want to share her name.</p><p>Junior Shirley Hernandez will share her name. She&rsquo;s one of the honors civics students (taught by Roosevelt High School&rsquo;s Tim Meegan) who this month launched the <a href="https://rhsschoollunch.wordpress.com">School Lunch Project </a>website and a <a href="http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/petition-to-improve-school?source=c.em.cp&amp;r_by=14594209">petition </a>to change food in the district. Students complain of brown lettuce, soggy gray broccoli, plastic found in burgers and frozen, mealy fruit.</p><p>They say it&rsquo;s unhealthy, unappetizing and overly processed.</p><p>&ldquo;We want bigger portions, more nutritious food and [food] partly handmade from scratch,&rdquo; Hernandez said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s a human right to have decent food, not the lowest quality of food.&rdquo;</p><p>If CPS and its caterer Aramark (which also arrived two years ago) can&rsquo;t produce better food, the Roosevelt students say they want permission to eat off campus or even go home for lunch as other Chicago students have done in the past or currently do.</p><p>As it stands today, the students are presented with a menu of mostly processed fast food dominated by pizza, burgers and chicken patties. And Roosevelt civics student Duyen Ho believes this could create problems for their long term health.</p><p>&ldquo;The fact that we eat fast food every day is going to affect us in the long term,&rdquo; said Ho. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s going to affect us a lot.&rdquo;</p><p>Recent changes to the National School Lunch Program have required that the meals deliver less fat and sodium and more fiber than previous lunches. But CPS records show that the three most frequently served entrees &mdash; pizza, cheeseburgers and chicken patties &mdash; are still <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/cps-reveals-only-ingredients-its-chicken-nuggets-arechicken-nuggets-109963">full of preservatives, fillers, stabilizers and additives.</a></p><p>The School Lunch Project website details these ingredients, shares links to research materials (including some written by this reporter) and offers a gallery of sometimes graphic lunch photos. So far the site has gained attention and comments from parents, students, teachers and a even a supportive CPS principal. &nbsp;</p><p>The CPS central office sent a statement to WBEZ saying &ldquo;the health and wellness of our students is among our top priorities, and we will look into the students&rsquo; questions about their meals.&rdquo;</p><p>Aramark, for its part, says it became aware of the website through social media and is &ldquo;looking into it with CPS and the principal.&rdquo; &nbsp;But the company said it had not heard about the specific complaints listed on the site from staff or students directly.</p><p>Still, this week the Roosevelt students plan to take their protest beyond the online world. They&rsquo;re planning a schoolwide lesson on school food Wednesday followed by lunch boycotts among upperclassman Thursday and Friday. Next Monday, they say, they plan to take the lunch boycott schoolwide, and even to partnering schools.</p><p>CPS and Aramark get a $3.15 federal payment (that they share) for each school lunch a student takes, so thousands of students brown-bagging it for even a day could cost them several thousand dollars.</p><p>&ldquo;I think it&rsquo;s especially important for young people in Chicago &mdash; where we see so much corruption, cronyism and nepotism &mdash; that they learn how to make change within large organizations,&rdquo; said Tim Meegan, who&rsquo;s taught at the Albany Park school for 14 years. &ldquo;This is just one of many diverse tactics that we are trying to teach young people so they are fully equipped to participate as citizens in a democratic society.&rdquo;</p><p>Meegan&rsquo;s not your average mild-mannered instructor.This year he <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/politics/ct-33rd-ward-lawsuit-met-20150303-story.html">ran for alderman</a> in the 33rd ward, backed by the Chicago Teachers Union. And last month some of his students <a href="http://chicago.suntimes.com/news-chicago/7/71/1014017/roosevelt-high-school-students-walk-out-protest-cuts">staged a walkout</a> to protest budget cuts in the district. Meegan says he asked his five civics classes to come up with a project to work on this year. Across the board, he says, they wanted to work on changing school lunch.</p><p>The Roosevelt lunch protest adds to a chorus of complaints about school food that have appeared this year in the <a href="http://www.hancockhs.org/apps/news/show_news.jsp?REC_ID=374953&amp;id=0">Hancock High School newspaper </a>&nbsp;and by CPS students who&rsquo;ve shared photos of their <a href="https://twitter.com/search?q=%23dishorditch&amp;src=typd">lunch on Twitter</a>.</p><p>Still, few CPS food protests have garnered this level of attention. Tim Meegan says last week he got a call from the city&rsquo;s school board asking to arrange a meeting with the civics class students. &nbsp;</p><p><em>Monica Eng is a food and health reporter for WBEZ. Follow her at </em><a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng"><em>@monicaeng </em></a><em>or write to her at </em><a href="mailto:meng@wbez.org"><em>meng@wbez.org</em></a></p></p> Mon, 30 Nov 2015 08:32:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/sections/food/chicago-high-schoolers-launch-website-against-school-food-113980 Is a national policy on school milk boosting lunchtime waste? http://www.wbez.org/news/national-policy-school-milk-boosting-lunchtime-waste-113813 <p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">One day this fall, first grader Russell Muchow brought his usual bagged lunch from home to Kellogg Elementary School in the far Southwest Side Beverly neighborhood. &nbsp;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">When it came time for lunch, he wanted to have a cold milk. But when he asked for a carton in the lunch line, his mom Molly Muchow says Russell was told, &ldquo;in order to take the milk (he) had to take the lunch.&rdquo;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/20151103_122235_resized.jpg" style="height: 500px; width: 281px; margin-left: 10px; margin-right: 10px; float: right;" title="Inside school garbage can. (WBEZ/Monica Eng)" />But the 6-year-old already had a lunch and if he took a second one, he&rsquo;d just have to throw it away. It didn&rsquo;t make sense to him. So when he got home, Molly Muchow says, &ldquo;he was distraught&rdquo; over being told he had to take food he couldn&#39;t eat. &ldquo;That is not what we teach them at home. We don&rsquo;t throw out food. That is unacceptable.&rdquo;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">Muchow says she called up the Kellogg school &nbsp;lunch director (Chicago Public Schools officials did not respond to WBEZ requests to interview the lunch director.) and basically got the same message: kids can&rsquo;t take free milk unless they take the whole meal.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">&ldquo;So I said I&rsquo;d just pay for the milk extra,&rdquo; Muchow recalled. &ldquo;And [the lunch director] told me it would actually be better for me to have him take the lunch even if he was going to throw it out, for budget reasons, and numbers and for them.&rdquo;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">This may sound outrageous from a food waste perspective, but from a school money angle, it&rsquo;s true.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">That&rsquo;s because for each child who takes the full meal &mdash; which includes an entree with milk and a side of fruits or vegetables</span>&nbsp;&mdash; the U.S. Department of Agriculture pays CPS $3.15, which it shares with the food service company Aramark.</p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">But if a child just takes a milk, the district and Aramark get nothing from the feds.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">The situation recently dominated a Kellogg Local School Council meeting, but it&rsquo;s an issue that&rsquo;s rooted in federal policy.</span></p><p dir="ltr">&quot;In order for it to be a reimbursable meal by USDA the lunch needs to include all the meal components,&quot; explained USDA regional administrator Tim English. &quot;And that would be a grain, vegetable or fruit, milk and meat or meat alternate. The idea is that we want to provide kids who are taking school lunch with a well-rounded meal.&quot;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/8546053033_e95eaad450_k.jpg" style="text-align: center; height: 349px; width: 620px;" title="Students and parents at a Chicago public school say that when kids just want a single part of a meal--like a milk to go with a home lunch--they are pushed to take an entire free lunch. The full meal triggers payment from the federal government. Some think this could be generating a lot of food waste in schools. (flickr/USDA)" /></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">But it means kids who just want an egg or banana at breakfast, for instance, must take the rest of the meal, even if it&rsquo;s tossed in the garbage.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">Starting last school year, most &nbsp;districts across the country like Chicago&rsquo;s, with a lot of low-income students, adopted the Community Eligibility Provision. That&rsquo;s a USDA program that &nbsp;makes all meals free to all students in the school or district regardless of income. This reduces mountains of free lunch application paperwork and the need to collect money in the lunchroom.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">Students still have the ability to pay 45 cents for milk out of pocket each day. But Northwestern University economist and professor of social policy Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach says the policy doesn&#39;t make that likely.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">&ldquo;Under these circumstances, if you&rsquo;re getting the same thing and you can choose to pay for it or you can choose to get it for free the vast majority of people will choose to get the same item for free instead of paying for it,&rdquo; she said.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">&ldquo;The incentives here are certainly for kids to take what&rsquo;s free and then wastefully dispose of it,&rdquo; she continued, &ldquo;so it seems like there&rsquo;s room for a policy improvement so that kids can get just the milk for free instead of taking the whole meal and then throw part of it away.&rdquo;&nbsp;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">That policy change would require an act of Congress &mdash; which happens to be reviewing the rules around school lunch right now, albeit at a slow pace.</span></p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/nutritionists-raise-glass-whole-milk-new-dietary-guidelines-113390" target="_blank"><span style="display: none;">&nbsp;</span><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/8542429717_dfe01d4a07_k.jpg" style="height: 207px; width: 310px; float: left; margin-left: 10px; margin-right: 10px;" title="The Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture have teamed up to revise the country’s dietary guidelines, as they have every five years since 1980. They aim to drop the longstanding limit on total fat consumption, which could clear the way for whole milk in school meal programs. (flickr/USDA)" /><span style="display: none;">&nbsp;</span></a></div></div><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">There is, however, a window for a quicker fix. CPS could choose to pick up the 45 cent tab when a student wants just a milk, making the less wasteful option an easy option (We found at least one district in Ohio where the superintendent says he decided to start doing this two months ago in response to food waste).</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">Still, CPS rejects the idea, saying it would just cost too much. And, to be fair, this appears to be the stance of most districts across the nation, according to Tim English, the USDA director for the Midwest.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">So if free milk won&rsquo;t be an option in the district, how are the existing choices presented to students? Are kids told they can bring money to buy a milk? Are they encouraged to take more than they want? </span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>We asked CPS to explain exactly how lunch staff are told to present the options, but officials would not talk to us about it. The district also would not give us permission to talk to the Kellogg lunch staff about the procedure they follow on the matter.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">Kellogg parent Jill Zayauskas says she pretty clear about the way the options are handled at her school, and it makes her mad.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">&ldquo;My son was five when he first saw this and if a five-year-old knows wasting food is wrong then the people who plan this program should know that,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;I just don&rsquo;t understand why children are forced to throw away a complete lunch to get chocolate milk and actually encouraged to do that so someone can make their quota. It&rsquo;s all about money&rdquo;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">About half of the money for each meal goes to food service company Aramark, which receives $1.31 for each lunch taken.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">Kellogg mom Emily Lambert says students are getting mixed messages, right when they&rsquo;re in the middle of a food drive.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">&ldquo;My son is coming home every day asking to take food to school to give food to people who don&rsquo;t have it, while in the lunchroom they&#39;re throwing it away,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;They understand that it&rsquo;s wrong to throw away food that you have and you aren&rsquo;t going to eat.&rdquo; &nbsp;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">The USDA is also in the middle of its own campaign to reduce food waste by 50 percent in 15 years.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><em><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">Monica Eng is a WBEZ food and health reporter. Contact her at </span><a href="mailto:meng@wbez.org">meng@wbez.org</a> or follow her on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng">@monicaeng</a></em></p></p> Tue, 17 Nov 2015 05:17:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/national-policy-school-milk-boosting-lunchtime-waste-113813 Cullerton to Chicago Teachers Union: “Of course this would avoid a strike” http://www.wbez.org/news/cullerton-chicago-teachers-union-%E2%80%9C-course-would-avoid-strike%E2%80%9D-113805 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/cullerton.JPG" alt="" /><p><div>Chicago Public Schools has laid off round after round of teachers and other employees over the past couple years. Thousands are gone. District officials and Mayor Rahm Emanuel warn: If the state doesn&rsquo;t do something by February to help CPS with its $500 million budget hole, there&rsquo;ll be even more layoffs.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>John Cullerton is a Chicago Democrat and state Senate president. &nbsp;He says he has a plan, and that plan--outlined in <a href="http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/BillStatus.asp?DocNum=318&amp;GAID=13&amp;DocTypeID=SB&amp;LegId=84279&amp;SessionID=88" target="_blank">Senate Bill 318</a>-- has something for everyone, including lawmakers, the governor, school districts &nbsp;and unions. &nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;That&rsquo;s what a compromise is,&rdquo; Cullerton said. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s what a package is.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>But there&rsquo;s a hitch. Some of the very people Cullerton wants to help - Chicago teachers - their union is not on board.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t know the logic of the teachers&rsquo; union being opposed to the bill,&rdquo; Cullerton said. &ldquo;I think it&rsquo;s maybe because, you know, the Board of Ed is for it and, therefore they have to be against it. That&rsquo;s all I can figure, you know? The mayor&rsquo;s for it, they&rsquo;re against it because they had a fight with him in the past.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-teachers-strike-after-talks-fail-102287" target="_blank">Remember the 2012 teachers&rsquo; strike?</a> That&rsquo;s the fight Cullerton is referring to. And there&rsquo;s been talk of a second teachers strike under Emanuel over the district&rsquo;s current finances.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;Of course this would avoid a strike,&rdquo; Cullerton said. &ldquo;There wouldn&rsquo;t be any need for them to lose their pension pick-up in their contract negotiations. There wouldn&rsquo;t be any layoffs. I don&rsquo;t know what else they&rsquo;re striking about.&rdquo;&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;Three-eighteen is not about stopping a strike. Three-eighteen is about destroying our school system,&rdquo; said Stacy Davis Gates, the legislative coordinator for the Chicago Teachers Union.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Davis Gates is referring there to something Cullerton himself wants the bill to accomplish. &nbsp;Along with peppering Senate Bill 318 <a href="http://chicago.suntimes.com/politics/7/71/851622/cullerton-introduce-federal-funding-bill-property-tax-hike" target="_blank">with things like</a> a property tax freeze to get Gov. Bruce Rauner in, and teacher pension payments for Emanuel, Cullerton added a remake of the state&rsquo;s school funding formula--one of his own major goals. He says under the way state government currently gives money to schools, poor districts like Chicago don&rsquo;t get the money they should and wealthier districts are getting more than they should.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>So Cullerton&rsquo;s bill puts an expiration date on the current way Illinois funds schools. In effect, he says he wants to end a bad system to make way for a better one. But Davis Gates with the Teachers Union says the union has a big problem with that. You can&rsquo;t end school funding first coming up with a way to replace it, she argues.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;This bill, again, is irresponsible,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;You cannot say that we are providing a solution to a problem when you eliminate the entire revenue stream to the school district.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The teachers union also wants big things that aren&rsquo;t in Cullerton&rsquo;s bill, like a new income tax system and an elected Chicago school board. &nbsp;In the meantime, the clock is ticking on Chicago Public Schools. District leaders say they have only a few months before cuts will be necessary - right in the middle of the school year.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><em>Becky Vevea contributed to this story. She is an education reporter for WBEZ. You can follow her @WBEZeducation.&nbsp;</em><em>Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics for WBEZ. Follow him @tonyjarnold.</em></div><div>&nbsp;</div></p> Mon, 16 Nov 2015 13:34:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/cullerton-chicago-teachers-union-%E2%80%9C-course-would-avoid-strike%E2%80%9D-113805 CPS students can finally eat what they grow http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-students-can-finally-eat-what-they-grow-113692 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/SchoolGardenmurthy.jpg" title="Surgeon General Vivek Murthy looks at a tomato that a Lindblom Math and Science Academy student gardener picked. Murthy joined students as they collected food for the first school garden harvest that would make it into their lunchroom as part of an Eat What You Grow program in Chicago Public Schools. (WBEZ/Monica Eng) " /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">Gardens in Chicago Public Schools have been sprouting up faster than you can say &ldquo;want some extra zucchini&rdquo;? And studies have long shown that children are much more likely to eat produce they&rsquo;ve grown themselves.<p>But for years, CPS officials considered school garden produce <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2010-10-19/health/ct-met-school-gardens-20101019_1_cps-spokeswoman-monique-bond-chartwells-thompson-school-garden">too dangerous</a> to serve in cafeterias. Then, quietly in 2013, the district decided to reconsider the policy and launched a program called &ldquo;Eat What You Grow.&rdquo;</p>Today, more than 80 schools have gone through safety training to allow students and faculty to bring produce into the classroom and even work it into lunchroom food.<p>That was the goal of a morning harvest this week at Lindblom Math &amp; Science Academy, where students joined U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy in the garden to pick Swiss chard, lettuce, radishes and tomatoes.</p><p>&ldquo;Kids spend so much of their life at school and school can be a place where they develop a foundation for healthy living,&rdquo; said Murthy, holding a colander of chard. &ldquo;So to the extent that educators can help kids develop healthy habits with nutrition and activity, to that extent they can help them build a foundation for healthy life thereafter.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/SchoolGarden2.jpg" title="Radishes, lettuce, tomatoes and lettuce were among the vegetables and fruits in the first lunchroom harvest at Lindblom Math &amp; Science Academy this week. (WBEZ/Monica Eng) " /></div><p>Drew Thomas, the school garden coordinator for CPS, sees the program as a powerful tool to connect kids to healthful foods.</p>&ldquo;We recognize the research that has demonstrated the value of a farm-to-school approach to nutrition education,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;And our school gardens are kind of the pillars of that program.&rdquo;<br /><p>&ldquo;Last year, we spent more than $3 million to bring in more than 4 million pounds of local produce into the dining center,&rdquo; Thomas said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s regularly featured on the school menu, but if students don&rsquo;t have a relationship to that food they don&rsquo;t choose those options when they are available. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s programs like this that really help them build that relationship from seed to harvest.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p><p>After an hour of harvesting, Murthy had to leave for the airport. But the students gathered their vegetables in tubs and carried them up to the cafeteria for the big debut. What happened to the produce after that is unclear, as CPS officials refused to let the media see Lindblom&rsquo;s lunchroom.</p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ food and health reporter. Follow her at <a href="http://twitter.com/monicaeng">@monicaeng</a> or write to her at meng@wbez.org</em></p></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 06 Nov 2015 18:42:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-students-can-finally-eat-what-they-grow-113692 Two Chicago schools inch closer to integration after divided vote http://www.wbez.org/news/two-chicago-schools-inch-closer-integration-after-divided-vote-113625 <p><p>The decision on whether to merge, and integrate, two schools on opposite ends of the income divide is being kicked upstairs to top Chicago Public Schools officials.</p><p>The local school council (LSC) at Ogden International School voted seven to six in favor of a possible merger with nearby Jenner Academy of the Arts. The meeting lasted four hours and included seven presentations from parents both for and against a merger. &nbsp;</p><p>Ultimately, the council does not have jurisdiction to approve a merger, but Ogden principal Michael Beyer said he wouldn&rsquo;t move forward with the idea without the council&rsquo;s support. Although the vote was largely symbolic, six members of the 13-member council chose to abstain.</p><p>The idea of a merger has grown increasingly contentious, in part, because the two schools are so different when it comes to race and family income.</p><p>Ogden is one of the city&rsquo;s most privileged, with just <a href="http://iirc.niu.edu/Classic/School.aspx?schoolId=150162990252380">18 percent of students qualifying for free lunch</a> (the CPS average is 86 percent, the statewide average is 52 percent). Just under 50 percent of Ogden children are white, while CPS&rsquo;s white population is around 9 percent. The school attendance boundary serves families in the downtown Gold Coast, River North and Streeterville neighborhoods.</p><p>Jenner sits next to where the Cabrini-Green public housing towers once stood. It serves mostly black, mostly low-income children who still live in the area or once lived in the area, but now commute in from other neighborhoods.</p><p>Academically, the schools are polar opposites as well. Ogden&rsquo;s test scores are ranked at the top of the district, while Jenner&rsquo;s are among the lowest, which is concerning to some Ogden parents.</p><p>But Jenner Principal Robert Croston said it&rsquo;s concerning to hear parents using &ldquo;very veiled language around test scores&rdquo; to imply the Jenner students would hurt the Ogden children&rsquo;s scores. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;I promise you this, if I gave you my children&rsquo;s economic status&hellip; I&rsquo;m sure those test scores would be very similar,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Over the summer, a group of Ogden parents <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/merger-gold-coast-school-cabrini-green-school-would-mean-first-integrated-neighborhood-school">came up with the idea of merging</a> with Jenner, and in late September, <a href="http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-09-22/local-school-council-votes-jennerogden-merger-113026">the LSC voted unanimously to move forward</a> with a process that would explore the idea and let other parents -- including those against the merger -- present alternatives to alleviate overcrowding.</p><p>By the <a href="http://cps.edu/About_CPS/Policies_and_guidelines/Pages/facilitystandards.aspx">school district&rsquo;s standards</a>, Ogden is not overcrowded. It is over the building&rsquo;s ideal capacity, but not to the point of being overcrowded yet. However, there is a lot of <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-developers-shell-out-millions-rather-build-affordable-housing-113371">real estate development</a> happening in the school&rsquo;s boundary and <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-cabrini-green-settlement-met-20150913-story.html">a recent settlement</a> between former Cabrini residents and the Chicago Housing Authority could mean the return of public housing families who were displaced after the towers were torn down. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>Over the last month, parents split up into different task forces to explore overcrowding solutions. A couple of the groups advocated for delaying a decision, one sought to bring in an outside expert, and another proposed building a $5 million addition on the roof of the current Ogden East building or converting sections of the school&rsquo;s parking ramp into mobile classrooms, at cost of around $3 million.</p><p>Regina Stein, a parent of two children at Ogden, said under the district&rsquo;s formula, depending on how grades would be divided among the three buildings after a merger, Jenner could be over 100 percent capacity on the first day of school next fall.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/imagejpeg_0.jpg" style="height: 720px; width: 540px;" title="" /></div><p>But other parents disagreed that the formula was an issue.</p><p>&ldquo;I walked the hallways of Jenner and I counted more than 20 empty classrooms, so you can&rsquo;t tell me you&rsquo;re going to put these two schools together and we&rsquo;re over capacity,&rdquo; Sandeep Soorya said. The CPS formula was <a href="http://blogs.suntimes.com/backtalk/2013/03/whats_wrong_with_cps_school.html">criticized in 2013</a> when the city&rsquo;s closed 50 public schools for not always capturing how classrooms are used in a school.</p><p>By the time the meeting started at 6:00 p.m., 547 people signed <a href="http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/a-bigger-better-ogden-now">a petition in support</a> of the merger. Another 161 signed a <a href="http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/vote-against-ogdenjenner-merger">petition against the merger</a> and 103 signed a petition to <a href="http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/one-year-extension-ogden-expert-task-force">postpone</a> a decision.</p><p>Last Friday, the principals of the two schools, Croston and Beyer, released a strongly worded joint statement about how consolidating the two schools would not only<a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/no-simple-answers-chicagos-severely-overcrowded-schools-107651"> resolve overcrowding at Ogden and under-enrollment at Jenner</a>, it would begin a &ldquo;process of healing the harm done by the historical legacy of segregation based on race and class&rdquo; in the Near North community.</p><p>&ldquo;Waiting for the perfect plan to develop is, in our opinion, an attempt to indefinitely delay this consolidation in order to avoid facing uncomfortable realities in our society,&rdquo; they wrote. &ldquo;As Dr. King stated in Letter from a Birmingham Jail, &lsquo;justice too long delayed is justice denied.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>The Jenner local school council, which has several vacancies, was scheduled to vote lastFriday, but did not have a quorum. A special meeting is scheduled for this week.</p><p>Jenner parent Mary Owens was at the Friday meeting and said she doesn&rsquo;t understand why there&rsquo;s so much opposition.</p><p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t see anything negative about it,&rdquo; Owens said. &ldquo;If one school is overcrowded and you have one that&rsquo;s underpopulated, it&rsquo;s the logical thing to do.&rdquo;</p><p>Ultimately, CPS CEO Forrest Claypool and the Board of Education have the sole authority to approve a school action. Under <a href="http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/fulltext.asp?GAID=11&amp;SessionID=84&amp;GA=97&amp;DocTypeID=SB&amp;DocNum=630&amp;LegID=55459&amp;SpecSess=&amp;Session=">state law</a>, Claypool would have to make a recommendation for a merger by December 1 and hold at least three more public hearings in order for the two schools to combine next fall.</p><p dir="ltr">It remains unclear if this will happen.</p><p dir="ltr">A new set of draft guidelines were released late Tuesday that allow for schools to consolidate, as long as there&rsquo;s support from the community.</p><p dir="ltr">The change comes despite a promise made in 2013 that no schools would close or consolidate for five years after the city <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-board-votes-close-50-schools-107294">shut down 50 all at once</a>.</p><p><em>Becky Vevea is an education reporter for WBEZ. You can follow her </em><a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZeducation"><em>@WBEZeducation</em></a><em>.</em></p></p> Tue, 03 Nov 2015 16:37:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/two-chicago-schools-inch-closer-integration-after-divided-vote-113625 A small tale about a new school, market-based education reforms and Home Depot http://www.wbez.org/news/small-tale-about-new-school-market-based-education-reforms-and-home-depot-113583 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/HOME-DEPOT-villanueva-appliance.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Efrain Raigoza and his wife Lulu have been working for months to get a new Noble charter high school at 47th and California&mdash;and this week they got their wish. Chicago&rsquo;s Board of Education said yes.</p><p>I met the Raigozas at a little rally where the school will be built. They really want to send their 8th grade daughter here&mdash;and now, as long as she wins the admissions lottery, they&rsquo;ll be able to.</p><p>We were talking, and I asked Mr. Raigoza about the possibility of other nearby schools closing because this one was opening.</p><p>Gage Park High School, two blocks from Mr.Raigoza&rsquo;s home, has lost three-quarters of its students as new schools have opened. And now there&rsquo;s this one.</p><p><em>Nosotros no queremos que se cierre ninguna. Cada quien queremos opciones diferentes para nuestros hijos. No estamos de acuerdo en que se cierre una (escuela) para que se abra otra&mdash;tampoco eso no.</em></p><p>&ldquo;We wouldn&rsquo;t want one school to close because another is opening,&rdquo; said Mr. Raigoza. &ldquo;We just want different options for our children. Choices.&rdquo;</p><p>I was about to walk on, when Mr. Raigoza brought up his appliance business.</p><p><em>A todo el mundo nos preocupa que vengan otros negocios y nos cierran. Como a nosotros, cuando vino la Home Depot&mdash;la pusieron allí&mdash;dejamos de vender nuevo&hellip;</em></p><p>&ldquo;We all worry about another business coming in and shutting us down,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;Like me, when Home Depot came in&hellip;.&rdquo;</p><p>He pointed in the direction of the big orange store at 47th and Western.</p><p><em>Vendían mucho nuevo&mdash;traen por mayoreo, muchas trocas. Dejamos de vender nuevo. Vino ese negocio y nos quitó&hellip;</em></p><p>&ldquo;We had to stop selling new appliances&mdash;we just sell used now,&rdquo; Mr. Raigoza says. &ldquo;They took all our business. They buy wholesale and bring truckloads.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Ese negocio cerró dos ferreterías grandotas aquí en la 55 y la Kedzie.</em></p><p>&ldquo;Home Depot shut down two hardware stores in the neighborhood,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;Big stores. They were here for years.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Alli muchos de mis clientes me dijeron, Oye pues, mira pues&mdash;ya está la Home Depot aquí. O sea, por $100, $150 dólares mas, me compro uno nuevo. Mejor me voy alla. Mas barato.</em></p><p>Raigoza says a lot of his customers told him, &ldquo;Look, Home Depot is here. For $100, $150 more, I can just buy a new appliance. I&rsquo;ll probably go there.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;Competition,&rdquo; says his friend, sitting next to him at the rally.</p><p>Of course, Noble charter schools are not the Home Depot. And delivering education is more complicated than selling appliances. &nbsp;Lots of people believe competition is helping schools get better. Others say it&rsquo;s leading to winners and losers.</p><p>Mr. Raigoza says people want choices. That&rsquo;s a big concept right now in education&mdash;one that sounds right to Mr. Raigoza&mdash;despite his being on the losing end of that same system in his business life.</p><p><em>Nunca me preguntaron si estaba de acuerdo en que se abriera. Pero no me hubiera opuesto de todos modos.</em></p><p>Mr. Raigoza says nobody ever asked him if a Home Depot should locate in the area&mdash;but he wouldn&rsquo;t have opposed it, he says. He&rsquo;d also like a Walmart here. Something to bring the neighborhood up.</p><p>The Raigozas daughter will apply to the new Noble school. If she wins the lottery she&rsquo;ll be in the first class of freshmen a year from now.</p><p>The school will be Noble&rsquo;s 17th campus. The charter network says it wants to increase its market share of students by 50 percent over the next five years.</p><p>I asked the school district the same question I had asked Mr. Raigoza. CPS isn&rsquo;t saying whether dozens of shrinking high schools might fold in this education marketplace.</p><p><em>Linda Lutton is a WBEZ education reporter. Follow her @WBEZeducation</em>.</p></p> Mon, 02 Nov 2015 09:10:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/small-tale-about-new-school-market-based-education-reforms-and-home-depot-113583 Fight over charter school signals philosophical differences in how schools are viewed http://www.wbez.org/news/fight-over-charter-school-signals-philosophical-differences-how-schools-are-viewed-113541 <p><div><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/NOBLE.JPG" style="height: 465px; width: 620px;" title="Noble supporters gathered for a small rally this week at the site where they hope the charter network’s 17th campus will be built. The school board votes on whether to approve the charter school today. (WBEZ/Linda Lutton)" /></div></div><div>The architectural renderings feature a gleaming, state-of-the-art school. The $25 million construction tab will be completely paid for by a private donor.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The school operator&mdash;the Noble Network of Charter Schools&mdash;is one of the city&rsquo;s most successful charters, with its mostly Latino and black students posting high ACT scores and its graduates in colleges across the country.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The proposed site, at 47th and California, is a vacant industrial lot, begging for re-development. The surrounding community, largely Mexican, has flocked to Noble&rsquo;s existing schools, drawn to the focus on discipline, character and college.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Most other schools on the Southwest Side are at capacity&mdash;by some measures even overcrowded.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>And despite all that, the proposal to open a 17th Noble campus has stirred up months of intense controversy that has peaked this week, as Chicago&rsquo;s board of education is slated to vote on the new Noble campus today.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;We are seeing charter schools coming in and obliterating every other school in its area,&rdquo; said Marcos Ceniceros at one of many hearings that have drawn hundreds of people over the past months, in favor and opposed.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Opponents like Ceniceros, an organizer with the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, have compared Chicago&rsquo;s high school landscape to the Hunger Games, with schools <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tMVivG-CELA" target="_blank">pitted against each other</a> for students and resources&mdash;and death being the near-certain outcome for schools that don&rsquo;t attract enough students.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Ceniceros is certain a new Noble school will siphon students, teachers, and programming from Kelly High School, five blocks away. &nbsp;Kelly has already lost a third of its students and $4 million in recent years as five new high schools have opened nearby.</div><div><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/IMG_35961.jpg" style="height: 465px; width: 620px;" title="(WBEZ/Becky Vevea)" /></div></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>A protest Monday with students and the Chicago Teachers Union used a &ldquo;Day of the Dead&rdquo; theme to dramatize the impact a new school would have on the community; protesters built coffins with schools&rsquo; names on them, and an altar to programs lost to budget cuts&mdash;including AP classes, athletics, and &ldquo;teachers&rdquo;&mdash;presumably for the union teachers who will lose their jobs as students shift to charter schools.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/IMG_35981_0.jpg" style="height: 400px; width: 300px; float: right; margin-left: 10px; margin-right: 10px;" title="In a protest with a Day of the Dead theme, students and Chicago Teachers Union members carry coffins with the names of existing schools and money lost in recent budget cuts. The protesters say expanding charter schools will siphon money away from existing schools. (WBEZ/Becky Vevea)" /></p><div>Not everyone sees shifts in the school landscape as a negative.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;Parents are actively choosing schools when they&rsquo;re opting into a high-performing school, so this is actually a positive thing,&rdquo; says Robin Lake, director of the Center for Reinventing Public Education (CRPE), which came up with the <a href="http://www.crpe.org/research/portfolio-strategy" target="_blank">&ldquo;portfolio&rdquo; model of school reform</a> Chicago is following.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;Folks are being given more opportunities and options, and they&rsquo;re making positive choices for their families.&rdquo; Lake says that at CRPE, &ldquo;we tend to focus more on the families than the institutions&mdash;what do they need and what options are they being given?&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>That focus on individual students and families as opposed to the health of particular schools represents a deep philosophical departure from the way groups like Brighton Park Neighborhood Council see things. Executive director Patrick Brosnan says BPNC asks one question about any proposal before deciding to support or oppose: &ldquo;Are (these plans) going to make our schools better and stronger? And this Noble proposal is clear, it would not make any of the schools that exist right now&mdash;it&rsquo;s not going to make any of them any better.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>For a decade, Chicago has followed the school reform strategy it laid out in its Renaissance 2010 program: improve the entire system by adding new &ldquo;high quality&rdquo; schools. That program launched the expansion of Noble-- from a single charter high school to 16 campuses today, with<a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/noble-maps-out-massive-charter-school-expansion-feds-support-it-113392" target="_blank"> plans and federal funds</a> to add eight more campuses in the next five years. &nbsp;Those plans are aimed at Noble grabbing 15 percent of the high school &ldquo;market share.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>But the city&rsquo;s school reform strategy, and Noble&rsquo;s expansion plans, have clashed this year with dire fiscal, political, and educational realities to a degree unseen before.</div><div>&nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;</div><div>The district&rsquo;s finances are so dismal it&rsquo;s warning that thousands of teachers may be laid off mid-year. Eighty-four percent of aldermen signed a moratorium on charters (Ald. Ed Burke did not sign: his ward includes the proposed Noble site the school board votes on today). And the city is facing a <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-has-high-school-13-freshmen-113524" target="_blank">severe under-enrollment crisis</a> at high schools&mdash;even high schools not yet shrinking out of existence have seen <a href="http://chicago.suntimes.com/news-chicago/7/71/1014017/roosevelt-high-school-students-walk-out-protest-cuts" target="_blank">deep budget cuts.</a></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The reality heightens the drama behind every additional high school opening.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>And Noble&rsquo;s success further complicates the situation. Neighborhood by neighborhood, Noble schools tend to attract<a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/big-sort-110502" target="_blank"> a disproportionate share of higher performers</a>, leaving other nearby schools with lower performers and needier students.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><strong>Never a reason to say &ldquo;no&rdquo; to a high-performing school</strong></div><div>Debates over Noble charter network&rsquo;s expansion have featured hours of testimony at public hearings from Noble parents and students who praise the school.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;Noble has had a big impact on his life since he&rsquo;s been at Gary Comer,&rdquo; parent Gregory Harris said of his son&rsquo;s success at one of Noble&rsquo;s South Side campuses. &ldquo;The teachers are great&hellip;. They helped him so much&hellip;he scored a 30 on his ACT.&rdquo; The crowd snapped and clapped in approval.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t know anything about taking money away from anybody, any community,&rdquo; Harris said. &ldquo;I know what Noble has done, and I&rsquo;ve seen what it has done in a community that needed a school like Noble.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Noble schools are so successful on the ACT exam, they are nipping at the heels and even surpassing the city&rsquo;s selective-enrollment schools, which admit students based on grades and test scores. (Noble schools require an application for admission but no minimum grades or test scores.) Of the district&rsquo;s 25 highest performing high schools (as measured by composite 2014 ACT scores, the most recent data available), eight are Noble schools.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Is there ever a circumstance in which a district should turn down a high-performing charter school that wants to expand?</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>For Robin Lake at the Center on Reinventing Public Education, that answer is essentially no.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;I have yet to come across a situation where a neighborhood has too many high-performing schools,&rdquo; says Lake. &ldquo;This is not our problem right now. Our big cities are in desperate need of new, high-performing schools and pathways for kids to escape poverty and crime and to get into college and productive careers.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Lake says half-empty school buildings are a costly challenge for school districts&mdash;and she admits that closing high schools, which alums and neighborhoods feel deep ties to, has been particularly challenging. (In Chicago, protests have forced the school district to commit to re-opening at least two neighborhood high schools it had closed, <a href="http://catalyst-chicago.org/2012/02/last-ditch-efforts-aim-stop-school-closings-turnarounds/" target="_blank">Crane </a>and <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/dyett-high-school-hunger-strike-ends-after-34-days-113000" target="_blank">Dyett</a>).&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Lake says other cities have tried to locate new charters or district-run schools in under-utilized buildings to revitalize them.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><strong>District must take overall impact on the broader system into account</strong></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Three miles from the new proposed Noble site, along the same major east-west street, Tilden Career Academy High School has just 311 students this year&mdash;in a school built for 2,000.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>There, principal Maurice Swinney is concerned about his students&mdash;and how adding more schools to the system affects them.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;I do not want another charter school in the area,&rdquo; says Swinney, who says the district needs to &ldquo;cease and desist on charter schools for a moment&rdquo; so remaining schools can &ldquo;stabilize.&rdquo; Swinney has been credited by many as leading a turnaround at Tilden&mdash;it&rsquo;s now a demonstration school for the University of Chicago&rsquo;s Network for College Success&mdash;but that has not reversed a downward enrollment spiral.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;By constantly allowing other schools to be built, we&rsquo;re taking away other kids&rsquo; experiences,&rdquo; says Swinney.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>He says his students&mdash;an astounding 39.5 percent of whom are special education students&mdash;include many who came from charters but couldn&rsquo;t hack the rules or were kicked out. Other principals at neighborhood high schools have noted the same pattern.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;If we create selective enrollments and charters schools and other places that I feel like don&rsquo;t accept the most vulnerable children, I think the moral responsibility for any city is to support those that do--in a way that helps those schools flourish in terms of their academic, social, and behavioral outcomes,&rdquo; says Swinney. &ldquo;There has to be a larger city re-investment around the most vulnerable children.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Montclair State University professor Katrina Bulkley has researched the portfolio model of school reform, which makes the school district responsible for managing a set of diverse, autonomous schools. Think of a stock portfolio manager: &nbsp;the idea here is for the district to open high-performing schools and close low-performing schools.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Bulkley says Chicago must carefully monitor what is happening to all students in the system.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;The portfolio idea is kind of a &lsquo;rising tide lifts all boats.&rsquo; So that by opening new schools and potentially closing schools you&rsquo;re overall offering a better educational experience for all the students in the system. And one of the questions in a case like this is&mdash;what is happening to the students who are not in these high-performing schools?&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Bulkley says the city must think very carefully about opening any new school &ldquo;because of the kind of tipping point that Chicago has reached, at the high school level, where the opening of any individual new school may result in the unsustainability of one or more existing schools.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Maureen Kelleher, a Back of the Yards resident and charter school parent who sat on a neighborhood advisory committee charged with evaluating Noble&rsquo;s Southwest Side campus proposal, said committee members who raised questions about the impact of a new school on existing schools were told those were &ldquo;parking lot&rdquo; issues--to be set aside and dealt with at a later date.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><strong>Politicization of the process&nbsp;</strong></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>In many ways, both sides are right.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Noble has helped thousands of students advance; their schools are safe and high performing. They are orderly and focused. The network has helped many low-income and immigrant students make it to college. &nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>And Brighton Park neighbors opposing the expansion are also right&mdash;opening a new Noble high school will almost certainly sap nearby existing schools of students and resources, and result in painful budget cuts.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Noble&rsquo;s most recent school to open, ITW David Speer, drew 262 students from the Steinmetz High attendance boundary, and 162 from Foreman&rsquo;s attendance boundary. Both schools were among the city&rsquo;s top losers for enrollment and budgets this year.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Noble says 2,400 students currently travel from the Southwest Side, where the 17th campus would be located, to other Noble campuses. &ldquo;We see a ton of support and demand on the Southwest Side,&rdquo; says Matthew McCabe, the network&rsquo;s director of government affairs.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>McCabe says Noble Street does not have to be a zero-sum game in Chicago.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;This is anecdotal, but we see more families that would otherwise go to the suburbs or would otherwise go to Catholic school or private school come into the system and stay with Noble,&rdquo; says McCabe.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Overall, however, the total number of high school students in the district has remained essentially flat over the last decade (grades 9-12, not counting alternative students).</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;I think the focus should be on quality options around the city,&rdquo; says Andrew Broy, executive director of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools. &ldquo;I think the best evidence of whether a community wants a school is whether the community sends their children to that school. &nbsp;And on that question there&rsquo;s no dispute,&rdquo; says Broy. &ldquo;There are literally thousands (of Southwest Side) &nbsp;families that have already chosen Noble.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Broy says despite Noble&rsquo;s success, including being named the best charter school network in the nation, &ldquo;this has been the most challenging expansion environment for Noble. But it&#39;s been the most politicized charter environment we&#39;ve ever had in Chicago.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Broy laments that &ldquo;we can&rsquo;t have any sort of hearing on a charter that winds up being a rational discussion of the merits of an application&rdquo; and says more and more he sees elected officials being asked to choose sides.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;Charter schools are becoming a litmus test for politicians,&rdquo; he says.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The Chicago Teachers Union has said school closings will be a &ldquo;<a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/noble-maps-out-massive-charter-school-expansion-feds-support-it-113392" target="_blank">natural consequence&rdquo;</a> of opening more charters. &nbsp;Expanding charters will almost certainly weaken the teachers union--one of &nbsp;Emanuel&rsquo;s most persistent foes.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><em>Becky Vevea contributed to this report.&nbsp;</em><em>Linda Lutton is a WBEZ education reporter. Follow her and Becky Vevea at <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZeducation" target="_blank">@WBEZeducation</a>.&nbsp;</em></div></p> Wed, 28 Oct 2015 13:08:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/fight-over-charter-school-signals-philosophical-differences-how-schools-are-viewed-113541 Chicago has a high school with 13 freshmen http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-has-high-school-13-freshmen-113524 <p><div><img alt="" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/4853491803_a05b514aee_b.jpg" style="height: 412px; width: 620px;" title="(flickr/KT King)" /></div><div>Chicago has a high school with just 13 ninth graders. That&rsquo;s the entire freshman class: 13.</div><div><p>This isn&rsquo;t a specialty school, or a school for expelled students, or an alternative school. It&rsquo;s a regular Chicago public high school. Just 13 freshmen signed up this year to attend Austin Business and Entrepreneurship Academy High School on the city&rsquo;s predominantly black West Side.</p><p>And Austin Business is not alone.</p><p>Two other high schools located inside the same building have enrolled just 20 and 24 freshmen each. Three separate principals oversee the three schools.</p><p>Then there&rsquo;s Hirsch Metropolitan High School on 79th and Ingleside: It has 22 ninth graders.</p><p>Chicago International Charter School&rsquo;s Larry Hawkins campus in Altgeld Gardens registered only 37 freshman.</p><p>In all, a dozen high schools across the city have 50 or fewer students in the freshman class. And<a href="http://www.wbez.org/programs/marketplace/2015-10-16/surprising-power-ninth-grade-113374" target="_blank"> ninth grade is usually the largest in a high school</a>.</p><p>Since <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/future-uncertain-chicagos-neighborhood-high-schools-108834">WBEZ first wrote about dramatic underenrollment at high schools</a> in 2013, things have only gotten worse. Enrollment at many of the schools is so low, it raises questions of whether they can recover. &nbsp;</p><p>Official district enrollment numbers show Chicago now has 38 high schools with fewer than 400 high schoolers each. That&rsquo;s fewer students than even advocates of small schools say is needed to provide a solid education. Under the district&rsquo;s student-based budgeting, the numbers in some cases are not enough to pay for the principal and a full set of teachers.</p><p>And there&rsquo;s another fallout: running such small schools is tremendously inefficient, costing taxpayers and the district extra at a time when Chicago Public Schools is seeking help from Springfield just to get through the year without massive layoffs.</p><p><strong>Long-time neighborhood schools</strong></p><p>The city&rsquo;s withering high schools include institutions that have educated generations of Chicagoans and have been seen as community pillars: Bowen, Collins, Corliss, Fenger, Harper, Hirsch, Manley, Richards, Robeson, Tilden--all are teetering. But it isn&rsquo;t just neighborhood schools. Some charter schools and high schools that draw from the entire city find themselves in a similar bind, struggling to recruit students in an environment in which CPS has continued to rapidly open additional high schools in an effort to improve school quality--even though enrollment is not growing.</p><p>Nearly all schools with dramatically declining enrollment have one thing in common: they serve predominantly African American students on the city&rsquo;s South and West sides. Their students are some of the poorest, most vulnerable in the city.</p><p>The racial disparity raises questions about how school choice plays out in a segregated city, and whether neighborhood schools--particularly in low-income African American neighborhoods--are viable in Chicago&rsquo;s current school choice environment.</p><p>&ldquo;The fact that we have schools where they are only enrolling 13 freshmen is really part of this ideology of configuring public education in a kind of market model,&rdquo; said <a href="http://www.sociology.northwestern.edu/people/faculty/core/mary-pattillo.html">Mary Pattillo</a>, a sociologist at Northwestern University who authored a study on how families are participating in Chicago&rsquo;s system of school choice.</p><p>Pattillo says schools that don&rsquo;t capture parents, don&rsquo;t market themselves, or don&rsquo;t attract students-- &ldquo;they&rsquo;ll just die. But while those schools are dying, there are students in those schools dying with those schools,&rdquo; Pattillo said. &ldquo;And the inability of those schools to provide a high-quality education despite their high desire to do so is not acceptable.&rdquo;</p><p>Peter Cunningham sees benefits in a more market-driven system. Cunningham is the executive director of the national education reform group Education Post and was spokesman under Arne Duncan, who launched the city&rsquo;s Renaissance 2010 initiative--which opened more than 100 new schools --and closed others--in an effort to improve education in Chicago. &ldquo;There is a consequence to choice,&rdquo; says Cunningham. &ldquo;You&rsquo;re going to have schools that are losing enrollment either because kids don&rsquo;t want to go there or they&rsquo;re not providing the kind of education kids want.&rdquo;</p><p>Cunningham says that without Chicago&rsquo;s plethora of high school options, there might be better enrollment in the neighborhood high schools, but &ldquo;it&rsquo;s also possible that we would have lost a whole lot of families who would have chosen private schools or moved out of the city.&rdquo; Still, he admits, &ldquo;We can&rsquo;t afford to have more schools than we have students.&rdquo;</p><p>CPS spokeswoman Emily Bittner declined to answer questions about high school under-enrollment and would not say whether the city should brace for massive school closures at the high school level. She also would not authorize principals from under-enrolled schools to speak.</p><p><strong>High schools dying a slow death &nbsp;</strong></p><p>A massive expansion in the number of high schools in the city--opened in an effort to create high quality schools and expand options for students--has contributed to the under-enrollment crisis being faced &nbsp;today by many schools.</p><p>In 2004, Chicago had 88 high schools and 99,275 high schoolers. Today the city has 140 high schools (a 59 percent increase) for 100,670 students in grades 9-12 (a 1.5 percent increase). That&rsquo;s not counting alternative students or schools, which have also expanded exponentially.</p><p>With each new high school that opens, other schools in the system face enrollment declines. A dozen recently opened high schools added grades and students this year and are slated to continue expanding. In September, CPS agreed to re-open Dyett High School following a hunger strike protesting the its closure. And on Wednesday, the school board <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-gives-two-new-charters-green-light-puts-10-warning-113502">will vote on whether to green light another new charter high</a>, set to open in the fall.</p><p>At the same time, fully one-third of the city&rsquo;s high schools are withering.</p><p data-pym-src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-dailygraphics/dailygraphics/graphics/13freshmen/child.html">&nbsp;</p><script src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-dailygraphics/dailygraphics/graphics/13freshmen/js/lib/pym.js" type="text/javascript"></script><p>Under Chicago&rsquo;s school choice system&mdash;students can go to high school anywhere they&rsquo;re accepted, including other neighborhood schools. This year, 14 percent of Chicago&rsquo;s 100,670 high schoolers go to a selective enrollment school they test into, including&nbsp;<a href="http://interactive.wbez.org/schools/the-big-sort.html">nearly all the city&rsquo;s highest performing students</a>. Another 24 percent go to charter schools. Numbers from prior years suggest about 30 percent of students go to their attendance-area neighborhood school, and the rest go to&nbsp;magnet, military or other neighborhood schools&mdash;which might offer arts, IB, career-education or STEM programs. For low performers, neighborhood schools offer something that&rsquo;s increasingly difficult to find: a high school kids can enroll in without having to apply months in advance or meet a minimum threshold for grades or test scores.</p></div><p><strong>Varied reasons for declining enrollment</strong></p><p>CPS officials have frequently cited declining enrollment in the black community as a reason for the low enrollment numbers, but that is not always the case.</p><p>In Hirsch High School&rsquo;s attendance boundary, for instance, the number of CPS high school students living within the boundary has remained constant for the past eight years. But in Chicago&rsquo;s choice environment, 95 percent of Hirsch-area students go to selective, charter or other neighborhood schools; just 5 percent choose Hirsch.</p><p>At Tilden Career Academy at 48th and Union, the number of high school students living in the attendance area has actually increased, but enrollment at the school has tanked, despite new leadership that has brought in a digital media program and other partnerships. Tilden is even being featured as a <a href="https://ncs.uchicago.edu/sites/ncs.uchicago.edu/files/uploads/9.24%20Demonstration%20Schools%201-pager.pdf">demonstration school</a> by the University of Chicago&rsquo;s Network for College Success &nbsp;Still, every day, just 311 students arrive at a school built for 2,000. The percentage of in-area students who choose to attend Tilden has dropped to just 8 percent, from 28 percent a decade ago.</p><p>In other cases, the dying schools have no neighborhood attendance boundary at all and could draw students from anywhere in the city, but many are located in tough neighborhoods and have never attracted enough students to thrive. That&rsquo;s the case with Austin Business, the high school with 13 freshmen.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/austin%20high%20school%20building%20google_0.JPG" style="height: 225px; width: 400px; float: right; margin-left: 10px; margin-right: 10px;" title="Austin Business and Entrepreneurship Academy in Chicago. (Google Maps)" /></p><p>Now, the three schools located in what used to be Austin Community High School-- created just a decade ago and sold as improvements over the low-performing school they replaced--are considering a plan to merge into one again and re-establish their neighborhood boundary.</p><p>Declining enrollment can put schools in a downward spiral. Enrollment drops mean lower budgets and &nbsp;cuts. As programs disappear, fewer students want to enroll.</p><p>According to CPS Chief Education Officer Janice Jackson, CPS has had to prop up some schools with fewer than 270 students this year, giving them extra money so they can offer a complete set of courses. The district could not say how much it has spent on such support.</p><p>Paul Hill, a University of Washington professor who devised the portfolio school choice model Chicago is following, has said that if schools have so few students they need extra money to keep going, &quot;<a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/future-uncertain-chicagos-neighborhood-high-schools-108834">you&rsquo;ve got too many schools</a>.&quot;</p><p>Tilden principal Maurice Swinney says the small size absolutely affects what clubs and activities a school can offer. Tilden had no varsity football team this year. It disbanded mid-season last year after losing every game; the few boys on the roster played both offense and defense.</p><p>&ldquo;None of us at Tilden want to give kids any less of an experience than they would get&rdquo; at a bigger school with better funding, Swinney says. But, &ldquo;you have to have uniforms, you have to have equipment, you have to have Gatorade&mdash;you have to have all those things if you&rsquo;re going to have a program. I know if I were a kid I wouldn&rsquo;t want the old uniforms at some point.&rdquo;</p><p>But Swinney says the problem is not only that high schools are under-enrolled--it&rsquo;s that Chicago&rsquo;s small schools enroll kids who tend to be the most vulnerable in the system: &nbsp;&ldquo;students who&rsquo;ve dealt with lots of trauma, you have lots of struggles.&rdquo; At Tilden, 39.5 percent of kids are classified as special education students.</p><p>&ldquo;If we create selective enrollments and charter schools and other places that I feel like don&rsquo;t accept the most vulnerable children, I think the moral responsibility for any city is to support those that do--in a way that helps those schools flourish in terms of their academic, social, and behavioral outcomes,&rdquo; says Swinney. &ldquo;There&rsquo;s this level of neglect for the most vulnerable children, and it&rsquo;s offensive and it&rsquo;s insulting.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>Small schools see gains</strong></p><p>Lisa Barrow, a senior economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago who has <a href="http://www.ipr.northwestern.edu/publications/docs/workingpapers/2013/IPR-WP-13-20.pdf">studied </a>the effect of school size, said high schools that are intentionally designed to be small improve academic outcomes for students. Recent studies have deemed New York City&rsquo;s small high schools a success. Many were created around the same time Chicago&rsquo;s were, as an effort to expand options for students and increase quality.</p><p>But Barrow says large high schools that see withering enrollment are not likely to have the same benefits as intentionally designed small schools that spend time carefully planning their curriculum, hiring, and programming for their particular size, usually 400-600 students.</p><p>John Horan, founder and executive director of North Lawndale College Prep, does not consider the two campuses he oversees as &ldquo;withering&rdquo;--even though both have enrollments that hover around 400 and the district would allow him to enroll at least 200 more students.</p><p>He says population loss in the black community on the West Side is making enrollment more difficult. But he feels his schools are about the right size.</p><p>&ldquo;Our budget office would like a higher number,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;Our teachers would like a lower number.&rdquo;</p><p>Barrow says part of school size does come down to money.</p><p>&ldquo;If you have to hire five teachers to teach 25 kids five subjects, you can&rsquo;t afford to do that.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><p><br /><em>Linda Lutton and Becky Vevea are WBEZ education reporters. Follow them <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZeducation" target="_blank">@WBEZeducation</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 27 Oct 2015 16:05:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-has-high-school-13-freshmen-113524 CPS gives two new charters the green light, puts 10 on warning http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-gives-two-new-charters-green-light-puts-10-warning-113502 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/noble expansion_151026_ll.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago Public Schools is giving two charter schools the green light to open next fall.</p><p>Officials are recommending that the Chicago Board of Education give the Noble Street Network of Charter Schools approval to open a 17th high school in Brighton Park and give <a href="http://www.kippchicago.org/" target="_blank">KIPP Chicago</a> the ability to open a fifth charter grammar school in West Garfield Park.</p><p>Noble&rsquo;s proposal in Brighton Park has been criticized by neighborhood activists, the Chicago Teachers Union, and students of existing high schools in the neighborhood.</p><p>CPS CEO Forrest Claypool said Monday morning that there is demand on the Southwest Side and argued that both Noble and KIPP &ldquo;operate high-quality schools and have consistently done so for their children.&rdquo;</p><p>Claypool says the district is denying the other nine schools that applied to open and putting 10 existing charter schools on a warning list. That warning list could lead to closure by the end of this school year, he said.</p><p>Of the 10 schools on the charter warning list, six are high schools and four are grammar schools.</p><p>The high schools are:</p><ul><li>Amandla</li><li>ASPIRA - Early College</li><li>CICS - ChicagoQuest</li><li>CICS - Larry Hawkins</li><li>Instituto - Justice Lozano</li><li>Prologue - Joshua Johnston</li></ul><p>The grammar schools are:</p><ul><li>Betty Shabazz - Sizemore</li><li>Bronzeville Lighthouse</li><li>Galapagos</li><li>Kwame Nkrumah Academy</li></ul><p>Three were on the warning list last year -- Amandla, Shabazz - Sizemore, and CICS - Hawkins. &nbsp;</p><p>The new schools and the warning list will be <a href="http://www.cpsboe.org/content/documents/october_28_2015_public_agenda_to_print.pdf">voted on by the Chicago Board of Education</a> on Wednesday.</p><p><em>Becky Vevea is a WBEZ education reporter. Follo</em></p></p> Mon, 26 Oct 2015 12:35:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-gives-two-new-charters-green-light-puts-10-warning-113502 What happened to the tacos? http://www.wbez.org/news/what-happened-tacos-113454 <p><div><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Missing%20Taco.jpg" style="height: 413px; width: 620px;" title="Students at Disney II Magnet School in Old Irving Park got chicken al pastor tacos in the lunchroom after engaging in lessons on immigration and cultural fusion. The program was sponsored by Chicago chefs and was supposed to be offered to all Chicago Public Schools last Thursday, but some say the food didn’t get to their schools. (Credit: Jeff Nian)" /></div></div><div>Last week WBEZ reported on a <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago%E2%80%99s-next-top-chef-challenge-cook-all-cps-113347" target="_blank">special taco meal</a> that was supposed to be served in every Chicago Public School along with optional lesson plans about the kind of cultural fusion the taco meal represents. &nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The meals and lesson plans were organized and paid for some of the city&rsquo;s top chefs who have formed a group called Pilot Light.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/CPS%20lunch.png" style="margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px; float: right;" title="At least one Chicago Public School got a lunch menu that looked like this for last Thursday, indicating they would not be getting the special tacos al pastor at all. (WBEZ/Courtesy of Chicago Public School student)" />But WBEZ has heard from staff, parents and students from several Chicago Public Schools that the meal never arrived Thursday. One even shared the school&rsquo;s Thursday lunch schedule, on which the taco meal was crossed out and replaced with another dish.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Another complaint came from Hyde Park parent, William Mitchell, who intentionally sent his son to school without a lunch from home that day because he&rsquo;d heard the WBEZ story. But when his son got home he said they never got the meal.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;My son told me, &lsquo;We just had a bag lunch and I think it was some peanut butter bar fruit and milk&rsquo;.&rdquo; Mitchell recalls. &ldquo;And I was like &lsquo;wait, whoa whoa&rsquo;.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;Mitchell said his son later told him that they ended up serving a taco on Friday.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Still, when WBEZ brought the multiple reports to CPS officials this week, the district would not say how many schools actually did or didn&rsquo;t serve&nbsp;the tacos on Thursday, or at all. Nor did it say what happened to the donated food and money if the meals didn&rsquo;t reach all the schools.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Pilot Light executive director Alexandra DeSorbo-Quinn said she&rsquo;d also gotten reports of schools that didn&rsquo;t get the tacos last Thursday. But after looking into the reports, she says, &ldquo;We haven&rsquo;t heard any reports of schools not getting the tacos at all.&rdquo; &nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>She issued a statement saying:</div><blockquote><div><em>&ldquo;Partnering with CPS and the USDA on this event was a very exciting opportunity for Pilot Light. We introduced our food education curriculum to many more students and teachers across the city by augmenting it with a school lunch&hellip;. As is the case with any first time event, there were challenges. We hope to streamline these in the future and look forward to next time.&rdquo;&nbsp;</em></div></blockquote><div style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/gordita.jpg" style="height: 720px; width: 540px;" title="The Friday after the chefs’ taco lunch was supposed to be served in all schools, CPS high schools served this packaged gordita to students, which could have added to the confusion over the meals. (WBEZ/Courtesy of Chicago Public School student)" /></div><div>One student noted that there could have been some confusion about tacos arriving later because Old El Paso gorditas, served in plastic bags, were served to CPS&#39; high school students for lunch on Friday.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ food and health reporter. Follow her at <a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng" target="_blank">@monicaeng</a> or write to her at meng@wbez.org</em></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div></p> Wed, 21 Oct 2015 15:14:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/what-happened-tacos-113454