WBEZ | Chicago Public Schools http://www.wbez.org/tags/chicago-public-schools Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Teens take lead on free condoms http://www.wbez.org/news/teens-take-lead-free-condoms-110007 <p><p>Chicago school and health officials are wising up to the fact that most of what teens know about sex isn&rsquo;t coming from an adult. It&rsquo;s coming from their friends, and a lot of it isn&rsquo;t accurate.</p><p>&ldquo;You can&rsquo;t just always tell children, &lsquo;Just don&rsquo;t have sex,&rsquo;&rdquo; said Tiffany Seay. She leads CPS&rsquo;s Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s kind of like telling a child don&rsquo;t touch the stove. You need to explain why they can&rsquo;t touch the stove. Because it&rsquo;s hot and if you touch it you might burn your hand.&rdquo;</p><p>With the help of a $19.7 million federal grant, Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Department of Public Health are aiming to tackle that problem. They&rsquo;ve got a pilot free-condom project going at two high schools, where they&rsquo;re using teen peers to help get good information to other students, and to talk up the use of the condoms. The plan is to make free condoms available in 24 high schools next year. And to make them cool.</p><p>According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than half of Chicago teens report having sex, and of those, more than 30 percent aren&rsquo;t using condoms. The city&rsquo;s teen pregnancy rates have been falling, but are still 50 percent higher than the rest of the country.</p><p>Handing out free condoms in schools isn&rsquo;t new, but they usually come from adults. One of the two pilot schools giving out free condoms is Foreman High School. Every Tuesday, a group of trained &ldquo;peer health educators&rdquo; hands out the free condoms outside Room 103. These are Foreman students--familiar faces to other teens.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s only awkward if you make it awkward,&rdquo; said Victoria Torres, one of the peer health educators.</p><p>As part of the pilot, a group of college students from Columbia College recently designed condom dispensers for Foreman and the other pilot school on the west side, Collins Academy. The idea: if you want to get designers that will &ldquo;speak&rdquo; to teens, go to other young people.</p><p>&ldquo;They just came out of high school not long ago,&rdquo; said Tao Huang, the Columbia professor overseeing the project. &ldquo;They kind of understand the mentality. So they are students designing for students.&rdquo;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/IMG_3228.jpg" style="height: 373px; width: 280px; margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px; float: left;" title="Condom dispensers at foreman (WBEZ/ Becky Vevea)" />Huang said the college students talked to the high school students to figure out how the kids wanted to get free condoms--what an effective delivery system would look like. But she said they also found that high school kids thought that the free condoms weren&rsquo;t as good as the ones you buy.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;The whole goal is to get people to use it,&rdquo; Huang said. &ldquo;You have to somehow provide both and you have to make the free ones more attractive to use.&rdquo;</p><p>Late last month, two dispensers designed by Huang&rsquo;s students were delivered to Foreman. They are metal rectangular boxes, painted light blue with red stars--the colors of the Chicago flag.</p><p>Jesus Garcia, another one of the peer health educators at Foreman, said at first kids will probably make fun of the whole thing; they&rsquo;ll throw the free condoms around and make jokes. But eventually, he expects the dispensers will become part of the normal surroundings -- like another locker in the hall.</p><p>&ldquo;I think that two&rsquo;s not enough,&rdquo; Garcia said. &ldquo;I think that we&rsquo;re gonna need more.&rdquo;</p><p>The district plans to make condoms available at more high schools next year and in the future, despite potential pushback from people who think the whole idea encourages teens to have sex.</p><p>The research doesn&rsquo;t back up those claims, and Seay points out there are big consequences to ignoring the fact that Chicago teens are having sex. Data show half of teen parents don&rsquo;t get a high school diploma before age 22.</p><p>&ldquo;If we continue to turn a blind eye on the fact that our youth are becoming parents at young ages, then we&rsquo;ve failed them,&rdquo; Seay said.</p><p><em><span id="docs-internal-guid-a40d8fb4-4d2e-b07e-71b9-33be1e6cb3ca">Becky Vevea is a producer for WBEZ. Follow her </span><a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZeducation">@WBEZeducation</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 10 Apr 2014 14:16:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/teens-take-lead-free-condoms-110007 Morning Shift: The soulful sounds of Brazil's Luisa Maita http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-04-04/morning-shift-soulful-sounds-brazils-luisa-maita <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Cover Flickr retorta_net.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>We get a preview of the Cubs home opener from our WBEZ sports contributor Cheryl Raye-Stout. Plus, we bring you live music from Brazilian chanteuse Luisa Maita.</p><div class="storify"><iframe src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-the-soulful-sounds-of-brazil-s-luisa/embed?header=false" width="100%" height=750 frameborder=no allowtransparency=true></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-the-soulful-sounds-of-brazil-s-luisa.js?header=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-the-soulful-sounds-of-brazil-s-luisa" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: The soulful sounds of Brazil's Luisa Maita" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Fri, 04 Apr 2014 08:41:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-04-04/morning-shift-soulful-sounds-brazils-luisa-maita Museum helps build better science teachers http://www.wbez.org/news/museum-helps-build-better-science-teachers-109924 <p><p>In a science classroom across from the coal mine exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry, the students are sitting at high lab tables, studying Petri dishes full of bacteria.</p><p>At the front of the room, the teacher explains the lesson&rsquo;s objectives&mdash;compare animal and bacterial cells, review pathological and non-pathological bacteria. But there is a broader goal here, one the Museum of Science and Industry wants to help achieve: improve science teaching in Chicago and its suburbs.</p><p>The students here are all teachers, all responsible for imparting science to upper-elementary or middle-school students. It&rsquo;s a job that many in this class&mdash;and many teachers in many grammar schools--feel decidedly unprepared for.</p><p>&ldquo;Definitely, that&rsquo;s why I&rsquo;m here,&rdquo; says Chicago Public Schools teacher Joel Spears. &ldquo;I teach 5th grade, and it&rsquo;s self-contained, so I teach all the subjects&mdash;math, science, language arts, social science. I went in not knowing how to teach science, really. I didn&rsquo;t have the materials or the know-how to even teach it properly.&rdquo;</p><p>Once a month. Spears and dozens other teachers enrolled in this professional development course come to the museum for a day of lessons, curricula, and materials they can then take back to their classrooms across the Chicago metro region. Since the teacher training courses were first offered in 2006, 804 teachers from 320 schools have participated. About two-thirds of teachers are from Chicago public schools.</p><p>Many of the teachers say they&rsquo;re trying to tap into the natural enthusiasm kids have for science&mdash;when it&rsquo;s taught right.</p><p>&ldquo;We did some previous lessons that I learned here, and they love it. They always want to do science,&rdquo; says Spears. &ldquo;&rsquo;Cause it&rsquo;s hands on&mdash;they&rsquo;re not just reading. They&rsquo;re constructing, they&rsquo;re doing.&rdquo;</p><p>On a recent morning, the Museum of Science and Industry instructor runs a lesson exactly as if she&#39;s teaching middle schoolers. The teachers put themselves in their students&rsquo; shoes. They work activities, make Venn diagrams, and then get to the fun part: an experiment with black light and Glo Germ that exposed bacteria still present on their hands, even after washing.</p><p>Near the back of the class, teacher Jonathan Fisher looks at a cell diagram before him and admits this is the first time he has seen flagella since high school. The philosophy major avoided the life sciences in college. Now&mdash;ironically, he says&mdash;he&rsquo;s teaching the subject to fourth graders. He says he can implement certain techniques and lessons almost as soon as he learns them. Others, like a genetics lesson his students loved, take more planning.</p><p>&ldquo;We had an experiment where the students used Styrofoam blocks and different body parts&mdash;so limbs and dowel rods and different-sized eyes,&rdquo; says Fisher, who teaches at Murphy Elementary on the Northwest Side. &ldquo;That was a hands-on way for them to understand how genetics are passed down from one generation to the next. And the classroom couldn&rsquo;t have been more excited, flipping the coins to figure out which genes would be passed on to their kids.&nbsp; (The lesson) took something very abstract like genes and genetics and turned it into something the students could relate to.&rdquo;</p><p>Fisher is one of eight teachers from Murphy who&rsquo;ve been involved in the museum&rsquo;s teacher courses. He said his school is serious about becoming better at teaching science, but he also says it&rsquo;s not hard to figure out what the priorities are in education right now. &ldquo;If it&rsquo;s not reading or math, then it&rsquo;s not an emphasis. Learning to be a teacher, all the other subjects could be cool, but if it&rsquo;s not reading or math, that won&rsquo;t be a focus.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>The role of museums in science education</strong></p><p>There&rsquo;s been a big push lately to improve the teaching of science in American schools, with more focus on STEM education&mdash; Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Andrea Ingram, the Museum of Science and Industry&rsquo;s vice president of education and guest services, says museums can play a role in that.</p><p>&ldquo;One of the challenges in the U.S. in getting kids engaged in science is that we don&rsquo;t have enough really high-quality science teachers in the middle grades&mdash;and that&rsquo;s kind of like the early childhood of science,&rdquo; says Ingram. &ldquo;We either capture kids&rsquo; enthusiasm there, get them committed to science&mdash;or we don&rsquo;t.&rdquo;</p><p>Ingram says museums across the nation are important partners in improving science instruction, especially given tight school budgets. They are popular with philanthropic, business and civic leaders. They can fill specific needs that may vary community by community. And where else can you find tornados, lightning, and real cow eyeballs to dissect?</p><p>Programs like the teacher training courses at the Museum of Science and Industry build important bridges between schools and museums, says Nathan Richie, who chairs the education committee of the American Alliance of Museums: &ldquo;Museums can use the resources at their disposal&mdash;be it the location that they have, the content, the artifacts, the experts&mdash;and help train the practitioners in the classroom to use those to engage students.&rdquo;</p><p>Richie says the role museums are playing in science education has increased with a new national emphasis on STEM education. Ironically, in an age of shrinking budgets and more dictates over how much time students must be in the classroom, Richie says schools take fewer field trips. This is a way of getting the museum into schools.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" height="487" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/IMG_3538web.jpg" title="Teacher Graciela Olmos helps students with a hands-on lesson she learned through the Museum of Science and Industry's courses for teachers. (WBEZ/Linda Lutton)" width="650" /></div><p><strong>Marbles and mechanical energy</strong></p><p>In Graciela Olmos&rsquo; eighth grade classroom at Sawyer Elementary on Chicago&rsquo;s Southwest Side, kids are rolling marbles down incline planes, measuring how far the marbles push a little Styrofoam cup. Olmos first saw this lesson about mechanical energy at the museum.</p><p>Olmos says she&rsquo;s used to being told to teach to higher standards. The museum has shown her<em> how</em>.</p><p>&ldquo;They model for us. This is how it&rsquo;s going to look. And that&rsquo;s something we lack.&rdquo;</p><p>Though she won&rsquo;t say that&rsquo;s the only thing she lacks. &ldquo;We need so many things,&quot; Olmos says. &quot;We need to have science labs with gas lines and sinks. If my specialty is science, then let it be science. Don&rsquo;t give me so many other things to do aside of that.&rdquo;</p><p>Science education professor Joanne Olson says getting dedicated, well-trained science teahcers has been &ldquo;a perpetual challenge for us in science education, particularly at the elementary grades.&rdquo;</p><p>Olson, who is also president of the Association for Science Teacher Education, says she&rsquo;s been advocating for years for schools to have science specialists.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s like the PE teacher,&rdquo; says Olson. &ldquo;You have one teacher who&rsquo;s dedicated to that particular subject area, and that way the teacher can be very well prepared in that area and doesn&rsquo;t have to take on literacy instruction, math, in these other areas.&quot;</p><p>Olson says research shows that 65 percent of elementary teachers have gotten fewer than six total hours of science training in the last three years. &ldquo;And we know that teachers need about 100 hours,&rdquo; she says. &quot;So we&rsquo;re far under. Anything that can be done to help is a good thing.&rdquo;</p><p>A study of the Museum of Science and Industry&rsquo;s teacher training program is being released today by well-known science curriculum expert William Schmidt, of the Education Policy Center at Michigan State University.<br /><br />It finds the teachers trained by the museum know more science&mdash;and, significantly, so do their students.</p><p>The Museum is marking the news of its success with an announcement&mdash;it&rsquo;s committing to train 1,000 middle-grade teachers in science over the next five years.<br />&nbsp;</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/IMG_3521web.jpg" style="height: 488px; width: 650px;" title="Students in Graciela Olmos' science class at Sawyer Elemetary run experiments to help them learn about potential, kinetic and mechanical energy. (WBEZ/Linda Lutton)" /></div></p> Thu, 27 Mar 2014 05:46:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/museum-helps-build-better-science-teachers-109924 Morning Shift: How informed is Illinois as ACA deadline nears? http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-03-24/morning-shift-how-informed-illinois-aca-deadline <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Cover Flickr Melissa Venable.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>We check in to see how Illinois is doing getting people signed up for the Affordable Care Act; the deadline is the end of the month. Also, Jon Langford is in to play some new music.&nbsp;</p><div class="storify"><iframe src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-how-is-illinois-faring-as-the-aca-de/embed?header=false" width="100%" height=750 frameborder=no allowtransparency=true></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-how-is-illinois-faring-as-the-aca-de.js?header=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-how-is-illinois-faring-as-the-aca-de" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: How informed is Illinois as ACA deadline nears?" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Mon, 24 Mar 2014 08:40:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-03-24/morning-shift-how-informed-illinois-aca-deadline At a school that led protests, some interesting candidates for local school council http://www.wbez.org/news/school-led-protests-some-interesting-candidates-local-school-council-109877 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/blaine pic.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A former Chicago Board of Education member is running for what many would consider a far less prestigious position: local school council member at two different Chicago public schools.<br /><br />Rodrigo Sierra was handpicked by Mayor Rahm Emanuel in 2011 to serve on the city&rsquo;s school board. He stayed until the end of 2012, when Emanuel asked him to become a commissioner for the Chicago Housing Authority.<br /><br />Now, Sierra is running for LSC as a parent representative at InterAmerican Magnet school and as a community representative at Blaine Elementary near his home.<br /><br />Blaine and its <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-principal-rips-cps-school-budgets-emanuel-108108">outspoken principal</a> and LSC were among the loudest in the city to protest budget cuts last summer. &nbsp;In an unusual move, Blaine&rsquo;s council voted to <a href="http://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/20130621/lakeview/blaine-lsc-revolts-over-cps-cuts-rejects-budget">reject its budget</a> to send a message to CPS. &nbsp;One of Blaine&rsquo;s current LSC community representatives, Kate Schott Bolduc, <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-07-25/news/ct-met-cps-local-councils-meet-20130725_1_local-school-councils-tif-surplus-funds-cps">helped form a coalition of more than 80 LSCs citywide</a> to protest budget cuts and advocate for more funding.<br /><br />Sierra will face Bolduc and two other candidates in the April LSC election; the two top vote getters win. Sierra says his candidacy is not about trying to silence dissent at Blaine, or anywhere else.<br /><br />&ldquo;What I saw across the city were people really passionate about education, about their kids, speaking out,&rdquo; says Sierra. &ldquo;I wholeheartedly support that. People should be interested and passionate about their children&rsquo;s education&mdash;it&rsquo;s the most important thing we can be focused on right now. &rdquo;<br /><br />Sierra says it would be &ldquo;a big surprise&rdquo; to him if the mayor or anyone on the school board knew he was running.<br /><br />&ldquo;This is just my own personal passion and interest in helping these schools be the best that they can be,&rdquo; says Sierra, who served as deputy press secretary under Mayor Richard J. Daley.<br /><br />Jill Wohl, a former parent and current community member on the InterAmerican LSC, says she thinks it&rsquo;s valuable for high-level school officials to get a taste of what it&rsquo;s like running a school day-to-day.<br /><br />&ldquo;It&rsquo;s not as easy as rubber stamping policies sent down from the mayor&rsquo;s office,&rdquo; says Wohl. &ldquo;The 50,000-foot view is really different than what it looks like in the weeds. Too many times I&rsquo;ve seen policies come top-down, and not be informed by how they&rsquo;re going to play out on the ground.&rdquo;<br /><br />Also running for a seat on Blaine&rsquo;s LSC is an employee of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools, communications manager Jodie Cantrell.<br /><br />That&rsquo;s raising questions for parents like Tony Porfirio, the current chair of the council.<br /><br />&ldquo;Charter schools and neighborhood schools are battling for the same dollars. And I don&rsquo;t know that I would consider it an amicable relationship right now. I think most people that believe in neighborhood schools feel that charter schools are taking money from neighborhood schools&rsquo; budgets,&rdquo; saysPorfirio.<br /><br />Cantrell says she is running based on a deep interest in education and a desire to get more involved in the Lakeview community where she&rsquo;s lived for two years. She says she wants to help schools figure out how to offer students a great education despite budget cuts.<br /><br />Cantrell and Sierra say they don&rsquo;t know each other.<br /><br />Cantrell did not disclose on her candidate statement that she works for a charter school advocacy organization, but she says she plans to do that tonight at Blaine&rsquo;s local school council candidate forum.<br /><br />The Illinois Network of Charter Schools says three of its 16 staffers are candidates for local school councils, but INCS president Andrew Broy says &ldquo;we don&rsquo;t have any strategy around this. This is just what people are deciding to do on their own time.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Linda Lutton is a WBEZ education reporter. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/WBEZeducation" target="_blank">@WBEZeducation</a>.&nbsp;</em></p></p> Tue, 18 Mar 2014 16:44:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/school-led-protests-some-interesting-candidates-local-school-council-109877 At West Side Chicago school, kids go without teachers http://www.wbez.org/news/west-side-chicago-school-kids-go-without-teachers-109838 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/lutton no teachers IMG_3500uriah white.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Some of the city&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/future-uncertain-chicagos-neighborhood-high-schools-108834">high schools are shrinking</a>. In fact, some are <a href="http://www.catalyst-chicago.org/news/2013/10/02/63600/neighborhood-high-schools-struggle-attract-students" target="_blank">shrinking </a>so dramatically, it&rsquo;s questionable whether students are getting access to a basic education.</p><p>Take the Austin Business and Entrepreneurship Academy on the city&rsquo;s West Side, where students have spent much of this year without key teachers.<br /><br />If you ask seniors Kendale Brice and Janiqua Johnson to list the teachers they&rsquo;re missing at Austin Business, it sounds like they&rsquo;re reading from a job board:<br /><br />&quot;We need a music teacher,&quot; Kendale says.</p><p>&quot;We need a Spanish teacher,&quot; Janiqua adds.</p><p>&quot;Last year we didn&rsquo;t have a Spanish teacher, so we had to take Spanish online,&quot; Kendale says.</p><p>&quot;We need a science teacher&mdash;which is biology and forensic science,&quot; says Janiqua. &quot;We need an English teacher for juniors and seniors.&quot;&nbsp;<br /><br />Keyshawn Fields, a junior slated to take the ACT exam next month, says he had a biology teacher &ldquo;for maybe three weeks at the beginning of the year, then she was gone.&rdquo; Music and Spanish&mdash;requirements for graduation&mdash;are offered online only, students say.<br /><br />&ldquo;It&rsquo;s hard, because sometimes some students (are) physical learners&mdash;like, they need to be in person with a teacher, and that doesn&rsquo;t help being online,&rdquo; says senior Moeisha Webb, who&rsquo;s in the online music class.<br /><br />WBEZ interviewed a dozen students at Austin Business and Entrepreneurship Academy, and all of them told the same story. Their core courses in English and science have been taught mostly by substitutes this year&mdash;sometimes a different substitute every day&mdash;meaning no homework, and often no classwork.&nbsp; One student said students are passed automatically since there are no teachers.<br /><br />The school&rsquo;s principal, Wayne Issa, says Austin Business has been hit by a string of teachers out on disability leaves&mdash;something he has no control over. Three teachers took other jobs. He says it&rsquo;s hard to fill temporary positions. &ldquo;I&rsquo;ve had people tell me, &lsquo;I&rsquo;d rather sub (day-to-day) and not be responsible for teaching,&rdquo; he says.<br /><br />But there&rsquo;s another problem: Austin Business and Entrepreneurship Academy is a school that&rsquo;s been losing enrollment. And its tiny size&mdash;186 students total&mdash;exacerbates its problems.<br /><br />&ldquo;What happens is the school is so tiny, that when there are absences, it&rsquo;s felt throughout the school. For instance, I only have one science teacher. So if I had a science department, it would be easier to absorb one teacher being gone,&rdquo; says Issa.<br /><br />The students notice. &ldquo;We have like 40 seniors. That&rsquo;s not a senior class, that&rsquo;s a classroom,&rdquo; says Kendale Brice.<br /><br />Austin Business&rsquo; freshman class has even fewer students&mdash;31. With Chicago&rsquo;s move to per pupil budgeting, it&rsquo;s unclear whether such a small school will be able to afford the minimum seven teachers a high school usually needs&mdash;or even stay in business.<br /><br />Issa says he has the money for English and science teachers, but he says enrollment is a concern.<br /><br />&ldquo;With the amount of high schools we have there&rsquo;s definitely competition amongst those. And with student population declining&hellip;with more choice for parents to go to different places, it just makes sense that (enrollment) is going to go down,&quot; said Issa. &quot;Recruitment is becoming one of the skills that principals like me need to be able to engage in&hellip; in order to exist.&rdquo;<br /><br />Michael Bakalis, president of American Quality Schools, a nonprofit charter school operator that <a href="http://articles.chicagobreakingnews.com/2011-02-24/news/28629449_1_american-quality-schools-elementary-schools-phyllis-lockett" target="_blank">used to run</a> Austin Business and Entrepreneurship, says he tells parents or communities interested in starting a school that they need a minimum number of students to function.<br /><br />&ldquo;It&rsquo;s unlikely you&rsquo;re going to be able to survive financially and do everything you should be doing unless you have about 200-250 kids to start,&rdquo; Bakalis says. &ldquo;And then probably build it up to at least 400 or 500 eventually.&rdquo;<br /><br />Bakalis&rsquo; group used to run Austin Business as a &ldquo;contract&rdquo; school. American Quality Schools gave up the school three years ago, and <a href="http://www.austinweeklynews.com/News/Articles/3-9-2011/Academy%27s-fate-tangled-in-confusion--/" target="_blank">CPS has run it since</a>.<br /><br />Some people believe there are simply too many high schools in Chicago. A West Side charter high school, Chicago Talent Development, announced this year it is phasing out, unable to attract enough students. Other schools with low enrollments are <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/future-uncertain-chicagos-neighborhood-high-schools-108834" target="_blank">skimping on teachers, activities and electives</a>.<br /><br />And even new schools like Austin Business&mdash;which was started as a Renaissance 2010 school after CPS closed down Austin High School in 2004 for poor performance&mdash;are challenged. All three schools that opened in the Austin High building under Renaissance 2010 are struggling to attract kids, and <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2014-01-28/news/ct-poverty-swinney-met-20140128_1_innovation-park-austin-polytechnical-academy-west-side" target="_blank">struggling to keep promises of a better education</a>. One of the schools, Austin Polytechnical Academy, had to write a grant this year to be able to pay for a college counselor; per pupil funding from CPS did not cover the cost.<br /><br />But ironically, Chicago is adding high schools. The district recently <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-approves-seven-new-charter-schools-109558">approved seven new charters</a>&mdash;five of them with high school seats&mdash;meaning students will be spread even thinner across schools like Austin. The district has said it will not close any schools for five years.<br /><br />Uriah White, a junior at Austin Business, is livid that he&rsquo;s had no science or English teachers this year.<br /><br />&ldquo;This ACT thing is very serious for me,&rdquo; says White. &ldquo;This third year is my most important year: (for the) ACT,&nbsp; (to) see what colleges would want me for their schools. But the way it&rsquo;s looking now&mdash;&rdquo; he groans. &ldquo;I know for sure it&rsquo;s going to be a very short few amount of colleges that are going to want any of the kids from Austin.&rdquo;<br /><br />Uriah says he took a science book home to study on his own.<br /><br />Junior Keyshawn Fields says he will tackle the English portion of the ACT &ldquo;just off instincts.&rdquo;&nbsp; But the science portion, he says, &ldquo;I&rsquo;m going in there blind.&rdquo;<br /><br />Two school days after WBEZ interviewed students, Austin Business and Entrepreneurship Academy said it had filled all open teaching positions&mdash;except for one that was vacated Friday.</p><p><em>Linda Lutton is a WBEZ education reporter. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/WBEZeducation" target="_blank">@WBEZeducation</a>.</em><br />&nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 11 Mar 2014 17:44:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/west-side-chicago-school-kids-go-without-teachers-109838 Saucedo teachers spend Day 1 of ISAT teaching; concerns raised about intimidation http://www.wbez.org/news/saucedo-teachers-spend-day-1-isat-teaching-concerns-raised-about-intimidation-109815 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/IMAG2400.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Teachers at Maria Saucedo Scholastic Academy declared victory Tuesday, saying their protest of the state&rsquo;s Illinois Standards Achievement Test is working. The teachers said they spent the first day of ISAT testing doing what they set out to&mdash;teaching.</p><p>A week ago, teachers at the Little Village school voted unanimously to refuse to give the exam, which normally carries high stakes in Chicago but is being phased out this year. The school district has said boycotting teachers could lose their jobs or even their teaching certificates.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m very, very happy to say today was a victory,&rdquo; said special education teacher Sarah Chambers after the final bell rang at Saucedo on the first scheduled day of testing there. &ldquo;Overall it went smoothly. The kids who were opting out had the test placed in front of them and they were immediately removed to an opt-out room, where teachers who were refusing to give the test&mdash;the boycotting teachers&mdash;were able to teach them,&rdquo; said Chambers.</p><p>Social studies teacher Ferris Akrabawi&nbsp; said he led students in readings from Mahatma Gandhi&#39;s 1922 trial for sedition. &ldquo;One person&rsquo;s insubordination is another person&rsquo;s&hellip; cry for change,&rdquo; Akrabawi says he taught students.</p><p>But the teachers and activists also decried what they said were heavy-handed tactics on the part of schools to try to get students to take the ISAT. <em>Hear more about this by pushing PLAY above.</em></p><p>Chambers said at Saucedo, some parents who had opted their children out of testing rescinded their opt-out letters after getting calls from the school. She said some teachers who had originally voted to boycott the exam ended up administering it, fearing for their jobs.</p><p>In other parts of the city, a teacher from Otis Elementary in West Town said opt out forms signed by parents weren&rsquo;t respected, and kids were given the test anyway. A dad from Jane Addams Elementary on the Southeast Side said his nine-year-old daughter had to watch classmates eat candy and ice cream after they took their test; kids who opted out didn&rsquo;t get any.</p><p>Chicago Teachers Union vice-president Jesse Sharkey said it was &ldquo;child abuse&rdquo; to put test booklets in front of students whose parents had opted them out of the test. Because state law requires the test be given to all students, some schools handed out test booklets and had teachers read instructions, even to kids who had opted out. Opt out advocates say that put kids as young as eight years old in a situation where they had to choose whether to follow their parent&rsquo;s instruction to skip the test or their teacher&rsquo;s instruction to complete it.</p><p>&ldquo;You&rsquo;re hearing all these accounts of bullying,&rdquo; Chambers said. &ldquo;Why is this occurring? It&rsquo;s occurring because our CPS is controlled by Mayor Rahm Emanuel. And he is a bully.&rdquo;</p><p>CPS parent Cassie Creswell urged the mayor and school officials to be more sensitive to the demands of parents. Creswell said Emanuel had effectively opted his own children out of the ISAT by enrolling them in a private school that gives few standardized tests.</p><p>The district did not respond to questions about particular incidents at schools, but CPS says it won&rsquo;t tolerate acts to coerce or intimidate students into taking the ISAT.</p><p>However, officials say they are in conversations with the state about disciplining the boycotting teachers.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Parents want the right to opt their children out of testing</strong></p><p>On Monday, two dozen Chicago parents filed a complaint asking the American Civil Liberties Union to determine whether parental rights are being violated when it comes to opting their children out of the the ISAT.</p><p>&ldquo;Parents are being asked to rescind their opt out letters, children are being told to call up their parents and opt them back in&mdash;egregious violations of parental rights, egregious mistreatment of children,&rdquo; said Creswell, who is part of the anti-testing group that has spearheaded the opt out effort in Chicago, More Than a Score. The group advocates for less standardized testing in schools.</p><p>But the Illinois State Board of Education says there is no legal mechanism in state law for parents to opt their children out of the federally required accountability exam. All schools must test all third through eighth graders, the state says. Illinois law does allow for students to &ldquo;refuse to engage&rdquo; with a test. Students must be offered the test,&nbsp; but they can refuse it and sit quietly through the testing process, or, if a district allows, read a book during the test, the state board says.</p><p>The state has encouraged parents to have their children take the ISAT. &ldquo;Testing is another point of information that educators can use about children,&rdquo; Illinois State Superintendent of Education Christopher Koch said. Scores this year will give an indication of how well students are performing against new Common Core standards, he said.</p><p>Chicago Public Schools is not saying how many students have opted out of the ISAT; activists say it&rsquo;s at least 1,500 kids at 80 schools. Some 171,000 Chicago students were scheduled to take the ISAT.</p></p> Wed, 05 Mar 2014 15:33:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/saucedo-teachers-spend-day-1-isat-teaching-concerns-raised-about-intimidation-109815 Test protest: Chicago teachers say they'll refuse to give ISAT http://www.wbez.org/news/test-protest-chicago-teachers-say-theyll-refuse-give-isat-109772 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/flickr-by reallyboring saucedo.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Protesting what they say is too much standardized testing in schools, teachers at Saucedo Scholastic Academy declared Tuesday they will refuse to administer the state-mandated Illinois Standards Achievement Tests that are scheduled to begin next week.</p><p>&ldquo;This has been building. We&rsquo;ve been discussing this for a long time, and we finally said enough is enough,&rdquo; special education teacher Sarah Chambers told reporters at a frigid Tuesday afternoon news conference outside the school, where she was joined by fellow teachers, supportive parents and students, and&nbsp; Chicago Teachers Union officials.</p><p>Chambers said &ldquo;about 40&rdquo; Saucedo teachers scheduled to administer the ISAT voted in a secret ballot referendum Tuesday morning to boycott the test, and &ldquo;every teacher voted to refuse to give the test&mdash;100 percent. Unanimous,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>The action could cost Saucedo teachers their jobs.</p><p>The teacher boycott is a new development in a growing backlash against testing in Chicago public schools&mdash;most of it led by parents up to now.</p><p>The ISAT has become a target this year because it&rsquo;s being phased out. In Chicago&mdash;where the exam usually carries especially high stakes&mdash; scores won&rsquo;t count for school or teacher ratings, student promotions, or admission to selective schools.&nbsp;</p><p>Teachers at Saucedo say they were bolstered by the 320 parents at the school who have yanked their kids from the test. Jason Reese is one of them. His seventh-grade daughter sat in the passenger seat of the family&rsquo;s minivan at dismissal, reading her second novel of the week. Reese says he opted his children out of the ISAT because &ldquo;they&rsquo;re constantly taking tests over and over again. They need to get more instruction in the classroom as opposed to being tested for everything that they do.&rdquo;</p><p>The parent group &ldquo;More than a Score&rdquo; has encouraged parents to have their kids skip the test. The group says parents at 38 different schools have opted their children out so far. The &ldquo;CORE&rdquo; caucus within the teachers union, which currently controls the union, has also been running a campaign to encourage parents to opt their children out.</p><p>But the district has defended the exam. Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett has sent letters home to parents asking them not to pull their children out of the test. It will &ldquo;help teachers tailor instructional planning for the following year,&rdquo; the district said in an emailed statement. The test will also give them a taste of questions aligned to the state&#39;s new &ldquo;Common Core&rdquo; curriculum.</p><p>The Illinois State Board of Education believes this is the first time a group of teachers has refused to give the state-mandated exams. A Seattle high school gained national attention last year when teachers there refused to give a standardized test. In late 2002, teachers at Curie Metropolitan High School in Chicago said they would refuse to give a district-mandated exam that was unpopular with teachers, the Chicago Academic Standards Exam. CPS eventually ditched it.</p><p>Teachers union vice president Jesse Sharkey called the Saucedo teachers &ldquo;courageous&rdquo; and &ldquo;principled&rdquo; and said he hopes more schools follow suit in the coming days. The union said it would &ldquo;strongly defend&rdquo; Saucedo teachers from any discipline, which Sharkey admitted could include dismissal, though he said it would be &ldquo;absurd&rdquo; for the district to fire teachers &ldquo;for insisting on the right to teach&mdash;which is what they&rsquo;re really doing.&rdquo;</p><p>The union has opposed the widening use of student standardized testing in the district; some of that testing helps determine teachers&rsquo; performance ratings.</p><p>In a statement, CPS said &quot;district employees that fail to execute their job responsibilities face appropriate disciplinary actions.&rdquo;</p></p> Tue, 25 Feb 2014 05:30:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/test-protest-chicago-teachers-say-theyll-refuse-give-isat-109772 School rallies behind championship chess team http://www.wbez.org/news/school-rallies-behind-championship-chess-team-109752 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/WY chess.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Orange and navy blue balloons arch beneath one of the basketball hoops in Whitney Young&rsquo;s gymnasium. The school&rsquo;s band&mdash;wearing Orange t-shirts&mdash;is seated at the opposite end of the court.<br /><br />But the pending celebration has nothing to do with the school&rsquo;s top-ranked basketball team winning last night&rsquo;s Chicago Public League semi-finals against Orr Academy Thursday night.<br /><br />&ldquo;We&rsquo;re celebrating our chess team winning state and we&rsquo;re having a pep rally for them,&rdquo; said Felicia Clotworthy, director of student services at Whitney Young.</p><p>&ldquo;I think this is pretty great,&rdquo; said Paul Kash, the chess team&rsquo;s head coach. &ldquo;This is our third championship, our last two we were in the auditorium and it was just the 7th and 8th graders that they brought in. So this is our first time in the gym. We&rsquo;re going to run for the paper like the football team. Do it up.&rdquo;<br /><br />There are 11 students on the team.<br /><br />&ldquo;Our top player is #4 in the nation,&rdquo; Kash said of senior Sam Schmakel. He said the team&rsquo;s experience ranges widely.&nbsp;<br /><br />Jimi Akintonde, the team&rsquo;s number two player, said he&rsquo;s been playing chess since I was 6-years-old.</p><p>&ldquo;My mother taught me how to play,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Bailey Baker, one of the two girls on the team, said it&rsquo;s been about six months.</p><p>&ldquo;I walked in there by accident,&rdquo; she said of her first practice.</p><p>Kiana Hobbs, the team&rsquo;s only other girl, started in 7th grade at the request of her brother.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s a much bigger program in the state than people realize,&rdquo; Kash said. &ldquo;There&rsquo;s 1500 kids at this state tournament.&rdquo;<br /><br />Chicago Public Schools has gotten criticism for how few district schools run strong chess programs.<br /><br />&ldquo;Quite honestly, I wish I could say that our success would somehow create a momentum and more chess in CPS,&rdquo; Kash said. &ldquo;But it seems like there&rsquo;s a lot of resistance that we can&rsquo;t seem to break through.&rdquo;<br /><br />For the individual players on the Whitney Young chess team, it was an unusual day in the spotlight.<br /><br />Jimi Akintonde, a junior, is Young&rsquo;s second best player and will take the top spot next year when Sam Schmakel graduates. He says school wide pep rallies are usually reserved for, &ldquo;the swim team, the basketball team, it&rsquo;s not typically the chess team.&rdquo;</p><p>The team ran through a big paper banner with the word &ldquo;CHECKMATE&rdquo; painted across it in orange and blue. The cheerleaders, the Pom Pom and Dance squads did routines and students chanted from the bleachers. Kash presented the team&rsquo;s third championship trophy to the school&rsquo;s principal, Joyce Kenner.<br />&nbsp;<br />As for that winning basketball team? They cheered right along in the front row.<br /><br />Becky Vevea is a producer for WBEZ. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/WBEZeducation" target="_blank">@WBEZeducation</a>.</p></p> Fri, 21 Feb 2014 14:46:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/school-rallies-behind-championship-chess-team-109752 Committee releases CPS school repurposing plan http://www.wbez.org/news/committee-releases-cps-school-repurposing-plan-109668 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/schools_140208_nm lo res.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The public bidding process for closed Chicago Public Schools buildings will start this spring.</p><p>A committee appointed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel <a href="http://www.scribd.com/doc/205555308/Report-of-the-Advisory-Committee-for-School-Repurposing-and-Community-Development" target="_blank">has released a report </a>advising the district on what to do with its <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-building-repurposing-committee-faces-large-task-108793">dozens of shuttered buildings</a>. There are 43 empty school buildings because of last year&rsquo;s sweeping round of closures. The report didn&rsquo;t come up with a plan for each school. Instead it set parameters for the district to repurpose the buildings.</p><p>The committee says possible building uses include churches, urban farms, housing and community centers.</p><p>&ldquo;One of the key pieces here is community involvement in an active role. Many proposals will be encouraged to really get the community behind their proposal before actually making the proposal,&rdquo; said committee chair Wilbur Milhouse, who owns an engineering and construction company.</p><p>Many of the buildings are in troubled neighborhoods that have high foreclosure rates and vacant land. Milhouse said some schools will be easier to sell than others but all the sales will go into one fund. The money would help facilitate finding purchasers for those properties.</p><p>Some schools will be immediately repurposed. The Chicago High School for the Arts will move to Lafayette Elementary on West Augusta. William King Elementary on South Campbell will host the city&rsquo;s Department of Fleet and Facility Management. On the South Side, John Fiske Elementary is being temporarily used by the Woodlawn Children&rsquo;s Promise Community for health programs.</p><p>The members of the advisory committee:</p><ul><li>Wilbur Milhouse (Chair), Milhouse Engineering &amp; Construction, Inc.</li><li>Jim Capraro</li><li>Ald. Rey Colon, 35th Ward</li><li>Ald. Jason Ervin, 28th Ward &nbsp;</li><li>Ricardo Estrada, Metropolitan Family Services</li><li>Linda Goodman, Goodman Williams Group</li><li>Bernita Johnson-Gabriel, Quad Community Development Corporation</li><li>Avis LaVelle, A. LaVelle Consulting Services, LLC</li><li>Andrew Mooney, Department of Planning and Development</li><li>Raul Raymundo, The Resurrection Project</li><li>Julia Stasch, John T. and Catherine D. MacArthur Foundation</li><li>Ald. Latasha R. Thomas, 17th Ward</li><li>Tom Tyrrell, Chicago Public Schools</li><li>Susana Vasquez, Local Initiatives Support Corporation</li></ul><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/nmoore-0" rel="author" target="_blank">Natalie Moore</a>&nbsp;is a WBEZ reporter.&nbsp;<a href="mailto:nmoore@wbez.org">nmoore@wbez.org</a>.&nbsp;Follow Natalie on&nbsp;<a href="https://plus.google.com//104033432051539426343" rel="me" target="_blank">Google+</a>,&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/natalieymoore" target="_blank">Twitter</a>&nbsp;</em></p><p style=" margin: 12px auto 6px auto; font-family: Helvetica,Arial,Sans-serif; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; font-weight: normal; font-size: 14px; line-height: normal; font-size-adjust: none; font-stretch: normal; -x-system-font: none; display: block;"><a href="http://www.scribd.com/doc/205555308/Report-of-the-Advisory-Committee-for-School-Repurposing-and-Community-Development" style="text-decoration: underline;" title="View Report of the Advisory Committee for School Repurposing and Community Development on Scribd">Report of the Advisory Committee for School Repurposing and Community Development</a></p><p><iframe class="scribd_iframe_embed" data-aspect-ratio="undefined" data-auto-height="false" frameborder="0" height="600" id="doc_48745" scrolling="no" src="//www.scribd.com/embeds/205555308/content?start_page=1&amp;view_mode=scroll&amp;show_recommendations=true" width="100%"></iframe></p></p> Fri, 07 Feb 2014 20:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/committee-releases-cps-school-repurposing-plan-109668