WBEZ | Chicago Public Schools http://www.wbez.org/tags/chicago-public-schools Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Morning Shift: New income tax issues for 2015 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-01-20/morning-shift-new-income-tax-issues-2015-111418 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/6984657584_561f45afca.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>We discuss the effect of the income tax rollback in Illinois. We find out how the Affordable Care Act may affect your 2014 return. And, author Tom Geoghegan sees a connection between the decline in union power and the rise in income inequality.&nbsp;</p><div class="storify"><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="no" height="750" src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-1-20-2015/embed?header=false&amp;border=false" width="100%"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-1-20-2015.js?header=false&border=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-1-20-2015" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: New income tax issues for 2015" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Tue, 20 Jan 2015 07:28:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-01-20/morning-shift-new-income-tax-issues-2015-111418 Emanuel promises 85 percent graduation rate if elected to second term http://www.wbez.org/news/emanuel-promises-85-percent-graduation-rate-if-elected-second-term-111366 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/rahm-file.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is promising an 85 percent graduation rate by 2019, if he&#39;s elected to a second term.</p><p>In an invitation-only event, Emanuel said the future of the city depends on it.</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s no challenge the city&rsquo;s facing, and no opportunity we can&rsquo;t seize, that doesn&rsquo;t get answered on graduation day at high schools,&rdquo; Emanuel said. &ldquo;Not one.&rdquo;</p><p>Last school year, CPS hit an all-time high, with 69.8 percent of students making it through high school in at least five years.</p><p>To get the dramatic increase he wants, Emanuel said high schools will re-launch a program that his administration cut in 2012. &nbsp;It&#39;s called Freshman Connection. The month-long summer program introduced rising freshman to their high school, and made sure they were academically and socially prepared.</p><p>Jesse Sharkey, acting-president of the Chicago Teachers Union, said the gains in graduation numbers and the focus on freshman is a result of previous administrations&rsquo; efforts, not Emanuel&rsquo;s.</p><p>&ldquo;We were paying attention to that six years ago, when I was in a classroom,&rdquo; Sharkey said. Sharkey was a history teacher at Senn High School before being elected to CTU leadership.</p><p>He also noted that graduation rates are improving all across the country because &ldquo;there aren&rsquo;t very many good options for people who don&rsquo;t stay in school.&rdquo;</p><p>Freshman Connection isn&rsquo;t the only initiative in Emanuel&rsquo;s second term education agenda that was borrowed from the past.</p><p>He said, if elected, he will allow high-performing schools a free pass from most central office mandates, including around things like curriculum, standardized tests and budget. Ironically, his schools team cut a program that did just that. Some schools were designated as Autonomous Management Performance Schools&mdash;or AMPS&mdash;and were able to set their own curriculum and opt-out of many district mandates.</p><p>The new version would label schools that are high-performing three years in a row as &ldquo;Independent Schools.&rdquo; When asked about the criteria that would determine if a school is high-performing, CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said she is putting together a task force to determine that.</p><p>However, Byrd-Bennett bristled at the idea that it was the same as the old AMPS designation.</p><p>If elected to a second term, Emanuel also promised to:</p><p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Increase the graduation rate at City Colleges to 21 percent by 2018.</p><p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Make computer science a high school graduation requirement.</p><p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Expand the number of full-day pre-school classrooms from 100 to 300.</p><p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Improve the city&rsquo;s high schools by giving them specialty programs, like International Baccalaureate, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), and fine arts.</p><p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Double the bandwidth in every school so every classroom has a WiFi connection.</p><p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Double the number of parent engagement centers at schools from 31 to 62 by 2017.</p></p> Thu, 08 Jan 2015 20:41:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/emanuel-promises-85-percent-graduation-rate-if-elected-second-term-111366 Morning Shift: Tracking convictions in Cook County http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-01-09/morning-shift-tracking-convictions-cook-county-111375 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/3293465641_b6c5081e87_z.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>We look at a new website launched by the Chicago Justice Project crunching arrest and conviction data in Cook County. We also find out what public school students expect from the mayor. Plus, the old school sounds of Chicago&#39;s Treehouse Records.&nbsp;</p><div class="storify"><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="no" height="750" src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-tracking-convictions-in-cook-county/embed?header=false&amp;border=false" width="100%"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-tracking-convictions-in-cook-county.js?header=false&border=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-tracking-convictions-in-cook-county" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: Tracking convictions in Cook County" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Mon, 05 Jan 2015 13:39:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-01-09/morning-shift-tracking-convictions-cook-county-111375 Inspector General finds questionable conduct in CPS http://www.wbez.org/news/inspector-general-finds-questionable-conduct-cps-111338 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/CPS IG LUNCH PHOTO.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-d231fa94-bb41-12b8-a409-b2b852f480ad">Parents who try to sneak their kids into Chicago&rsquo;s selective schools through address fraud have been put on notice.</p><p dir="ltr">A new report by Chicago Public Schools inspector general, Nicholas Schuler, details several cases of admissions fraud investigated by his office over the last year. And his recommendations range from kicking the students out to firing the CPS staff who abetted it.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I hope this sends a message that people need to follow the rules and the rules apply to everybody,&rdquo; Schuler said. &ldquo;And when fraud is discovered there is going to be responsibility for that and the result might be that their child might be disenrolled from the school.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.cps.edu/About_CPS/Departments/Documents/OIG_FY_2014_AnnualReport.pdf">This year&rsquo;s report</a>, which went live Monday morning, includes the usual array of residency violations, kickback schemes, fake purchases and tuition fraud. But it also documents the desperate acts of parents trying to get their kids into selective schools, administrators trying to fudge their dropout rates and vendors trying to get the inside track on city contracts.</p><p dir="ltr">On Sunday night, CPS released a statement to WBEZ, saying &quot;Chicago Public Schools is committed to working with the Office of the Inspector General to eliminate corruption, fraud and waste across the District. &nbsp;The annual OIG report is a testament of our cooperation and demonstrates we do not tolerate any wrongdoing, and CPS has either addressed or is addressing all the issues in the report.&quot;</p><p dir="ltr">Although the report cannot name names, WBEZ has been able to fill in some identities through media reports, public documents and confirmations by sources. The purview of the OIG is mainly restricted to CPS employees and so does not represent all violations that occur in the system.</p><p dir="ltr">In 2011, the district replaced race with socio-economics status (by address) as a factor for admission to selective enrollment high schools. This year&rsquo;s report is the first to investigate abuse of this factor by more than a dozen students at six selective enrollment high schools. Another six cases involved CPS employees who had falsified their addresses to appear less affluent and gain their children easier admission. Most of the children identified in the report have been kicked out of the schools, and most of the CPS employees have faced or will face dismissals.</p><p dir="ltr">Monday, CPS said it would consider audits of selective enrollment students in the future.</p><p dir="ltr">The report further detailed $657,000 in back tuition owed by suburban residents who were illegally sending their kids to CPS schools.</p><p dir="ltr">Another prominent case in this year&rsquo;s document involves former Gwendolyn Brooks Preparatory High School principal Dushon Brown. According to the report, on the eve of the 2010-11 school year, she asked a CPS administrator to allow a student who&rsquo;d neither applied for nor taken the selective enrollment exam, to enroll in her school. When the administrator refused, Brown, reportedly &ldquo;phoned a state legislator&rdquo; who phoned the administrator again asking for an exception. The attempts were not successful. The OIG recommended discipline for the principal in its 2012 report.</p><p dir="ltr">In its 2013 report, the OIG detailed a case in which Principal Brown and a Gwendolyn Brooks school operations manager found a bank account opened by the parent booster club of the building&rsquo;s previous occupant, a Catholic school. The report says a &ldquo;local bank inexplicably allowed&rdquo; Brown and the operations manager to take control of the $186,235 of funds and spend $116,974, but never included it in the &ldquo;school&rsquo;s internal accounts ledger.&rdquo; The OIG recommended discipline for the principal, which was still pending at the time of the last report. In today&rsquo;s report the OIG reports that Brown was terminated in 2014 and classified as a &ldquo;Do Not Hire.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">The report follows up on another 2012 case in which the OIG found a former chief area officer took nearly $17,000 in travel and gifts (including a $10,000 scholarship) from textbook publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. In exchange, according to the report, the CPS officer steered the publisher to nearly $300,000 in business &ldquo;through no-bid, sole source deals.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Last July the CPS Board entered into a settlement with the publisher requiring it to pay a $250,000 fine and to fund an independent monitor to oversee these issues. In addition, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt had to train its employees to comply with board ethics policies.</p><p dir="ltr">Another outstanding ethics issue tackled in this year&rsquo;s report involves a dispute between two of the nation&rsquo;s largest food service providers, who were competing for the 2013 school food contract, valued at nearly $100 million a year. Food giant Chartwells-Thompson Hospitality charged that CPS school food chief (and former Aramark manager) Leslie Fowler showed favoritism to her former employer in the contract bidding process. The district asked the OIG to rule on the issue at the time, and it concluded that Fowler&rsquo;s actions &ldquo;did not violate applicable ethics policies.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">In its new report, however, the OIG says Fowler &ldquo;engaged in questionable conduct throughout the award process.&rdquo; This included dining twice with the president of Aramark during the process and telling fellow bid committee members that her boss did not want Chartwells to win the contract. The report further says that Fowler told &ldquo;staff members that she did not need to review (Aramark&rsquo;s bid) because she had written proposals for&rdquo; the company herself and Aramark knew what she wanted. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">In the process of the Fowler investigation, &ldquo;the OIG also learned that the administrator prodded subordinates to participate in a party game that made people feel uncomfortable.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Attempts to reach Fowler for comment through CPS were unsuccessful.</p><p dir="ltr">In the wake of the case, the OIG has recommended that CPS review the investigation to see &ldquo;if any further action regarding the administrator is warranted.&rdquo; It also recommended that the district &ldquo;review its RFP [contract bidding] policy and ensure adequate training for those involved in the process.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Aramark also<a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/custodial-contract-causing-problems-start-school-year-110767"> received one of the nation&rsquo;s largest school custodial contracts </a>last year from CPS when the district privatized its cleaning crews. The Aramark takeover of the program has been met with &nbsp;district-wide complaints of dirty classrooms, theft, damaged materials and bad communication. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Another novel case in this year&rsquo;s report investigated a CPS high school that classified 296 students &nbsp;who dropped out (since 2009) as &ldquo;transfers,&rdquo; allegedly in order to improve its dropout numbers. The school said that the students were headed for GED programs, but Illinois law makes it clear that these students are to be counted as dropouts. Another 121 students at the school were classified as transfers, but the OIG says less than 5 percent of the cases was backed up with &ldquo;adequate written proof.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">In another case, the OIG says a high school principal was sending an average of 55 students a day to a kind of first period detention if they were more than 15 minutes tardy. The practice was done to discourage tardiness but the OIG said it occurred more than 10,000 times (recorded as &ldquo;school function&rdquo;) in the 2012-13 school year, resulting in hundreds of thousands of missed instruction minutes. Although principals have leeway to be creative with attendance programs the OIG recommended CPS implement more consistent practices.</p><p dir="ltr">Other cases, among the OIG&rsquo;s 280 this year, dealt with full time CPS teachers who were also employed as full time Chicago Police Department officers; a phony billing scheme at Michele Clark High School that resulted in $870,000 in fraud and principals who fraudulently enrolled their family members as students for a few key weeks to boost attendance numbers.</p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the Chewing The Fat podcast. Follow her at <a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng">@monicaeng</a> or write to her at meng@wbez.org</em></p></p> Mon, 05 Jan 2015 11:57:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/inspector-general-finds-questionable-conduct-cps-111338 Hey Mayor! http://www.wbez.org/news/hey-mayor-111330 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/heym.PNG" alt="" /><p><p>You may be noticing more political ads as the February municipal elections inch closer. The election determines the future face of City Hall: all 50 aldermanic seats are up, as well as the office of mayor. &nbsp;But what do Chicagoans want the next mayor&#39;s priorities to be? &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>The 2014 Mikva Challenge Soapbox contest asked young Chicagoans, <em>&quot;If you were the next Mayor of Chicago, what is the first community issue you would tackle, and why?&quot;</em>&nbsp; Here&#39;s what they had to say.</p><p>(To hear each student, scroll over the play button and click on the player that pops up. A complete playlist is also available below.)</p><p><img class="alwaysThinglink" src="//cdn.thinglink.me/api/image/604082955626741761/1024/10/scaletowidth#tl-604082955626741761;1043138249'" style="max-width:100%" /></p><p>(WBEZ/Andrew Gill, Cate Cahan, Logan Jaffe)</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/playlists/66215899%3Fsecret_token%3Ds-EMuvr&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></p></p> Mon, 05 Jan 2015 08:11:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/hey-mayor-111330 Mayoral candidate Garcia releases education plan http://www.wbez.org/news/mayoral-candidate-garcia-releases-education-plan-111224 <p><p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-d8515f51-3e6a-3785-3564-365514280322">Mayoral candidate Jesus &ldquo;Chuy&rdquo; Garcia is announcing his education plan today.</p><p dir="ltr">Parts of the plan are strikingly similar to a policy paper put out by the Chicago Teachers Union two and a half years ago. So much so, that whole sentences in the summary are pulled word for word from that paper, dubbed &ldquo;<a href="http://www.ctunet.com/quest-center/research/the-schools-chicagos-students-deserve">The Schools Chicago&rsquo;s Children Deserve</a>.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">But Garcia said he got input from several groups, not just the CTU.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;We have consulted with parents,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;We&rsquo;ve consulted with high school students. We&rsquo;ve consulted with education (sic) experts. And of course, we have consulted with members of the Chicago Teachers Union.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">The similarities are not entirely surprising.</p><p dir="ltr">When Garcia <a href="https://soundcloud.com/afternoonshiftwbez/cook-county-commissioner-jesus-garcia-joins-mayoral-race">appeared on WBEZ&rsquo;s Afternoon Shift in October</a>, he described a visit with CTU&rsquo;s President Karen Lewis, shortly after she was hospitalized for a brain tumor. Lewis urged Garcia to run against incumbent Mayor Rahm Emanuel.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;She did ask me to seriously consider running,&rdquo; Garcia told WBEZ. &ldquo;To reconsider, because she had brought it up over a year ago.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Unions are also among Garcia&rsquo;s biggest financial supporters so far. Garcia for Chicago received $16,000 from Citizens to Elect Karen Lewis Mayor of Chicago, another $52,600 from the American Federation of Teachers (the national union that CTU belongs to), and $250,000 from Service Employees International Union Healthcare Illinois.</p><p dir="ltr">Garcia announced his education platform outside of Dyett High School, flanked by a group of parent activists fighting to keep the school open.</p><p dir="ltr">Three years ago, the Chicago Board of Education voted to phase out Dyett, meaning the students enrolled at the time could continue attending until graduation, but the school would not accept any more freshman. Now in its final year of phase out, there are just 13 students left at the school. &nbsp;</p><p>A consultant for Garcia&rsquo;s campaign, Andrew Sharp, told WBEZ after the press conference that &nbsp;the parents fighting to keep Dyett open as a neighborhood school are important to Garcia because of his <a href="http://http://www.catalyst-chicago.org/news/2006/05/23/pilsen-little-village-constructing-new-school">involvement with the fight to build a high school in Little Village</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Parents and grandparents there held a 19-day hunger strike to convince the city to build a high school in the neighborhood.</p> <p><em>Becky Vevea is a producer and reporter for WBEZ. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/WBEZeducation">@WBEZeducation</a>.</em></p> <div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/IMG_5198.JPG" onclick="window.open(this.href, '', 'resizable=yes,status=no,location=no,toolbar=no,menubar=no,fullscreen=no,scrollbars=yes,dependent=no'); return false;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/IMG_5198.JPG" style="height: 387px; width: 290px; float: left;" title="Garcia's Education platform (Click to enlarge)" /></a>&nbsp;<a href="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/IMG_5201.JPG" onclick="window.open(this.href, '', 'resizable=yes,status=no,location=no,toolbar=no,menubar=no,fullscreen=no,scrollbars=yes,dependent=no'); return false;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/IMG_5201.JPG" style="height: 387px; width: 290px; float: right;" title="CTU policy paper (Click to enlarge)" /></a></div></p> Fri, 12 Dec 2014 06:13:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/mayoral-candidate-garcia-releases-education-plan-111224 CPS students take on 'Hour of Code' http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-students-take-hour-code-111210 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/code.PNG" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-40f3cbe1-30f9-957f-253b-6b17f3cdf0d5">Some students in Chicago Public Schools started learning a new language today: The language of computers.</p><p dir="ltr">CPS students took part in a global event, called the <a href="http://hourofcode.com/us">Hour of Code</a>, which gets teenagers, and this year even <a href="http://www.cnet.com/news/obama-jumps-in-to-hour-of-code-event-with-a-little-javascript/">President Barack Obama</a>, taking a crack at computer coding.</p><p dir="ltr">At <a href="http://wellshs.cps.k12.il.us/">Wells Community Academy High School</a> in West Town, about 40 teenagers filled the library. Each one of the kids huddled around a computer.</p><p dir="ltr">Music Teacher Martha Ciurla kicked things off.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;We&rsquo;re going to get started,&rdquo; Ciurla says. &ldquo;Now remember, all over the world, at this very hour, at this very moment, there are other kids doing the same exact thing; they are also learning to code because it&rsquo;s a pretty important thing, especially nowadays.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Most people can&rsquo;t go a whole day without using technology,&rdquo; says Angel Sanchez, a sophomore at Wells. &ldquo;Everything revolves around technology and so many careers revolve around knowing this stuff.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Sanchez is hunched over a computer with Traeshaun Norwood, who tells me he already knows he wants to be a video game engineer someday.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I actually think it&rsquo;s fun because the career I&rsquo;m trying to get into now is going to involve a lot of coding,&rdquo; Norwood says.</p><p dir="ltr">Lucky for him, Wells is going to have a new program next year to help him do that.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;We&rsquo;re going to start a new computer science academy, starting next year, so it&rsquo;s an entire sequence using the gaming platform,&rdquo; says Wells Principal Rita Raichoudhuri. &ldquo;So students are going to learn how to code the program, but using video games. They&rsquo;re going to create their own video games.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Raichoudhuri says the program is a series of four courses; the final one&rsquo;s an Advanced Placement Computer Science class.</p><p dir="ltr">And it isn&rsquo;t just the library that&rsquo;s filled today. Every student &nbsp;at Wells is logged on to code.org &ndash; trying out different sequences on popular games, like <a href="https://www.angrybirds.com/">Angry Birds</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">For example, if you want to move the bird forward four spaces and then have it turn right, you would drag the block labeled &ldquo;repeat five times,&rdquo; change the five to a four and then underneath that, drop the block labeled &ldquo;move forward&rdquo;. And then you can give it a test run.</p><p dir="ltr">So it&rsquo;s not exactly the complex coding you might be thinking of.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;What these Hour of Code exercises do, it takes out the complexity of the language itself and it puts everything in a block, sort of what we call pseudo-code,&rdquo; says Emmanuel San Miguel. &ldquo;It just shows you how easy it is to pass commands into a computer and see it do something.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">San Miguel is a volunteer and a developer with the company <a href="http://www.8thlight.com/">8th Light</a> downtown. He says he&rsquo;s entirely self-taught and actually got his degree in marketing.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;If I had the opportunity to try out code before I went in to college, I probably would&rsquo;ve gone into computer science,&rdquo; San Miguel says.</p><p dir="ltr">For kids not interested in coding or computer science careers, there was still a pretty simple teenage reason for taking on the Hour of Code.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Whoever gets through the programs first, wins lunch,&rdquo; Ciurla announced halfway through the hour.</p><p dir="ltr">Fifteen minutes later, &nbsp;sophomores Sanchez and Norwood finished their final problem. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Ms. Ciurla! We completed the Hour of Code,&rdquo; they shouted in unison.</p><p dir="ltr">But 45 minutes was not fast enough.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;You guys came in second place, because they finished a minute ago, but I&rsquo;ll put your names down; if not, I&rsquo;ll bring you guys donuts on Monday,&rdquo; Ciurla tells them. &ldquo;Good job! You guys can start the other one if you want.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Becky Vevea is a producer and reporter for WBEZ. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/WBEZeducation">@WBEZeducation</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 09 Dec 2014 15:31:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-students-take-hour-code-111210 CPS finally releases school ratings http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-finally-releases-school-ratings-111187 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/raising hand edit_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago parents can finally see how their school stacks up to others.</p><p>Typically, school ratings, which give &nbsp;schools Level 1, 2, or 3 labels, come out in late October, around the same time that student report cards are released. But this year, Chicago Public Schools officials changed the complicated calculation that determines the school ratings.</p><p>One of the big changes was moving to five categories, instead of three. Now, schools can be rated Level 1+, Level 1, Level 2+, Level 2, and Level 3. CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett can also override a school&rsquo;s rating if something dramatic had happened at the school in the past year.</p><p>For instance: &ldquo;Just based on my experience as a principal, when you get a large number of students coming to your school that have not been there previously, it changes the dynamic,&rdquo; Byrd-Bennett said.</p><p>Byrd-Bennett changed the ratings for just 12 schools. She also placed six charter schools on an academic watch list.</p><p>Two of the schools on academic watch are the Chicago International Charter Schools&#39; Lloyd Bond and Larry Hawkins campuses. Both are in Altgeld Gardens, an isolated area on the far South Side made up of public housing.</p><p>Interestingly, one of the 12 schools given a higher rating through Byrd- Bennett&rsquo;s discretion, Dubois, is just down the road from the two CICS schools. The other neighborhood elementary school in Altgeld Gardens, Aldridge, was rated Level 3. Bryd-Bennett boosted Dubois to a Level 1.</p><p>Beth Purvis, CICS&rsquo;s executive director, said both Bond and Hawkins need to improve, but she questioned the fairness of the ratings, given the exception for Dubois. Dubois, Aldridge and CICS-Bond have similar scores on the metrics used in the ratings calculation.</p><p>&ldquo;That seems unfair to both Aldridge and CICS,&rdquo; Purvis said. &ldquo;If all schools aren&rsquo;t treated the same under a ranking process, I don&rsquo;t understand how it informs parents and helps them make decisions.&rdquo;</p><p>CPS spokesman Bill McCaffrey said the reason Byrd-Bennett gave Dubois a Level 1 rating when it originally earned a level 2 rating was because a quarter of the student population changed in the past school year.</p><p>Purvis and other CICS officials sent data to WBEZ showing similar student mobility at CICS-Lloyd Bond.</p><p>The other charter schools placed on academic watch this year are: Amandla Charter School, Betty Shabazz Charter School, Betty Shabazz - Sizemore Campus, and Polaris Academy Charter School.</p><p>One charter school that was placed on academic watch last year, UNO-Rufino Tamayo, jumped from the lowest rating, Level 3, on the old system to the highest rating, Level 1+, on the new system.</p><p>In all, just 44 schools still remain in the Level 3 category, while 161 schools are considered Level 1+, 154 are rated Level 1, 118 schools got Level 2+, and 159 were at Level 2, the second to lowest rating.</p></p> Thu, 04 Dec 2014 05:12:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-finally-releases-school-ratings-111187 CPS tests causing more anxiety in teacher evaluations http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-tests-causing-more-anxiety-teacher-evaluations-111166 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/raising hand edit.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>One of the thorniest issues in education is measuring how kids learn.<br /><br />And what&rsquo;s even thornier is using those measurements to determine how well teachers are teaching.<br /><br />lIlinois, like 41 other states, now links teacher evaluations directly to student performance.<br /><br />But in Chicago Public Schools, the shift is causing a lot of anxiety. New research out of the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research shows 79 percent of teachers feel more stress and anxiety about their performance reviews.<br /><br />One of the underlying things feeding into that anxiety is a big mistrust of the tests being used to measure student learning. Take Sarah Chambers testimony from last week&rsquo;s Board of Education meeting:<br /><br />&ldquo;What do you think is the reading level for the 5th grade REACH performance task? Do you have any guess? It is at a 12th grade reading level! This does not make sense,&rdquo; Chambers said. &ldquo;You are setting up our children to fail. (applause) You are setting them up to fail so you can label our schools as failing, close our public schools in black and brown communities, fire our experienced teachers, privatize our public schools!&rdquo;<br /><br />Chambers teaches special education at Saucedo Academy. When pressed by board member Jesse Ruiz at the end of the meeting, CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said she thought maybe Chambers was worried specifically about her own students, who need special services.<br /><br />But Chambers is not alone in her concerns about the tests.The University of Chicago study also found that half of all teachers believe the tests used to measure student learning are not fair or accurate.<br /><br />Most of a teacher&rsquo;s job performance is still based on classroom observations, and so far there haven&rsquo;t been dramatic changes in how many teachers are rated in the top or bottom categories. In accordance with the Chicago Teachers Union contract, this will be the first year all teachers get a rating under the new system.<br /><br />And this year, 30 percent of that rating will be based on results of two kinds of tests kids take--those common fill-in-the-bubble tests and then the ones Chambers is concerned about, called REACH Performance Tasks.<br /><br />Last month, another teacher who asked to remain anonymous sent me some copies of the REACH Performance Tasks.with the same concern about the reading levels. So I called in an expert.<br /><br /><span style="font-size:22px;">Reading levels too hard?</span><br /><br />Barbara Radner is the head of DePaul University&rsquo;s Center for Urban Education. She&rsquo;s worked with CPS schools, developing and implementing literacy curriculum, for years.<br />&ldquo;This is all very interesting,&rdquo; Barbara Radner told me after I sent her the tasks and asked her to help me analyze their difficulty.<br /><br />Radner quickly ran all of the reading passages through six different readability indexes, including Flesch Kincaid and Gunning Fog.&nbsp; She helped me calculate the lexile levels and together we compared them to the new recommended reading levels for each grade under the new, more rigorous Common Core State Standards.<br /><br />No matter how we sliced it, the 4th, 5th and 8th grade levels were registering at least three grades above level. By some calculations, the passages were registering at a college reading level.<br /><br />&ldquo;At this time of year, I do not want to scare the children, Radner said. &ldquo;I want to find out, can they figure out the main idea and supporting details.&rdquo;<br /><br />She said when she writes literacy tests, she&rsquo;ll choose short passages, usually only one page long, that are either at grade level or one below, so that you&rsquo;re actually testing a student&rsquo;s skills.<br /><br />At this point, CPS officials aren&rsquo;t too concerned about the tasks&rsquo; reading levels being too high.<br /><br />John Barker, the district&rsquo;s chief of accountability, said there are a lot of things that affect readability levels, like &ldquo;the number of commas in a sentence.&rdquo;<br /><br />Radner echoed that point. The example she gave was the sports section of the newspaper.<br /><br />&ldquo;I thought (in) the LeBron James passage kids would say, &lsquo;Oh it&rsquo;s about a basketball player let me try,&rsquo;&rdquo; Radner said, referring to the 4th grade passage. &ldquo;One thing people don&rsquo;t know is that the sports pages of the newspaper are written at a higher level of complexity than the rest of the newspaper because they tend to use more descriptive terms and more unusual terms. And what is ironic is that kids who cannot read the rest of the newspaper can read the sports pages.&rdquo;<br /><br />Radner said there are a lot of ways to look at reading levels, so it could be that students are fine reading some of these passages. But if not, the results may not tell you much.<br /><br />&ldquo;You really cannot make decisions about the kid or the teacher if the text is inaccessible,&rdquo; Radner told me. &ldquo;That is the peril.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">&#39;By teachers, for teachers&#39;</span><br /><br />CPS&rsquo;s Barker repeatedly said the REACH Performance Tasks &ldquo;are written by teachers, for teachers.&rdquo;<br /><br />And that&rsquo;s true. It was one of the big compromises when the new evaluation law and the subsequent teachers&rsquo; union contract were being negotiated over two years ago.<br /><br />For years, teachers have been critical of the district&rsquo;s use of &ldquo;value-added&rdquo; scores in sorting and ranking schools. The value-added scores CPS uses are calculated by running student scores on the Illinois Standards Achievement Test, or ISAT, through a complicated formula to figure out how much they are learning over the course of a year.<br /><br />CPS initially proposed using only value-added measures, but backed off. The final agreement with the union included REACH Performance Tasks, developed by teams of teachers and district officials.<br /><br />CTU&rsquo;s Carol Caref said the teacher-developed tasks are better than other standardized tests, but that the union still doesn&rsquo;t think a teacher&rsquo;s job performance should be tied to student scores.<br /><br />And they don&rsquo;t think teachers should take the fall for problems with the performance tasks.<br /><br />&ldquo;There&rsquo;s so many things that teachers don&rsquo;t have a say-so in and so then there&rsquo;s this very narrow little spot where, &lsquo;OK. We&rsquo;re going to let you have a little bit of say-so in these tests&rsquo; and then if there&rsquo;s a mistake on them, blame the teachers. I just think that&rsquo;s so wrong,&rdquo; Caref said.<br /><br />It&rsquo;s unclear if students struggled with the most recent set of literacy tests&mdash; scores won&rsquo;t be out until next fall.<br /><br />Caref said if you want reliable results the district will have to doublecheck the end of the year exams.<br /><br />&ldquo;Since this is already out and we gave this test that&rsquo;s too hard at the beginning of the year, we also have to give a test that&rsquo;s too hard at the end of the year, because otherwise, then, you&rsquo;re not measuring growth,&rdquo; Caref said.<br /><br />CPS spokesman Bill McCaffrey says the district is looking closer at the issue, and the CEO will be the one determining if any changes need to be made.<br /><br />That wait-and-see situation isn&rsquo;t likely to quell any anxiety among teachers.</p><p><em>Becky Vevea is a producer and reporter for WBEZ. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/WBEZeducation">@WBEZeducation</a>.</em></p></p> Fri, 28 Nov 2014 07:45:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-tests-causing-more-anxiety-teacher-evaluations-111166 CPS chief backs the mayor's $13-an-hour minimum wage http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-chief-backs-mayors-13-hour-minimum-wage-111138 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Board of Ed at Westinghouse.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>The head of Chicago Public Schools is making a political statement supporting Mayor Rahm Emanuel, ahead of February&rsquo;s municipal elections.</p><p>CPS CEO Barbara Bryd-Bennett told the Board of Education Wednesday that the district wants to move to a $13-per-hour minimum wage. The statement falls in line with <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/chi-emanuel-minimum-wage-hike-push-20140930-story.html" target="_blank">other city agencies</a>, like the Chicago Park District.</p><p>The budget implications of a $13-per-hour minimum wage for CPS workers and contract employees would still need to be worked out internally, CPS officials said.</p><p>Alderman Jason Ervin, of the 28th Ward, urged board members to consider the $15-an-hour wage he and other aldermen are pushing. The meeting was in Ervin&rsquo;s ward, at Westinghouse College Prep, making it the first board meeting held in a community since 2004, when the board met at Orr Academy. It was also the first time in several years the board has met in the evening. Typically, board meetings start at 10 a.m. at CPS&rsquo;s downtown headquarters.</p><p>CPS spokesman Bill McCaffrey said they moved the meeting into a community and held it in the evening in order to give more people the opportunity to come. The district is also in the process of moving its offices to a new building downtown.</p><p>The meeting, which took place in Westinghouse&rsquo;s auditorium, had a larger crowd than usual and frequent interruptions from audience members. One of the biggest gripes had to do with a recent Chicago Tribune <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/watchdog/cpsbonds/" target="_blank">investigation into CPS&rsquo;s debt payments</a> on risky interest rate swap deals. Those deals were entered into when now-Board President David Vitale was the district&rsquo;s chief financial officer.</p><p>Tara Stamps, a teacher at Jenner Elementary in Old Town, spoke about a lack of funding for the school&rsquo;s arts program, even though the school is designated as a fine arts school.</p><p>&ldquo;How is it that you can say you want this kind of student, but you don&rsquo;t want to make that kind of investment?&rdquo; Stamps asked. &ldquo;You&rsquo;d rather not renegotiate these toxic deals and squander what could be hundreds of millions of dollars that could go into classrooms that could create well-rounded classrooms where children are appreciated and they learn and they thrive. But you don&rsquo;t. You refuse. You will not arbitrate. You will not renegotiate. You will not do any of the initial steps to get some of that money back.&rdquo;</p><p>The Chicago Teachers Union first sounded the alarm on the bank deals in 2011, but board members and CPS officials repeatedly dismissed the issue.</p><p>&ldquo;Three years we&rsquo;ve been coming here and being told that our facts are wrong, that we just don&rsquo;t understand, and being dismissed by Mr. Vitale,&rdquo; said Matthew Luskin, a CPS parent and organizer for the CTU. &ldquo;A full week of Trib headlines tell a very different story.&rdquo;</p><p>Luskin said he understands that CPS cannot just cancel the contracts with the banks, but he pushed the board to file for arbitration to renegotiate the contracts, and &ldquo;take a stand.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;They could call these banks out, blame them for the cuts and closings that have happened, instead of blaming retirees and parents and children who take up too many resources,&rdquo; Luskin said. &ldquo;They could announce that CPS won&rsquo;t do business with these banks anymore if they refuse to renegotiate.&rdquo;</p><p>McCaffrey with CPS said the district is monitoring the risks of its swap portfolio closely, &ldquo;including the possibility of termination.&rdquo; But he also said, by the district&rsquo;s calculation, the deals saved more than $30 million in interest costs compared to the costs of fixed-rate bonds.</p><p>The debt payments and the minimum wage weren&rsquo;t the only issues raised at the meeting. Two librarians came to speak about the <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/losing-school-librarians-chicago-public-schools-110547" target="_blank">reassignments and layoffs of full-time librarians</a>.</p><p>&ldquo;The loss of school librarians is especially alarming in CPS high schools where there are now only 38 high schools with librarians,&rdquo; said Nora Wiltse, a school librarian at Coonley Elementary.</p><p>A student and a teacher from Kelly High School came to sound the alarm on <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/custodial-contract-causing-problems-start-school-year-110767" target="_blank">cleanliness at their school since Aramark</a> took over CPS&rsquo;s janitorial services.</p><p>The Board also approved <a href="http://www.wbez.org/cps-changes-school-ratingsagain-111118" target="_blank">a new school rating policy</a>.</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/177839305&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></p></p> Thu, 20 Nov 2014 13:16:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-chief-backs-mayors-13-hour-minimum-wage-111138