WBEZ | Chicago Public Schools http://www.wbez.org/tags/chicago-public-schools Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Board of Education approves 'stop-gap' budget for 2015 http://www.wbez.org/news/board-education-approves-stop-gap-budget-2015-110551 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/board of ed VOYCE july 15.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Last-minute pleas by parents, teachers, and budget watchdog groups didn&rsquo;t sway the Chicago Board of Education from unanimously approving its $6.8 billion spending plan for next school year.</p><p>The budget <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/losing-school-librarians-chicago-public-schools-110547">cuts 59 full-time librarian positions</a>, eliminates the district&rsquo;s last electricity vocational program, adds more funding for privately run charter schools and expands safe passage.</p><p>Like in previous years, pretty much everyone who spoke at the monthly board meeting yesterday did not like the spending priorities in the budget. Even board members could see that the budget didn&rsquo;t address the long-term structural deficit facing Chicago Public Schools.</p><p>&ldquo;The fact is we&rsquo;re spending more money than we&rsquo;re really getting in the door,&rdquo; said board member Andrea Zopp.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m going to vote for this budget, but it is a budget that is balanced by this one-time use of funds,&rdquo; said board member Henry Bienen. &ldquo;I would call it a stop-gap budget.&rdquo;</p><p>CPS budget director Ginger Ostro took aim at Springfield in her presentation to the board at the start of the meeting. She said in order for the district to be financially viable in the future, state officials need to increase the amount of money they give districts per student.</p><p>Ostro said CPS also needs pension reform, but she didn&rsquo;t give any specifics on what that might look like. The district is required to pay an additional $70 million into the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund next year. The fund is severely underfunded after almost a decade of no contributions from the district combined with lower than expected returns.</p><p>It remains unclear what effect the recent Illinois Supreme Court ruling in <a href="http://www.state.il.us/court/Opinions/SupremeCourt/2014/115811.pdf">Kanerva vs. Weems</a> could mean for the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund. That ruling found the pension reform for suburban and downstate teachers is unconstitutional.</p><p>About an hour into the meeting Wednesday, a physical altercation broke out when a person in the audience, parent activist Rousemary Vega, began booing Board Vice President Jesse Ruiz, who had gotten up out of his seat. Vega and her husband were carried out of the board chamber by almost a dozen security guards.</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="20" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/160095320&amp;color=ff5500&amp;inverse=false&amp;auto_play=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><strong>Last vocational electricity program cut</strong></p><p>With Wednesday&rsquo;s board vote, the city lost its last electrical shop program, currently housed at Simeon Career Academy, in the 21st Ward.</p><p>Ald. Howard Brookins (21st) pleaded with board members to keep the program going.</p><p>&ldquo;Electricity is not a whip and buggy,&rdquo; Brookins said. &ldquo;Those jobs are going to be around for at least the immediate, foreseeable future. And so to eliminate this program seems to be misplaced.&rdquo;</p><p>Brookins says he wants all students to go to college, but for those who don&rsquo;t, he wants training that will help them get a good job that pays a living wage. At the very least, Brookins asked CPS to let currently enrolled students complete their degrees.</p><p>CPS officials said the principal at Simeon ended the Electricity program because only 18 incoming freshman selected it as their top choice major in the school&rsquo;s vocational program. However, Brookins said there were more than 50 upperclassmen enrolled.</p><p><strong>No money for new Code of Conduct</strong></p><p>Last month, the board approved a new Student Code of Conduct that focuses more on restorative discipline and less on suspensions and expulsions.</p><p>Before the meeting started this month, a group of students involved with the Voices of Youth in Chicago Education held a press conference pushing CPS to &ldquo;put their money where their mouth is&rdquo; when it comes to having more restorative discipline in schools.</p><p>&ldquo;In my school, there seems to be a new security guard every week, but we don&rsquo;t have music class, no library, no college and career center and only one counselor for the whole school,&rdquo; said Devonte Boston, a senior at Gage Park High School.</p><p>The students successfully helped CPS revise the Code of Conduct, but they say money is needed to properly implement it. So does Michael Brunson, the recording secretary of the Chicago Teachers Union.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;ll mention restorative justice around members and their eyes will start rolling and then I know I have to stop and say, &lsquo;OK, this is what its supposed to be. Now, what you have experienced is just words with no substance,&rsquo;&rdquo; Brunson said. &ldquo;If you&rsquo;re going to do it, you&rsquo;re going to have to have the personnel, the space and all the resources that you need to really roll out a program.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>Pleas to halt expansion of Concept Schools</strong></p><p>A number of speakers Wednesday said the board should halt the opening of two new schools run by Concept Schools.</p><p>Concept is currently <a href="http://politics.suntimes.com/article/chicago/search-warrants-reveal-details-fbi-raid-concept-schools/mon-07212014-622pm">under FBI investigation</a> in several states. The leaders have close ties to Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.</p><p>CPS spokesman Joel Hood sent a statement to reporters after the meeting saying Concept continues to move forward with its plan to open this fall. It will open in a former Evangelical Christian building at 9130 South Vincennes Ave, he said.</p><p><em>Becky Vevea is a producer and reporter for WBEZ. Follow her </em><a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZeducation"><em>@WBEZeducation</em></a><em>.</em></p></p> Thu, 24 Jul 2014 08:35:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/board-education-approves-stop-gap-budget-2015-110551 Losing school librarians in Chicago Public Schools http://www.wbez.org/news/losing-school-librarians-chicago-public-schools-110547 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/school_library.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Having a school library with a full-time librarian is becoming something of a luxury in Chicago&rsquo;s 600-plus public schools.<br /><br />Two years ago, Chicago Public School budgeted for 454 librarians.<br />Last year: 313 librarians.<br />This year? 254.<br /><br />Those are the numbers Megan Cusick, a librarian at Nancy B. Jefferson Alternative School, laid out at a recent meeting held by the parent group Raise Your Hand.<br /><br />&ldquo;As many of you recall, around the time we went on strike, we talked about how we had 160 schools that did not have school libraries,&rdquo; Cusick said. &ldquo;This shows what came after.&rdquo;<br /><br />Cusick and her colleagues have started speaking out about the dwindling number of librarians in CPS. They showed up at last month&rsquo;s Board of Education meeting and many spoke at last week&rsquo;s budget hearings.<br /><br />CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett says the librarian shortage is because there aren&rsquo;t enough librarians in the hiring pool.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s not that we don&rsquo;t want to have librarians in libraries,&rdquo; Byrd-Bennett said at last month&rsquo;s board meeting. &ldquo;Nobody can argue that point, but the pool is diminished.&rdquo;<br /><br />So where have all the librarians gone?<br /><br />Cusick said there&rsquo;s not a shortage, like Byrd-Bennett stated, and it&rsquo;s not that librarians are being laid off. It&rsquo;s that they&rsquo;re being re-assigned to classrooms..<br /><br />&ldquo;There are a number of certified librarians who are in classrooms,&rdquo; Cusick explained. &ldquo;English classrooms, world languages, in elementary schools, teaching a particular grade level. The people are there, they&rsquo;re just not staffing the library, they&rsquo;re staffing another classroom.&rdquo;<br /><br />Some of the city&rsquo;s best-performing schools have eliminated full-time librarians.<br /><br />That&rsquo;s what happened at Nettelhorst Elementary in East Lakeview last school year. Scott Walter is a parent representative on the local school council at Nettelhorst and a librarian at DePaul University.</p><p>&ldquo;We got down to the point of saying, well, we have a classroom and it doesn&rsquo;t have a teacher,&rdquo; he said.<br /><br />In the state of Illinois, all librarians must also have teaching certifications, and most also have endorsements to teach specific grades and subjects.<br /><br />When the district stopped funding positions and let principals and school councils decide how to spend their money, many had a hard time making the numbers add up.</p><p>For Nettelhorst, it was &ldquo;here&rsquo;s the position and she can be in a library or we can have a teacher in front of 30 kids,&rdquo; Walter said. &ldquo;And no matter how much you love libraries and as much as I do, you can&rsquo;t have a classroom without a teacher in front of it.&rdquo;<br /><br />Walter says even though the librarian is now teaching 4th grade, the students can still use the library, because the clerk and parent volunteers help staff it.<br /><br />Still, he says, it&rsquo;s a lose-lose.<br /><br />&ldquo;As a parent, it feels that CPS has set us up into a situation where we have to decided which finger we don&rsquo;t want,&rdquo; Walter said.<br /><br />There&rsquo;s no required amount of minutes for library instruction in the state of Illinois.<br /><br />In a fact sheet to WBEZ, CPS officials touted the expanded virtual libraries available to all students. And at the very top of the page in bold letters and underlined, a spokesperson wrote &ldquo;we will not be satisfied until we have central and/OR classroom-based libraries in every school.&rdquo;<br /><br />Cusick said librarians do so much more than just check out books. They teach kids how to do research, how to find and evaluate information, a skill that&rsquo;s becoming even more important in the digital age.<br /><br />&ldquo;Kids don&rsquo;t just know how to do that,&rdquo; Cusick notes. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s not a skill that they develop just because they have an iPhone or because they have a computer at home, which many of our students don&rsquo;t have.&rdquo;<br /><br />Cusick and her colleagues don&rsquo;t want to see librarians added at the expense of other positions, like art teachers and physical education teachers. But they also don&rsquo;t want to see school libraries just become places where meetings and press conferences are held.</p></p> Wed, 23 Jul 2014 16:40:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/losing-school-librarians-chicago-public-schools-110547 Winners of WBEZ’s Student Stories http://www.wbez.org/news/winners-wbez%E2%80%99s-student-stories-110541 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/wbez-education-student-stories.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>In March, Mayor Rahm Emanuel sat down for <a href="http://www.msnbc.com/the-daily-rundown/watch/emanuel-chicago-will-be-100-college-ready-201075267595">an interview with MSNBC&rsquo;s Chuck Todd</a>, and in the course of a five minute conversation about school reform, Emanuel used the term &ldquo;high-quality&rdquo; 13 times.</p><p>The mayor mentioned a few things he considers high-quality: military schools, schools that test kids for admission, and elementary schools focused on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.</p><p>By coincidence, the same week as that interview, a young man named Troy Boccelli wrote WBEZ with an idea. He thought maybe the wrong people are defining what &ldquo;high-quality education&rdquo; is.</p><p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t think you really gauge well enough what&rsquo;s wrong with a school or what you can change if you don&rsquo;t asked the students themselves,&rdquo; Boccelli said.</p><p>So <a href="http://wbezstudentstories.tumblr.com/">WBEZ put out a call for submissions</a>. We asked students to tell us what they think makes a high-quality school.</p><p>We heard everything from more diversity to more student voice to bigger hallways and smaller class sizes.</p><p>The kids interviewed in this story went to five very different schools. Boccelli, the kid with the question, went to Walter Payton College Prep, a selective enrollment school on the north side. Several go to Hancock College Prep, a neighborhood high school on the South West side. &nbsp;Two attend other neighborhood schools in the city and one attended a suburban public high school and will be transferring back into a private Waldorf school this fall.</p><p>Of all of the responses about high-quality schools, WBEZ picked two to highlight. The first comes from two recent graduates from Chicago Public Schools.</p><p>Mahalia Crawford and Rae Bellinger proposed their idea of a perfect school.</p><iframe width="100%" height="20" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/160146299&amp;color=ff5500&amp;inverse=false&amp;auto_play=false"></iframe><p>&ldquo;<em>Our school was basically the American Dream High School. It would have like more vocational classes and classes we would really need like logical math. I go to a vocational high school, and I see how it benefited people who graduated before me and how it benefited me because I learned stuff and now I can go and get a job that I can help pay for college with.&rdquo; - Rae Bellinger</em></p><blockquote><p><a href="#bellinger"><strong>Read Bellinger and Crawford&rsquo;s complete submission</strong></a></p></blockquote><p>But lots of kids in Greater Chicago don&rsquo;t go to Chicago Public Schools. We got a few submissions from outside of CPS and one was from a young lady named Olivia Love-Hatlestad.</p><iframe width="100%" height="20" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/160145676&amp;color=ff5500&amp;inverse=false&amp;auto_play=false"></iframe><p>Olivia went to Da Vinci Waldorf School in Wauconda until her freshman year, when she transferred into Grayslake Central high school. She talked to us about the culture shock&hellip;.</p><p>&ldquo;I went to this school where the teachers shook our hands every morning and asked us you know how we were and they got to understand who we were as people,&rdquo; Love-Hatlestad said in an interview with WBEZ. &ldquo;They could tell if you were sick or if you were faking sick or if you needed help outside of class because they knew you and they actually cared about you. And then I entered public school, where, to know our last names, teachers had to check a roster.&rdquo;</p><p>She talked a lot about giving students individual attention and really focusing on comprehension, rather than memorizing facts, something she thinks public schools focus far too much on.</p><p>&ldquo;I retained, like, zero information, because what&rsquo;s being given to us are packets and lists of names and dates that we have to memorize,&rdquo; Love-Hatlestad said. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s in one ear and out the other. And sure I can retain it long enough to be assessed on it and since that&rsquo;s all that matters, that&rsquo;s fine. That&rsquo;s been swept under the rug. The actual comprehension is kind of just a byproduct. It&rsquo;s a bonus, like if you actually get it that&rsquo;s great, but you don&rsquo;t really have to.&rdquo;</p><blockquote><p><a href="#olivia"><strong>Read Olivia&rsquo;s complete essay</strong></a></p></blockquote><p>These are just two of the couple dozen responses we got when we put the question about &ldquo;high-quality&rdquo; education out to students.</p><p>In the interviews WBEZ did with Love-Hatlestad, Crawford and Bellinger, Boccelli asked the other students what they would change about their schools if they could change <em>only one</em> thing. So, I flipped the question on him.</p><p>He had two responses. First, he talked about the seminar classes at Payton, which are days when students can choose to do something separate from their regular schedule, everything from tutoring elementary kids in math to Tai Chi to hunting for vinyl records.</p><p>&ldquo;My freshman year, it was pretty much like every week,&rdquo; Boccelli said. &ldquo;Then my junior and senior year, they made it every other week. I guess I would change it back. And that sounds like one of those 12-year-old/18-year-old decisions, but I felt like having seminars was really important just because it gave me a break during the week, but I was still learning to a degree.&rdquo;</p><p>But the other thing Boccelli said he would change is that, with all the focus on college at his school, he didn&rsquo;t get an opportunity to take any vocational classes, like Mahalia and Rae. &nbsp;</p><p>Troy heads to Harvard in less than a month, and is confident he&rsquo;ll do just fine. But still, he says, it would be nice to see what it&rsquo;s like to be an electrician or a plumber, and it would be nice if every kid graduated with the ability to fall back on a decent paying job.</p><p><strong><span style="font-size:22px;">Bellinger and Crawford&rsquo;s submission<a name="bellinger"></a></span></strong></p><p>Our best school in the world would have:</p><ul><li>Vocational classes: learn how to do hair, cook, nurse, and housework.</li><li>A student government</li><li>Job opportunities at or through school</li><li>Big Brother and Big Sister</li><li>Gardens and nice sports fields</li><li>At least 12 counselors</li><li>Available to everyone</li><li>Classes that make sense: logical math, &nbsp;engaging reading</li><li>Life planning classes</li><li>Hands-on learning</li><li>A healthy environment. (Sometimes we can have salad and sometimes we can eat ribs.)</li><li>&ldquo;Giving back&rdquo; programs, to make it easy for us to do service learning.</li><li>Instead of calling them field trips lets call them&nbsp;<u>GOAL TRIP</u>.</li><li>Cultural festivals and make the schools more diverse.</li><li>Classes where students can learn each others cultures.</li><li>I want my teachers to be able to have faith in me when they walk outside the classroom or when they test us.</li></ul><p><span style="font-size:22px;"><strong>Olivia&#39;s Essay<a name="olivia"></a></strong></span></p><p>I attended a small private school for ten years, by the name of Water&rsquo;s Edge Waldorf School. The classes were small, with the same teachers every year. We had a snack time&nbsp;<em>and</em>&nbsp;a lunch time, two recesses, Spanish, German, woodworking, painting, handwork, language arts, hands-on science and practical math. Every morning our teachers shook our hands and asked us how we were. They cared about us, and made the consistent effort to connect with and understand us. We not only learned the (what I now realize is invaluable) skill of engaging in conversation with an adult, but we developed deeply respectful relationships with our teachers. We were inspired to strive for excellence not by the pressure put on a grade, but by the desire to please these mentors to whom we looked up so earnestly. Every day as a child, I&rsquo;d come home from school, and my father would ask me, &ldquo;What did you learn today that you didn&rsquo;t know this morning?&rdquo; And every day, for ten years, I could tell him something different. I was as eager to relay the information as I was to learn it. I&nbsp;<em>loved</em>&nbsp;school. I loved learning. I didn&rsquo;t realize how rare a quality that was until I entered a world of total apathy. A world of standardized tests, worksheets, and a mass of people who literally couldn&rsquo;t care less about any of it. A system of education making teachers obsolete by pushing independent projects, independent reading, and packets to be done (wait for it) independently.</p><p>Ask any random public school student what they learned on an average day of school, and they will tell you: nothing. Nothing is being&nbsp;<em>taught</em>&nbsp;in public school. Facts are drilled, not taught, memorized, not learned. Posters on the walls of every classroom scream &ldquo;<strong>BE YOURSELF</strong>,&rdquo; &ldquo;<strong>DIFFERENT IS GOOD</strong>,&rdquo; and yet every student is force-fed the same material in the same dry, loveless way. Where in all these fill-in-the-blank worksheets and assigned textbook readings is there wiggle room for individuality? How can we&nbsp;<em>be</em>&nbsp;ourselves if we&rsquo;re being drilled in droves to be basically indistinguishable? Millions of colorfully unique children should not be taught in an identical way, let alone expected to perform with equal aptitude. It would seem that the goal is no longer to build a brighter generation, but to breed instead a population of brainwashed, mindless yes-men.</p><p>In the best school in the world, creative opportunity is present in every class, so the students can take pride in their work and have the freedom to create something truly uniquely beautiful. There is hands-on study in things like science, as well as relevant, relatable sciences classes. Math is taught not for blind memorization, but for actual comprehension, exercising critical thinking skills. There is outdoor time at least once a day, as well as an additional 15 minute break in the early morning, because not only is it scientifically proven to stimulate neurological function, it just makes good sense! Lectures are delivered with context, opportunity for questions, and by a teacher who in turn asks the students about said topic, so as to ensure that they not only know, but understand &nbsp;and can discuss it. Teachers make an effort to connect with their students, so as to better understand their weaknesses/strengths. Educators are given the freedom to do just that, unencumbered by the ties of a government-set standard and curriculum. There is study of other cultures in multiple classes, drawing parallels between them. &nbsp;Religion is not pushed, but multiple religions are studied, so that students may better understand the world as a whole.There are a wide range of subjects, all required, so that each student can &nbsp;discover his/her passion, and pursue it. No one feels talentless or worthless, because differences are not only celebrated, they are nurtured.</p><p>This school is not a pipe dream. It is not some unachievable fantasy. It exists. School has become demonized as this thing we all hate and suffer through because we&nbsp;<em>have&nbsp;</em>to, but it doesn&rsquo;t have to be that way. We can save the world by putting a stop to the breeding of quietly dispassionate conformists, and allowing humanity to embrace its natural diversity. We can really educate, and raise people who care about what&rsquo;s happening in the world, and&nbsp;<em>why</em>. If there is to be any real hope for humanity, schools must stop being so concerned with teaching &ldquo;what,&rdquo; and remember how to teach &ldquo;why.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Becky Vevea is a producer and reporter for WBEZ. Follow her </em><a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZeducation"><em>@WBEZeducation</em></a><em>.</em></p></p> Tue, 22 Jul 2014 17:09:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/winners-wbez%E2%80%99s-student-stories-110541 Parent group wants more eyes on CPS budget http://www.wbez.org/news/parent-group-wants-more-eyes-cps-budget-110517 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/wendy katten budget training.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr">A city-wide parent group wants more eyeballs on Chicago Public Schools spending before the Board of Education votes on its <a href="http://www.cps.edu/FY15Budget/Pages/FY15Budget.aspx">budget proposal</a> for next year.</p><p dir="ltr">On Monday night, leaders of the group Raise Your Hand for Illinois Public Education transformed a meeting room inside the Eckhart Park field house into a training center.</p><p dir="ltr">The group&rsquo;s executive director Wendy Katten and board member Dwayne Truss gave a crash course on the budget proposal that CPS officials <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/neighborhood-high-schools-again-take-hit-new-cps-budget-110444">released late in the evening on July 2nd</a>. Three simultaneous public hearings were held last night.</p><p dir="ltr">But Katten said even people closely connected to the public schools tend to have a hard time figuring out where CPS is spending taxpayer money. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;This is public money and we want to give people access just to the information,&rdquo; Katten said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s available. It&rsquo;s public information. It can be intimidating and hard to find and read. So we want to get people involved and feeling comfortable.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">There have been major shifts in the last few budget cycles, the biggest being a change in how schools are funded. Each school now gets a dollar amount &ldquo;attached to each child&rsquo;s head,&rdquo; Truss explained to the audience. The per pupil amount this year is up from last year and ranges from $4,400 to $5,400, depending on the grade. &nbsp;Most of the increase just covers the cost of inflation and teacher raises.</p><p dir="ltr">The training was not unbiased. Katten, Truss and other Raise Your Hand members encouraged people to ask specific questions at tonight&rsquo;s hearings, like why the district is cutting librarians and increasing spending on standardized tests. Raise Your Hand mostly advocates for neighborhood schools, which continue to face steep cuts as Mayor Rahm Emanuel pushes for more charter and magnet schools.</p><p dir="ltr">Katten said the group is still frustrated by the closure of 50 neighborhood schools last year, a decision that&rsquo;s even harder to swallow given that CPS keeps opening new schools.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Since the fall of 2012, which was when CPS announced there was a massive underutilization crisis, we found that they have opened 21,481 new seats of all kinds,&rdquo; Katten said. &ldquo;We were told that winter, that fall, that the district would be taking resources and investing them more wisely in existing schools, which would make sense. But we see that they continue to just be spread thin.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">CPS spokesman Joel Hood said this year the number of new seats at charter schools is roughly the same as the enrollment declines in existing district-run schools. Hood also said it&rsquo;s unfair to say the district did not invest in the schools that took in students from closed schools.</p><p dir="ltr">However, most of those so-called welcoming schools are seeing cuts this year.</p><p dir="ltr">The three public meetings were held at the following locations:</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Wilbur Wright College</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Events Building Theater</p><p dir="ltr">4300 N. Narragansett</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Kennedy King College</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Theater</p><p dir="ltr">740 West 63rd Street</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Malcolm X College</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Theater</p><p dir="ltr">1900 West Van Buren</p><p><br /><em>Becky Vevea is a producer and reporter for WBEZ. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZeducation">@WBEZeducation</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 17 Jul 2014 13:47:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/parent-group-wants-more-eyes-cps-budget-110517 The Big Sort http://www.wbez.org/news/big-sort-110502 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/big-sort---8th-grade-grad_0.jpg" title="After eighth grade graduation, Chicago students scatter to 130 different high schools. Test scores show that high-performing students and low-performing students in particular are clustering into separate schools under the city’s school choice model. Within neighborhoods, there is further sorting based on achievement. (WBEZ/Linda Lutton)" /></div></div></div></div></div><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="20" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/158915147&amp;color=ff5500&amp;inverse=false&amp;auto_play=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>This spring, at grammar schools all across Chicago, thousands of eighth graders donned caps and gowns and walked across auditorium stages to receive their elementary school diplomas. This fall, the graduates from each of those schools will scatter&mdash;to more than 130 different Chicago public high schools, and counting.</p><p>But who goes where?</p><p>Over the past decade, Chicago has opened more than 50 new high schools, and will open more this fall. The school district is trying to expand the number of quality school options and offer students a choice of where to go to school. And in many ways, Chicago high schools seem to be improving. Graduation rates are <a href="http://news.uchicago.edu/article/2014/04/24/focus-ninth-grade-triggers-climb-chicago-high-school-graduation-rates">inching up</a>. The city now boasts <a href="http://www.usnews.com/education/best-high-schools/illinois">five of the top ten high schools in the state</a>.</p><p>But a new WBEZ analysis shows an unintended consequence of the choice system: students of different achievement levels are being sorted into separate high schools.</p><p>WBEZ analyzed incoming test scores for freshmen from the fall of 2012, the most recent year data is available. That year, the district mandated that every high school give students an &ldquo;EXPLORE&rdquo; exam about a month into the school year.</p><p>The 26,340 scores range from painfully low to perfect.</p><p>But WBEZ found few schools in the city enroll the full span of students. Instead, low-scoring students and high-scoring students in particular are attending completely different high schools. Other schools enroll a glut of average kids.</p><p>Think of it as academic tracking&mdash;not within schools, but between them.</p><hr /><blockquote><p><strong>THE BIG SORT</strong></p><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://interactive.wbez.org/schools/the-big-sort.html" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/bigsortgraph.jpg" style="height: 287px; width: 540px;" title="" /></a></div><div class="image-insert-image "><em>See how student achievement relates to high school choice&nbsp;<a href="http://interactive.wbez.org/schools/the-big-sort.html">in an interactive chart linking each score in 2012 to a school</a>. Sort schools by type, demographics or location, and explore and compare the distribution of scores at each school.</em></div></blockquote><hr /><p>The findings raise some of the same long-running questions educators have debated about the academic and social implications of in-school tracking. But they also raise questions about whether the city&rsquo;s school choice system is actually creating better schools, or whether it&rsquo;s simply sorting certain students out and leaving the weakest learners in separate, struggling schools.</p><p>WBEZ&rsquo;s analysis shows:</p><ul><li><strong>Serious brain drain</strong>. The city&rsquo;s selective &ldquo;test-in&rdquo; high schools &mdash; among the best in the state &mdash; capture nearly all the top students in the school system. There were 104 kids who scored a perfect 25 on the EXPLORE exam. One hundred of them &mdash; 96 percent&nbsp;&mdash;&nbsp;enrolled in just six of the city&rsquo;s 130 high schools (Northside, Whitney Young, Payton, Lane, Lincoln Park, and Jones). In fact, 80 percent of perfect scorers went to just three schools. Among the city&rsquo;s top 2 percent of test takers (those scoring a 23, 24, or 25 on their exam), 87 percent are at those same six schools. Chicago has proposed creating an 11th selective enrollment high school, Barack Obama College Prep, to be located in the same area as the schools already attracting the city&rsquo;s top performers.</li><li><strong>Clustering of low-performing students.</strong> Fifteen percent of the city&rsquo;s high schools are populated with vastly disproportionate numbers of low-performing students. More than 80 percent of incoming students at these schools score below the district average. &nbsp;The schools enroll 10 percent of all Chicago high school students.</li><li><strong>Black students are most likely to be affected by sorting. &nbsp;</strong>WBEZ&rsquo;s analysis shows African American students are doubly segregated, first by race, then by achievement. Of the 40 most academically narrow schools in Chicago, 34 of them are predominantly black. Even though just 40 percent of students in the public schools are African American, Chicago has black high schools for low achievers, black high schools for average kids, black test-in high schools for high achievers. &nbsp;</li><li><strong>Within neighborhoods, more sorting. </strong>Schools within a particular community may appear to be attracting the same students demographically, but WBEZ finds significant sorting by achievement. Especially in neighborhoods on the South and West sides, the comprehensive neighborhood high school has become a repository for low performers; nearby charters or other new schools are attracting far greater percentages of above-average kids.</li><li><strong>The dozens of new high schools Chicago has opened since 2004</strong> <strong>fall on both sides of the &ldquo;sorting&rdquo; spectrum.</strong> New schools with the widest range of incoming test performers include Ogden International IB on the Near North Side; Goode, a Southwest Side magnet school with preference for neighborhood students; and Chicago High School for the Arts, which admits students based on arts auditions. New schools showing the least amount of academic diversity include Daniel Hale Williams (where incoming students score at about the district average); also low-scoring &nbsp;DuSable Leadership Academy Charter (in the same building as Williams, ordered in 2013 to begin phasing out), Ace Tech Charter, and Austin Business and Entrepreneurial High School.</li></ul><p>The idea behind school choice is to to let families pick the type of school they want for their kids, something more affluent Americans can do by moving or by paying for private school. Choice is also seen as a way to improve all schools by injecting more market-based competition into the school system.</p><p>But the sorting of students by achievement into separate high schools seems to be an unintended consequence.</p><p>&ldquo;It certainly wasn&rsquo;t a goal,&rdquo; says Paul Hill, the founder of the Center on Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington, and the architect of <a href="http://www.crpe.org/research/portfolio-strategy">the &ldquo;portfolio&rdquo; school choice model Chicago and other big cities are following</a>. Hill says he and others were concerned about sorting based on race or class, but dramatic sorting by achievement level was not foreseen.</p><p>Chicago schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett, who has been on the job for a year and a half, says she is aware that students are clustering in different high schools by achievement, and is concerned about any suggestion that that&rsquo;s a good thing.</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s no research to support that,&rdquo; said Byrd-Bennett, who said she, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the school board &ldquo;come from a very different belief system,&rdquo; one that does not rely on sorting students by achievement. &ldquo;What we believe is you&rsquo;ve got to elevate, raise the level and the quality of instruction at all of our schools, including our neighborhood (schools),&rdquo; said Byrd-Bennett. However, she rejected the notion that sorting is an outcome of school choice or Chicago&rsquo;s massive expansion in the number of high schools. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;This has got to be a district of choice. If I choose to go to my neighborhood school, it&rsquo;s because it ought to be a great school as well,&rdquo; said Byrd-Bennett.</p><p><strong>New York City and New Orleans see a similar dynamic</strong></p><p>Despite most New Orleans schools being open to students of all academic levels, &ldquo;high performing students tend to go to high-performing schools, and low-performing students tend to go to low-performing schools,&rdquo; says Andrew McEachin, a North Carolina State University professor who has studied school choice in the now all-charter city. &ldquo;So even though it&#39;s a choice-based district, you see that there&#39;s kind of like a tiered system, where people are choosing schools similar to their background and achievement levels.&rdquo;</p><p>The same thing is happening in New York City. Why? Researchers say &ldquo;achievement&rdquo; may be an indication of the resources students have at home. Higher performing students&rsquo; families are better at getting information about school quality, navigating the system, and securing things like transportation to school or test prep for entrance exams.</p><p>McEachin and others say the consequences of sorting could reverberate to other aspects of the school system. &ldquo;What is the unintended consequence of this ability grouping on the teacher labor market?&rdquo; asks McEachin. &ldquo;Is it going to make it even harder to get good teachers to the lowest-achieving students?&rdquo;</p><p>Sorting by performance isn&rsquo;t new in Chicago Public Schools, and isn&rsquo;t unique to choice systems. Some of the city&rsquo;s toughest high schools have not attracted generally higher performing middle-class students for decades. But under choice and a dramatic expansion in the number of high schools, parents and counselors say sorting of students is becoming more pronounced.</p><p><strong>Students know the hierarchy</strong></p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/2491597027_6716951610_z.jpg" title="Chicago students can identify the hierarchy high schools fall into. Lane Tech is for 'A' students, they say. (flickr/Alex Cheek)" /></div></div></div></div><p>In Chicago, students can tell you which high schools are for which students. On a sunny afternoon before school let out in June, kids at Lane Tech&mdash;one of the city&rsquo;s selective schools &mdash; describe the landscape.</p><p>&ldquo;If you get straight As and you do really good on testing, the school you&rsquo;ll probably get accepted into is Northside, Walter Payton, Whitney Young,&rdquo; says freshman Amber Hunt.</p><p>What about the B students? &ldquo;Schools with IB programs sometimes take solid Bs,&rdquo; says Amber. &ldquo;Charter schools are kind of like if you&rsquo;re average, or slightly below average.&rdquo;</p><p>Lots of students give the same answers. Ninth grader Evelyn Almodovar says she knows &ldquo;C&rdquo; students who went to private high schools because &ldquo;they didn&rsquo;t want to be embarrassed about going to a school that&rsquo;s known as having worse students.&rdquo;</p><p>And what about the lowest performers, those who struggle in grammar school? They go to neighborhood schools, every student tells me. &ldquo;Low-ranking schools,&rdquo; says freshman Anais Roman, naming a neighborhood school and low-scoring charter in her area.</p><p>Many elementary school counselors describe a nearly identical hierarchy (one grammar school even posts its graduates&rsquo; &ldquo;<a href="http://www.newberryacademy.org/counselors-corner/high-school-resources/high-school-destinations-for-newberry-graduates/">high school destinations</a>&rdquo; in the same basic A-to-F order).</p><p>In an indication of just how segmented high schools have become, a counselor said her elementary school sends &ldquo;average&rdquo; students to a nearby high school that&rsquo;s seen as safe, admits no low performers, and scores at about the district average. But she said she would not recommend the school for her top students&mdash;even though they&rsquo;re eligible to attend. &ldquo;I don&rsquo;t think they would offer the academic rigor,&rdquo; she said of the school.</p><p>A number of counselors lamented the sorting.</p><p>&ldquo;We look at the suburbs, and we look at much of the rest of the country&mdash;there&rsquo;s one school to go to based on your address, and that neighborhood &nbsp;high school would have all sorts of different programs available,&rdquo; says Walsh Elementary counselor Kristy Brooks.</p><p>Brooks says she sees positive aspects to Chicago&rsquo;s high school choice system&mdash;kids leave segregated neighborhoods and find new classmates and opportunities, students push themselves to get into top schools. But she says she sees neighborhood schools being left with low-performing students who didn&rsquo;t have the academic performance or the help to get to another school. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;I think in the long run it would be better to have equity in all schools,&rdquo; says Brooks.</p><p>But if all students were in a single comprehensive high school, wouldn&rsquo;t they be tracked within that school anyway? Does it matter if they&rsquo;re in separate schools?</p><p>&ldquo;In part it doesn&rsquo;t matter&mdash;it&rsquo;s disastrous either way,&rdquo; says Kevin Welner, director of the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder and an opponent of tracking.</p><p>&ldquo;But in part it matters because once we get to that point of between-school tracking, it&rsquo;s even harder to try to address. If we&rsquo;re going to reform the system and make it more equitable, starting with the kids in the same schools is a good first step,&rdquo; says Welner, who argues tracking cements current stratifications in society.</p><p><strong>Top performers benefit from sorting</strong></p><p>For many students at Lane Tech, this is the first time they&rsquo;ve attended school with all high achievers.</p><p>&ldquo;It raises the standards a lot,&rdquo; says freshman Paradise Cosey.</p><p>Another freshman says she feels more &ldquo;comfortable&rdquo; at 4,000-student Lane Tech than she did at her elementary school; she says this is the first year since fifth grade that classmates haven&rsquo;t asked to copy her work.</p><p>High performing students are like gold in a school. Everybody does better around them&mdash;including other high-performing students. And it&rsquo;s not just about test scores. The <a href="http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2011/05/10/31safe.h30.html">biggest predictor of whether a school is safe</a>, orderly, and set up for learning is students&rsquo; academic achievement. Having top performers makes an entire school easier to run.</p><p>Paul Hill says some stratification doesn&rsquo;t bother him, &ldquo;One thing that this just demonstrates yet again is that human beings just love status hierarchies and we&rsquo;ll create them any way we can.&rdquo; Hill says Americans believe in equality, but they also believe in elite schools.</p><p>&ldquo;But when it trickles down to the lowest-performing kids are in the schools with the least of everything, then that&rsquo;s not tolerable,&rdquo; says Hill.</p><p><strong>Marshall High, a school of &ldquo;last resort&rdquo;</strong></p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/big-sort-marshall-STILL-GETTING-PERMISSION.jpg" title="Kadeesha Williams originally wanted to go to Marine Military Academy, but ended up enrolling at Marshall. Her classmates would have been very different at Marine, where 48 percent of students come in above average. At Marshall, 14 percent come in above the district’s average. The school is set up to help the lower scoring students who enroll there. (WBEZ/Linda Lutton)" /></div></div></div><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="20" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/159037769&amp;color=ff5500&amp;inverse=false&amp;auto_play=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>At Marshall Metropolitan High School, 86 percent of students come in scoring below the district average. Some can&rsquo;t read.</p><p>Marshall, the attendance-area high school for a big swath of Chicago&rsquo;s West Side, is among the 15 percent of Chicago high schools enrolling vastly disproportionate numbers of low achievers.</p><p>&ldquo;Well, I didn&rsquo;t actually choose to come to Marshall,&rdquo; says rising sophomore Kadeesha Williams. &ldquo;My mom said because it was in the area.&rdquo;</p><p>Kadeesha had wanted to go to Marine Military Academy down the street. &ldquo;I wanted to be a Marine, so I wanted to get the type of education they get so I can get ready,&rdquo; she said. But the family turned her application in late. &ldquo;We went to take a test. But my mom, she lost the paperwork.&rdquo;</p><p>Kadeesha&rsquo;s mom says the paperwork was actually lost at the school&mdash;they had no record of Kadeesha taking the test, she says. &nbsp;</p><p>Kadeesha is liking Marshall. &ldquo;Marshall&rsquo;s a good school,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;Because the teachers here, they&rsquo;re very into you. They&rsquo;re a lot of help.&rdquo;</p><p>Other students say they came to Marshall because family went here. Some come to play for Marshall&rsquo;s storied basketball team or, lately, the school&rsquo;s budding chess team.</p><p>Teacher James Dorrell says for other students, &ldquo;it&rsquo;s sort of like a school of last resort. They try to enroll in charter schools or selective enrollments, and once they can&rsquo;t get in, they would come here&rdquo;&mdash;though he sees Marshall as much more than that. About half of the school&#39;s students come from the neighborhood, the other half from outside the attendance boundary.</p><p>Dorrell says after a re-staffing and infusion of money in 2010, Marshall is hugely improved. The entire school is set up to help the struggling kids who enroll here. Freshmen have double periods of English and math. Many take reading&mdash;a subject other high schools don&rsquo;t even offer.</p><p>But more students still drop out than graduate from Marshall. And test scores have barely moved.</p><p>Marshall raises a question at the heart of tracking&mdash;and at the heart of Chicago&rsquo;s system of school choice. Is it better to group low performers together? Better for whom?</p><p>&ldquo;The pros are yes, we can have these interventions,&rdquo; says Dorrell. &ldquo;The cons would be&mdash;you would want some high achievers because they sort of raise the bar, and other kids could see what it takes to be successful. So I think having kids with higher test scores would benefit all of this group. But I also see the benefit of having these kids&hellip;tracked by ability.&rdquo;</p><p>Marshall is open to all students in the neighborhood. But there are no freshman honors courses, no AP classes (the school is trying to change that). There&rsquo;s little to attract higher achievers.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://interactive.wbez.org/schools/the-big-sort.html"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/marshallgraph_0.jpg" title="A huge percentage of Chicago’s best students go to selective enrollment schools. But even after those students are creamed off the top, more sorting takes place within communities. Low achieving students are concentrating in the city’s traditional neighborhood high schools, like Marshall Metropolitan High on the West Side." /></a></div></div></div></div><p>There are four new high schools within a mile of Marshall. Two are military schools with minimum test score requirements, keeping out low performers. The third is a Noble Street charter school, which requires much more effort to enroll than Marshall. (Parents need to come to an information session on a particular evening in order to obtain an application, for instance. Students must write an essay.) &nbsp;At the two military schools, 48 percent and 64 percent of incoming students score above average. At the Noble Street charter, 41 percent of students enter above average. At Marshall, the figure is three times less&mdash;just 14 percent of incoming kids score above average.</p><p>That story is repeated in neighborhood after neighborhood in Chicago&mdash;and raises questions about whether the city&rsquo;s school choice system is creating better schools, or simply pulling away better performing students, leaving the low achievers segregated into separate, failing schools.</p><p>Michael Milkie, the founder and CEO of the Noble Network of Charter Schools, Chicago&rsquo;s largest high school charter network, sees the entire question of sorting as a &ldquo;red herring.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;I think the most important part by far are the adults in the building, their ability to deliver instruction, and the school culture. Those are the things that far outweigh whether you have a concentration of certain learners or a wide variety of learners,&rdquo; says Milkie. All Noble schools attract far more high performers than neighborhood schools in the same communities; CPS recently told Noble Street that applications &ldquo;must be available to all parents and students without limitations,&rdquo; and that the charter network must indicate that the required student essay is actually optional.</p><p>Milkie believes his students are exactly the same as those in other schools. He says the Noble scores look higher because the incoming test is given 4-6 weeks into high school, enough time for his students to pull ahead, he says.</p><p><strong>Lincoln Park High School: academically diverse, and de-tracking</strong></p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/big-sort--lincoln-park-HS.jpg" title="Students lead a discussion in a freshman English class at Lincoln Park High School. The incoming test scores we analyzed show Lincoln Park is the city’s most academically diverse school, enrolling a whole range of performers. It is an anomaly in a system where students are being sorted based on achievement level into separate high schools. And the school is de-tracking. This class included low- and high-achievers. Teacher Mark Whetstone says that made it hard to teach, but he said all students benefited. (WBEZ/Linda Lutton)" /></div></div></div><p>Lincoln Park High School is an anomaly in Chicago. It enrolls everyone. A 30-year-old International Baccalaureate program attracts elite students. Arts programs draw other kids. The attendance zone guarantees seats to students from both wealthy and poor families.</p><p>Principal Michael Boraz likes to say this is the most diverse high school in CPS, and maybe in the country.</p><p>&ldquo;Not just in terms of our racial and ethnic and neighborhood makeup,&rdquo; says Boraz, &ldquo;but also academically. We have kids from the 15<sup>th </sup>percentile rank in their standardized test scores, all the way up to the 99<sup>th</sup>. So it really is truly a diverse school in just about every sense.&rdquo;</p><p>School is about more than academics, says Boraz. It&rsquo;s where kids learn to live and work together. And now there&rsquo;s a big effort inside Lincoln Park to mix kids more.</p><p>IB classes once reserved for the elite were opened up to everyone last year. So many kids took the IB math final the school had to set up the test in the gym. Boraz <a href="https://twitter.com/mjboraz/status/466255132712505345">tweeted out a picture of 300 desks</a>.</p><p>One morning before school let out, students in a freshman English class at Lincoln Park took turns leading a class discussion on Richard Wright&rsquo;s <em>Black Boy</em>. The class included low performers and high achievers.</p><p>Teacher Mark Whetstone said it was hard to teach a class with such &ldquo;extreme&rdquo; diversity, but says he enjoyed it &ldquo;immensely.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;And I think more importantly the kids at all levels benefitted from the makeup of that class,&rdquo; says Whetstone. &ldquo;I feel like my lower performing students rose to the challenge. They had great examples from their peers around them at all times. And at the same time, for some of my higher performing students, it was good for them to work with someone generally not at their level. To be able to interact, and also to be able to take a lead in the classroom.&rdquo;</p><p>University of Chicago researchers are working on a report about the sorting that&rsquo;s happening among Chicago schools. One of the authors, Elaine Allensworth, says Chicago needs to decide what it wants&mdash;a system where we sort students, or a system where we mix them together more.</p><p>&ldquo;The solution is thinking about where we want to be as a society&mdash;what kind of system do we want&mdash;and how do we make that work for everyone,&rdquo; she says.</p><p>Allensworth says researchers already know one thing: whatever approach Chicago chooses, schools need to increase supports for the lowest performing students. If kids are mixed, lower achievers need help keeping up so they don&rsquo;t get frustrated and give up, and so they don&rsquo;t hold back their high-flying peers.</p><p>And if Chicago decides to keep sorting students by achievement, then the schools filled with the lowest performers are going to need a lot of extra resources.</p><p><em>This story was produced in partnership with <a href="http://hechingerreport.org" target="_blank">The Hechinger Report</a>, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news outlet at Teachers College, Columbia University.</em></p><p><em>Linda Lutton is a WBEZ education reporter. Follow her<a href="http://twitter.com/wbezeducation"> @WBEZeducation</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 16 Jul 2014 08:50:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/big-sort-110502 Schools on South, West sides left behind in CPS arts plan http://www.wbez.org/news/schools-south-west-sides-left-behind-cps-arts-plan-110464 <p><p>A report out this morning shows big disparities in arts education across Chicago Public Schools.</p><p>A sobering map on page 17 of the 44-page report highlights which Chicago communities are getting the most arts programming and which are getting the least. Most of the majority African American neighborhoods in the city are essentially arts education deserts.</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/Ingenuity_StateoftheArts_BaselineReport-18.jpg" style="height: 625px; width: 400px;" title="A map from Ingenuity's report on the arts in Chicago Public Schools highlights where community arts partners provided arts programs throughout the district in 2012-13." /></div><p>In all, fewer than a quarter of all of the district&rsquo;s elementary schools reported meeting the district&rsquo;s recommended two hours of arts instruction per week.</p><blockquote><p><strong><a href="http://llnw.wbez.org/Ingenuity_StateoftheArts_BaselineReport.pdf">Download the full report</a></strong></p></blockquote><p>Paul Sznewajs, the executive director of Ingenuity Incorporated, the arts-advocacy nonprofit that put out the report, stressed that it&rsquo;s meant to serve as a baseline for future years as his group begins to track the state of arts education. Ingenuity launched three years ago in tandem with the city&rsquo;s cultural plan by Mayor Rahm Emanuel shortly after he took office.</p><p>The biggest test, Sznewajs said, is making sure the school district&rsquo;s arts education plan is fully implemented, even in the <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/neighborhood-high-schools-again-take-hit-new-cps-budget-110444">face of steep budget cuts</a>.</p><p>&ldquo;Everyone always asks me, well, is it just about staffing, or is it just about partnerships, or is it just about the money? And the way we answer that truthfully is to say, it&rsquo;s about all of them,&rdquo; Sznewajs said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s not about any one piece of the pie, it&rsquo;s about making the whole pie bigger.&rdquo;</p><p>CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said the report provides valuable data for district leaders to better direct resources.</p><p>For example, she said, CPS is adding 84 arts teachers and 84 physical education over the next two years with the help of $21 million in Tax-Increment Financing (TIF) money. &nbsp;Byrd-Bennett told reporters Tuesday that 89 of those positions are going to schools on the South Side, 54 are going to schools on the West Side and 32 will go to schools on the North Side. CPS officials have yet to release the list of specific schools benefiting from those positions, despite multiple requests by reporters.</p><p>John Perryman, an art teacher at Ortiz Elementary in South Lawndale, sits on the Chicago Teachers Union arts education committee and said he&rsquo;s troubled by the move to use more arts partners, like the Lyric Opera or the Merit School of Music, in place of teachers.</p><p>The report found that in the 2012-2013 school year, four percent of schools had an arts partnership, but no certified teacher. Perryman said that number likely rose in the most recent school year, with budget cuts and the switch to <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-principals-get-more-flexibility-likely-less-money-budget-107560">student-based budgeting</a> forcing principals to make choices about every position and program they buy.</p><p>He also said the way CPS has added and then subsequently cut arts positions in recent years doesn&rsquo;t make much sense.</p><p>&ldquo;(For the longer school day), there were 100 positions created, then 100 positions cut and now for next year, they&rsquo;re adding 84 positions,&rdquo; Perryman said. &ldquo;This has created great instability in the field of arts education because teachers are getting fired and rehired.&rdquo;</p><p>The head of CPS&rsquo;s Department of Arts Education, Mario Rossero, stressed that the report only looks at about half of the district&rsquo;s schools. Many did not report their data in the first year, 2012-2013, the year the report is based on. Rossero said the most recent year saw an 89 percent response rate.</p><p>Wendy Katten of the parent group Raise Your Hand echoed what Rossero said and noted that in her group&rsquo;s tracking of budget cuts last year, 170 arts positions were lost.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;ll be interesting to see what these numbers look like for this year,&rdquo; Katten said.</p><p>Ingenuity is expected to put out an updated dataset with numbers from the most recent school year (2013-2014) sometime in November.</p><p><em>Becky Vevea is a producer and reporter for WBEZ. Follow her </em><a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZeducation"><em>@WBEZeducation</em></a><em>.</em></p></p> Wed, 09 Jul 2014 08:37:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/schools-south-west-sides-left-behind-cps-arts-plan-110464 Neighborhood high schools again take hit in new CPS budget http://www.wbez.org/news/neighborhood-high-schools-again-take-hit-new-cps-budget-110444 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/byrd-bennett.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><em>Updated Tuesday July, 8 at 8:00 a.m.&nbsp;</em></p><p>Schools with more than $1 million slashed from their budgets are overwhelmingly the city&rsquo;s public neighborhood high schools.</p><p>Once seen as anchors in many communities, neighborhood high schools have seen enrollment decline dramatically in the past decade. The decline is a direct result of Chicago Public Schools opening more privately run charter high schools. Students now scatter to schools all over the city when they go to high school.</p><p>Enrollment declines in neighborhood high schools are driving huge budget cuts, because district officials switched the budgeting formula to rely more heavily on number of students attending. At some neighborhood high schools last year, the <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/future-uncertain-chicagos-neighborhood-high-schools-108834">freshman class was so small</a>, principals were barely able to hire enough teachers to cover core subject areas, much less offer any additional courses, like music or foreign language.</p><p>Last year CPS <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-enrollment-dip-doesnt-cost-principals-108781">held those schools harmless</a> when they enrolled fewer students than projected, but this year that practice ended.</p><p>Of the 26 schools seeing $1 million or more in cuts under the newly released CPS budget, 24 are high schools. Just two are elementary schools: De Diego and Disney Magnet. The <em>Chicago Tribune</em> reported yesterday that the principal and assistant principal of De Diego, which served as a receiving school for two schools that closed last year, were <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/chi-wicker-park-school-principal-reassigned-20140701,0,2303804.story">recently removed from their posts</a>. It is unclear what is driving cuts at Disney Magnet; &nbsp;at the same time the total budget decreased, the school gained three positions. (<strong>A complete list of schools with the steepest cuts is below.</strong>)</p><p>When looking at schools where 10 or more positions were cut, neighborhood high schools are again hardest hit. Of the 25 schools losing 10 staff or more, 19 are high schools. Oddly, one of those, Lindblom Math and Science Academy, is a selective enrollment high school that draws from across the city. Lindblom Principal Alan Mather said he did not lose positions. But when looking closer at the school&#39;s report in CPS&#39;s interactive budget, he said it looked like a shift from janitors funded directly by the board to those provided through Aramark may be accounting for the seemingly large drop in positions. CPS officials did not respond when asked about how janitors are counted.&nbsp;</p><p>Six elementary schools -- Eberhart, Dodge, Lewis, Marquette, Cameron and Haley -- lost 10 or more positions. Three of those (Dodge, Lewis and Marquette) are run by the non-profit Academy of Urban School Leadership.</p><p>Although many schools suffered steep cuts, the overall &nbsp;budget for next year rings up at $5.7 billion, which is up $500 million from last year. The increase comes even as CPS is projecting a loss of about 100 students.</p><p>CPS officials released the proposed budget on Wednesday, just a day from the start of a holiday weekend. Officials gave reporters just four minutes to look over a Power Point presentation before holding a conference call to take questions. The complete budget was not posted until 8 p.m.</p><p>It remains unclear when and where the district will hold public hearings on the proposed budget.</p><p>In the conference call, CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said the overall increase is largely driven by ballooning pension payments to the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund. The Fund&rsquo;s interim director, Jay Rehak, told WBEZ earlier in the week that CPS recently made its first full payment since 2010. In previous years, CPS paid smaller installments because of a three-year pension holiday granted by the state of Illinois.</p><p>Despite having to pay more into the pension fund after years of not doing so, Byrd-Bennett touted the district&rsquo;s ability to keep cuts away from classrooms this year.</p><p>Roughly $3.8 billion will go directly to schools, according to <a href="http://www.cps.edu/fy15budget/">budget documents</a>, an increase from last year&rsquo;s total of about $3.6 billion. Schools will receive an additional $250 per student this year, but much of that only covers staff salary increases.</p><p>Charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately run, will see an overall increase of $41 million, or about 10 percent. According to budget documents, the increase is not just from enrollment growth, but also an increase in the amount of money given to charters for every student they enroll.</p><p>A majority of the schools getting increases of $1 million or more are new and expanding charter schools, including six Noble Street high schools, two UNO schools, two Concept Schools, one LEARN school, &nbsp;Catalyst-Maria, Chicago International Charter School-Quest Campus.</p><p>CPS Budget Chief Ginger Ostro said the district faced a more than $800 million deficit in this year&rsquo;s budget. In order to close that deficit, officials are using an accounting trick that shifts when it counts the revenue coming in from property taxes. &nbsp;</p><p>Sarah Wetmore, vice president and research director with the Civic Federation, called the proposal &ldquo;not sustainable&rdquo; and said CPS must work with state lawmakers in Springfield to get pension reform in order to fix the structural problems.</p><p>It is also now the fifth year that CPS has relied on a one-time windfall of cash to balance its budget.</p><p><em>Becky Vevea is a producer and reporter for WBEZ. Follow her&nbsp;</em><a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZeducation"><em>@WBEZeducation</em></a><em>.</em></p><p><strong>Schools with the biggest cuts ($1 million or more)</strong><br />1. Juarez HS<br />2. Hyde Park HS<br />3. Julian HS<br />4. Clemente<br />5. Richards<br />6. Hancock<br />7. Lakeview<br />8. Wells<br />9. Crane<br />10. Kelvyn Park<br />11. North Lawndale Charter<br />12. Harlan<br />13. Tilden<br />14. Amundsen<br />15. Farragut<br />16. Sullivan<br />17. Robeson<br />18. Kelly<br />19. Lincoln Park<br />20. Henry Ford Powerhouse<br />21. De Diego<br />22. Hirsch<br />23. Orr<br />24. Disney Magnet<br />25. Aspira &ndash; Ramirez<br />26. Fenger</p><p><strong>Schools that lost more than 10 positions</strong><br />1. Bogan<br />2. Hyde Park<br />3. Farragut<br />4. Amundsen<br />5. Hirsch<br />6. Crane<br />7. Harlan<br />8. Lincoln Park<br />9. Eberhart Elementary<br />10. Juarez<br />11. Orr<br />12. Clemente<br />13. Harper<br />14. Robeson<br />15. Julian<br />16. Dodge Elementary<br />17. Manley<br />18. Sullivan<br />19. Lewis Elementary<br />20. Marshall<br />21. Lindblom<br />22. Marquette Elementary<br />23. Carver<br />24. Cameron Elementary<br />25. Haley Elementary</p><p><em>*A previous version of this article stated that Jay Rehak was the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund&#39;s director. He is the interim executive director and president of CTPF&rsquo;s board of trustees. Kevin Huber is the executive director of the Fund and currently out on medical leave.</em></p></p> Thu, 03 Jul 2014 08:23:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/neighborhood-high-schools-again-take-hit-new-cps-budget-110444 More than a thousand teachers and other staff laid off in Chicago http://www.wbez.org/news/more-thousand-teachers-and-other-staff-laid-chicago-110423 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/board of ed_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr">Chicago Public Schools officials told 550 teachers and 600 more school staff Thursday that they&rsquo;re out of a job.</p><p dir="ltr">The number of dreaded phone calls being made by principals is based on how many kids CPS officials project will show up on the first day next fall.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;The staffing changes are driven most directly by declining student enrollment,&rdquo; CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said in a conference call with reporters.</p><p dir="ltr">The number is significantly smaller than last year&rsquo;s nearly 3,000 layoffs, which were due mostly to the Board of Education&rsquo;s decision to close 50 schools.</p><p dir="ltr">More than <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-issues-pink-slips-over-800-employees-107713">800 teachers were laid off last June</a>, another <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/education/cps-announces-2100-layoffs-108109">2,100 were let go in July</a> and nearly 100 were <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/economy/cps-issues-nearly-100-pink-slips-109078">released after the 20th day of school enrollment count</a> was taken in the fall.</p><p dir="ltr">CPS&rsquo;s Chief Talent Officer Alicia Winckler said, typically, about 60 percent of the staff let go over the summer find new jobs at other schools in the system.</p><p dir="ltr">Jackson Potter, staff coordinator for the Chicago Teachers Union, said it&rsquo;s still too many layoffs in a system already starved for resources.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;It sort of like, hey, we cut the most we&rsquo;ve ever cut in the last two years and we cut a little less than that this year, so therefore, it&rsquo;s not so bad, doesn&rsquo;t seem reasonable, or accurate, or considerate to the families that are going to suffer a further reduction of the essentials that their children need and deserve,&rdquo; Potter said.</p><p dir="ltr">CPS officials say they have made adjustments at schools where enrollment dropped and core programs are in jeopardy.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;We&rsquo;ve made every single effort, whereever there was a decline, to make sure that the core academic program, as well as the enrichment programs could continue for next year,&rdquo; Byrd-Bennett said. &ldquo;But it is difficult for schools that have sustained substantial enrollment decreases to avoid staff impact. I mean, you can&rsquo;t get around that.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Last year, schools that lost enrollment were held harmless--meaning they could keep money budgeted to them even if the number of students who enrolled came in under what was projected. That will not continue this year.</p><p dir="ltr">District officials have said the complete fiscal year 2015 budget is set to be released in early July.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Becky Vevea is a producer for WBEZ. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZeducation">@WBEZeducation</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 26 Jun 2014 18:28:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/more-thousand-teachers-and-other-staff-laid-chicago-110423 CPS softens strict discipline policies http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-softens-strict-discipline-policies-110396 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/voyce-signs.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago Public Schools is <a href="http://www.cpsboe.org/content/documents/june_25_2014_public_agenda_to_print.pdf">officially changing its Student Code of Conduct</a> so fewer kids get suspended and expelled.</p><p>The move comes after national data showed <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/06/education/black-students-face-more-harsh-discipline-data-shows.html">African American and Latino students being suspended at disproportionate rates</a>. Chicago was one of the worst offenders.</p><p>It&rsquo;s something CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said she noticed when she first started working in Chicago.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s the strictest zero-tolerance policy that I&rsquo;ve ever seen in the country,&rdquo; Byrd-Bennett said in a conference call with reporters on Monday. &ldquo;We have a broad range of suspendable offenses. For example, we&rsquo;re the only major school district that allow(s) for out-of-school suspensions for cell phone use.&rdquo;</p><p>The new code of conduct eases up on allowable cell phone punishments, but a school may still suspend a student for using a cell phone in school if it &ldquo;seriously disrupts&rdquo; the environment.</p><p>Others changes include: eliminating suspensions in preschool through 2nd grade, requiring that a note goes home when a suspension is given out, and eliminating vague categories like &ldquo;persistent defiance&rdquo;. School officials said internal data showed the largest racial disparities for African Americans in the &ldquo;persistent defiance&rdquo; category. Officials did not make that data immediately available.</p><p>A student activist group that has worked for several years to eliminate zero-tolerance discipline called the move a step in the right direction, but argued more work needed to be done to reduce police presence in schools.</p><p>Shawn Brown, an organizer with Voices of Youth in Chicago Education, or VOYCE, said there is still a lack of resources at the school level to properly implement restorative discipline. He said &nbsp;the district&rsquo;s plan to train principals during a one-day workshop this summer is unrealistic.</p><p>&ldquo;That&rsquo;s not anyway to teach anyone about restorative justice,&rdquo; Brown said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s not something you can do in one day.&rdquo;</p><p>CPS officials said there is no additional money in the budget for extra staff to focus on reducing suspensions and expulsions through restorative justice.</p><p>The Chicago Teachers Union also issued a statement calling for more support staff in schools, saying &ldquo;each school needs fully trained personnel to address any issues that students may have.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;These personnel should not be part of a third party vendor program or grant&mdash;they should be part of the permanent school staff,&rdquo; the statement read.</p><p>A WBEZ investigation in May <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/student-suspensions-numbers-110172">found more than 50,000 students</a> in CPS had gotten at least one out-of-school suspension. A dozen schools suspended more than half of their student body and nearly all are majority African American schools, serving 90 percent or more black students.</p><p>The investigation also found wide variation in how discipline plays out from school to school. Charter schools tended to suspend more students in elementary grades than district-run schools and schools run by the Academy for Urban School Leadership suspended large portions of their student bodies.</p><p>Charter schools authorized by CPS do not have to follow the district&rsquo;s Code of Conduct and many are known for having stricter environments. AUSL does have to follow the district&rsquo;s discipline policies, but Byrd-Bennett said there is no formal process when a school is out of compliance.</p><p>The Board of Education is scheduled to vote on the proposed changes during Wednesday&rsquo;s monthly meeting.</p><p><em>Becky Vevea is a producer for WBEZ. Follow her </em><a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZeducation"><em>@WBEZeducation</em></a><em>.</em></p></p> Tue, 24 Jun 2014 07:52:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-softens-strict-discipline-policies-110396 What the heck happened to Chicago's truancy officers? http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/what-heck-happened-chicagos-truancy-officers-110282 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/truancy thumb.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/152861576&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_artwork=true&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>Over the past few years, Curious City has answered many questions about Chicago streets: <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/street-sweeping-essential-service-or-revenue-scam-109221">why they get cleaned</a>, why <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/why-some-chicago-streets-got-numbers-others-were-stuck-names-102380">some get names but others receive numbers</a>, and why portions of the Kennedy Expressway <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/how-do-reversible-lanes-kennedy-expressway-work-101384">sometimes switch directions</a>.</p><p>But what caught Saundra Oglesby&rsquo;s attention is what&rsquo;s <em>missing</em> from city streets, or rather <em>who</em> has been missing. We met Saundra just once, but her question needs little clarification:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><em>Why aren&#39;t truancy officers riding around like they used to?</em></p><p>Saundra &mdash; a resident of Chicago&rsquo;s Lawndale neighborhood &mdash; is referring to the men and women once employed by Chicago Public Schools to track down students who did not turn up for class.</p><p>&ldquo;When we was growing up, they would pick us up, take us to the school, call our parents and say, &lsquo;Hey, this kid is not in school, why aren&rsquo;t you in school?&rsquo;&rdquo; Oglesby recalled.</p><p>Hers is a fair question and, we learned, a timely one.</p><p>The city&rsquo;s truancy officers were cut decades ago, but the problem they were tasked with solving &mdash; chronic, unexcused absence from school &mdash; persists and it&rsquo;s hurt kids, communities and the school district itself.</p><p>In May of this year, <em><a href="http://www.catalyst-chicago.org/sites/catalyst-chicago.org/files/blog-assets/files/cps_verified_chronic_truancy_and_absenteeism_data.pdf">Catalyst Chicago </a></em>magazine revealed that a little more than one quarter of CPS students were <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/what-heck-happened-all-cps-truant-officers-110282#def"><em>chronically truant</em> </a>last year. The district verified that report. (At CPS, a student qualifies as chronically truant if she misses 5 percent of the school year &mdash; or about nine days &mdash; without an accepted excuse. Prior to the 2011-2012 school year, the threshold was 18 missed days, or 10 percent of the school year.)</p><p>The truancy situation&rsquo;s considered bad enough that Illinois lawmakers want recommendations of how to get more Chicago kids to show up at school.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Truancy officers don&rsquo;t make the cut</span></p><p>For nearly fifty years truancy officers in Chicago knocked on doors, called students&rsquo; friends and relatives, and stalked neighborhood haunts to find wayward kids. They would also figure out what was happening in children&rsquo;s lives &mdash; at home, in the streets or at school &mdash; that would keep them from class.</p><p>But the job title &mdash; at least at the district level &mdash; disappeared after 1992.</p><p>Aarti Dhupelia, CPS&rsquo; Chief Officer for College and Career Success, says at that time CPS faced a <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1991-04-30/news/9102080222_1_school-year-ted-kimbrough-schools-supt">$315 million</a> shortfall, and the administration at the time <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1992-10-01/news/9203290322_1_truant-officers-bargain-in-good-faith-union-officials">zeroed in on truancy officers</a>. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;We actually had as many as 150 truancy officers district wide,&rdquo; Dhupelia explained. &ldquo;Due to unclear evidence of their effectiveness as well as budget constraints, those positions were eliminated.&rdquo;</p><p>The district estimated a savings of about $15 million that year, and that it wouldn&rsquo;t miss the truancy officers. Dhupelia says officers could find kids and bring them to school &ldquo;but they could not answer the larger question of why did children leave school in the first place.&rdquo;</p><p>In fact, even with truancy officers in place in the early 1990s, Chicago had the highest high school <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1992-09-24/news/9203270085_1_chicago-schools-local-school-councils-test-scores">dropout rate</a> in the country. In the years after the officers were cut, the district&rsquo;s dropout rate improved, but the district&rsquo;s truancy rates remained <a href="http://illinoisreportcard.com/District.aspx?source=StudentCharacteristics&amp;source2=ChronicTruants&amp;Districtid=15016299025">above the state average</a>.</p><p>That&rsquo;s despite various efforts over the years, including dedicated truancy outreach and re-engagement centers.</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/what-heck-happened-all-cps-truant-officers-110282#addlinfo"><em style="font-size: 16px; text-align: center;">(More on CPS&rsquo; anti-truancy efforts)</em></a></p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Truancy and fallout</span></p><p>The consequences of missed days of school add up, a realization all too familiar to <em>Chicago Tribune</em> reporter <a href="http://bio.tribune.com/davidjackson">David Jackson</a>.</p><p>In 2012 Jackson was tipped off to what appeared to be a growing attendance problem. A juvenile court judge told him she was shocked by the number of young kids who were out of school and in her courtroom.</p><p>&ldquo;She noted that those were the kids obviously involved in delinquency and crimes on the streets,&rdquo; Jackson remembered. &ldquo;What they were doing when they weren&rsquo;t in school was either not safe for them or for the community.&rdquo;</p><p>So Jackson and reporter Gary Marx asked for access to a highly-protected CPS attendance database, which tracks &mdash; kid-by-kid &mdash; how often a student misses class. The newspaper team fought a losing legal battle over access to the data. (Jackson said the information is not made public for several good reasons, including privacy.)</p><blockquote><p><span style="font-size:18px;">Truant: A student who is absent for no valid cause. Valid excuses include illness, death in the family, family emergency, special religious holiday and case-by-case special circumstances.</span></p><p><span style="font-size:18px;">Truancy: Being absent without cause for one or more days</span></p><div><p><span style="font-size:18px;">Chronic truancy: Being absent, without an excuse, for five percent of the previous 180 school days (a full school year) &mdash; or, about nine days for CPS students.</span></p></div></blockquote><p>Jackson decided to go at it again in 2012 when CPS was embroiled in several of the biggest stories in Chicago (and the nation): at one time the district faced a punishing teacher&rsquo;s strike, school closings and consolidations and escalating violence. After the Tribune team stripped down the original requests, they received the numbers from the 2010-2011 school year. Jackson concluded that the district was facing a <a href="http://media.apps.chicagotribune.com/truancy/index.html">truancy crisis</a>.</p><p>&ldquo;We found in the database &mdash; and this is an extremely conservative number &mdash; that at least one in eight elementary students in Chicago missed four weeks of school [during the year we studied],&rdquo; Jackson recounted.</p><p>Translation: If students retain that pattern of missing school between kindergarten and eighth grade, they could miss a year of school before they begin high school.</p><p>And, as Yale University criminologist <a href="http://www.law.yale.edu/faculty/TMeares.htm">Tracey Meares</a> explained, education is vital to survival. Meares has spent time studying networks of gun violence in the city of Chicago. She believes the most effective way to save lives &mdash; and prevent a young person from falling prey to gang and gun violence &mdash; is to teach them to read.</p><p>&ldquo;Making sure that children can read by 3rd grade is probably one of the most important things that any city can do with respect to violent crime in the long term,&rdquo; Meares said. &ldquo;Our research shows that people, young men, who drop out from high school, are much more likely to be gang-involved than those who are not.&rdquo;</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="442" mozallowfullscreen="mozallowfullscreen" msallowfullscreen="msallowfullscreen" oallowfullscreen="oallowfullscreen" src="http://cf.datawrapper.de/iR3Sz/4/" webkitallowfullscreen="webkitallowfullscreen" width="600"></iframe></p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">They&rsquo;re going to learn from someone</span></p><p>John Paul Jones, the president of <a href="http://www.sustainableenglewood.org/">Sustainable Englewood Initiatives</a>, said the truancy issue has left the South Side neighborhood with a lot of children learning from others on the street.</p><p>&ldquo;The ex-offenders, the alcoholics, other persons who are just not productive in the community life and those are the ones they&rsquo;re around. And so, it puts them in the way of violence,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;It puts them in the way of doing things that puts them and the community at risk.&rdquo;</p><p>One long-term effect of chronic truancy, Jones explained, is that young people in the community aren&rsquo;t rewarded for getting ahead in school.</p><p>&ldquo;Those who do wrong get celebrated when they come back from prison. They come back, there&rsquo;s a cluster of guys who welcome them back,&rdquo; said Jones. But he feels that kind of welcome&rsquo;s not extended to returning college students.</p><p>&ldquo;You come back and you may have somebody who not as thrilled about you coming back,&rdquo; he said.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Another victim: CPS</span></p><p>So kids are directly hurt by chronic truancy and, according to Jones, a whole community can be, too. But as we dug into this question about the absence of truancy officers in Chicago, we found that there&rsquo;s likely another victim: CPS.</p><p>Public school districts are reimbursed by the state and federal governments based on how many kids show up. This complicated formula can be likened to a mortgage calculator.</p><p>A 2010 internal CPS report, <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-12-24/news/ct-met-truancy-report-20121224_1_anti-truancy-plan-truancy-and-absenteeism-attendance-data">obtained by the Tribune</a>, suggested CPS could have garnered an additional $11.5 million in state funds if district attendance that year had been just 1 percent higher. Or, in numbers more people can digest, CPS estimated it lost $111 each time a student missed a day.</p><p>Jackson and his reporting team found that more often than not, truancy officers practically paid for themselves.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Will Chicago ever welcome back truancy officers?</span></p><p>Jackson and his Tribune colleagues looked at how other school districts around the state and country tackle truancy. Jackson said in many districts, dedicated truancy officers could handle a key function of finding who was missing on any given day of school, and then prioritizing which ones to reach out to. The kids, Jackson, said, were often findable.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s not that they disappear into a Bermuda Triangle,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>But do observations like this an argument make an argument in favor of truancy officers?</p><p>CPS doesn&rsquo;t take it that way.</p><p>&ldquo;I think that tackling attendance truancy and attendance is really an &lsquo;it takes a village&rsquo; issue,&rdquo; said CPS&rsquo; Dhupelia. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s not something that the district can tackle alone. It&rsquo;s something that families need to tackle, that the district needs to tackle, it&rsquo;s something that community partners, elected officials need to help tackle.&rdquo;</p><p>It so happens Chicago&rsquo;s truancy problems are being tackled by elected officials and other stakeholders. The legislature created a <a href="http://www.isbe.state.il.us/TCPSTF/default.htm">Chicago Public Schools Truancy Task Force</a> to recommend how to improve CPS&rsquo; attendance record.</p><p>To find out what the task force thinks of truancy officers, Curious City, spoke to one of its members: Jeffrey Aranowski, who&rsquo;s with the Illinois State Board of Education.</p><p>&ldquo;If you look across the state, most all counties have truant officers employed either by districts or regional offices of education, they&rsquo;re very active. CPS seems to be a little bit of an outlier there,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;But again, whether or not that&rsquo;s something that&rsquo;s appropriate or even will be recommended by the task force is yet to be seen.&rdquo;</p><p>The task force&rsquo;s homework is due soon; as of this writing, it&rsquo;s set for the end of July. By then state lawmakers hope to have final recommendations on how to address truancy in CPS schools.</p><p>Perhaps by then, Chicago will know whether the state would like to see truancy officers return to its streets.<a name="addlinfo"></a></p><p><em>Special thanks to David Jackson of the </em>Chicago Tribune<em> and Melissa Sanchez of </em>Catalyst Chicago<em> magazine.</em></p><p><em>Katie O&rsquo;Brien is a WBEZ producer and reporter. Foll<a href="https://twitter.com/katieobez">ow her @katieobez</a>.</em></p><hr /><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Additional information: CPS&#39; current anti-truancy efforts</span></p><p>Chicago Public Schools is currently expanding what it calls SOAR (Student Outreach and Re-engagement) centers. There are currently centers in three city neighborhoods: Roseland, Little Village and Garfield Park. The centers are to support all students who have dropped out or are at risk of dropping out. Across the engagement centers are 15 re-engagement specialists who focus on recruiting and guiding students back into school. CPS says that since the February 2013 launch, SOAR Centers have served 1,615 students.</p><p>CPS&rsquo; Aarti Dhupelia says that over the past several months, CPS has developed a comprehensive attendance and truancy strategy that focuses on the root causes of truancy. That strategy, she says, is two-fold.<a name="def"></a></p><ul><li><strong>Building universal systems in schools that prevent absenteeism: </strong>Coach schools on how to build a positive culture around attendance and helping them monitor attendance regularly. Dhupelia says the district is building data tools to enable documentation and tracking.</li><li><strong>Targeted interventions:</strong> Identifying the root cause of a student&rsquo;s absence and connecting them to resources to address it so that the child can return to a school environment.</li></ul><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Additional information: Definitions</span></p><p>Attendance rate = percentage of days present out of total days enrolled</p><p>Absence rate = percentage of days absent out of total days enrolled; includes excuses, unexcused and suspensions</p><p>Truant: A student who is absent for no valid cause. Valid excuses include illness, death in the family, family emergency, special religious holiday and case-by-case special circumstances.</p><p>Truancy: Being absent without cause for one or more days</p><p>Chronic truancy: Being absent, without an excuse, for five percent of the previous 180 school days (a full school year) &mdash; or, about nine days for CPS students.</p><p>Chronically absent: Missing at least 18 school days, whether excused or unexcused.</p></p> Wed, 04 Jun 2014 17:10:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/what-heck-happened-chicagos-truancy-officers-110282