WBEZ | Chicago Public Schools http://www.wbez.org/tags/chicago-public-schools Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en CPS students scramble for new school after Concept charter opening delayed http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-students-scramble-new-school-after-concept-charter-opening-delayed-110688 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/cmsa_0675_edit.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>With just one week before the first day of school, Chicago Public Schools officials are scrambling to find hundreds of students a new school.</p><p>A new campus of Horizon Math and Science Academy located in Chatham will no longer open as planned.</p><p>The group that planned to open the school &mdash; Concept Schools &mdash; is currently under FBI investigation. They operate four other schools in Chicago, and several more in Indiana and Ohio.</p><p>CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett insists the delayed opening has nothing to do with the federal investigation.</p><p>&ldquo;I know as much as you guys in terms of the FBI probe,&rdquo; Byrd-Bennett said in a conference call with reporters. &ldquo;This is purely the fact that the facility is not ready. If that facility were ready for this school to open, I would open it tomorrow.&rdquo;</p><p>The building where Concept planned to open, 9130 S. Vincennes, was also the source of controversy. A Chicago Sun-Times <a href="http://politics.suntimes.com/article/chicago/board-eds-david-vitale%E2%80%99s-bank-would-benefit-charter-deal/fri-08082014-1022pm">report earlier this month</a> found that the property is currently in foreclosure and the owners currently owe $2 million to Urban Partnership Bank, which is chaired by Chicago Board of Education President David Vitale.</p><p>That location was the second one proposed since the Board of Education approved the school. The first was at 8522 S. Lafayette, a property owned by Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church, whose pastor, Rev. Charles Jenkins, has close ties to Mayor Rahm Emanuel.</p><p>Despite the questions around Concept Schools&rsquo; operations, Byrd-Bennett said CPS is not revoking the group&rsquo;s charter. She characterized the delayed opening for this particular campus as &ldquo;unusual&rdquo; and said there&rsquo;s no need to change how they approve and open new schools.</p><p>When asked if there were any contingency plans for other Concept schools, should the federal investigation prompt further legal action, Byrd- Bennett said there were not.</p><blockquote><p><strong>Full audio of the call with&nbsp;Byrd-Bennett</strong><iframe frameborder="no" height="20" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/164174420&amp;color=ff5500&amp;inverse=false&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_user=true" width="100%"></iframe></p></blockquote><p>CPS officials could not immediately say what would happen to the $4 million dollars budgeted to Concept for the Chatham campus.</p><p>According to budget documents, the Horizon school was projected to serve 432 students. It is not clear if all of those open seats were filled with registered students. CPS officials are making calls to families today to help their children find another school option.</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> Fri, 22 Aug 2014 08:21:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-students-scramble-new-school-after-concept-charter-opening-delayed-110688 It's like the first day every day in popular 'Feelings' class http://www.wbez.org/news/its-first-day-every-day-popular-feelings-class-110676 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Oak_Park_and_River_Forest_High_School.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>On the first day of school at west suburban Oak Park River Forest High School, 25 seniors trickle into the second floor library.</p><p>&ldquo;How many of you know of this class as &lsquo;Experiments in Reading Literature and the World&rsquo;? How many of you know it as &lsquo;Feelings&rsquo; class? How many know it as both?&rdquo; asks teacher Avi Lessing.</p><p>&ldquo;Either way you&rsquo;re in the right place.&rdquo;<br />&nbsp;<br />Lessing started teaching this class in 2005 after pitching it to a bunch of juniors. It was pretty popular then, but now, it&rsquo;s even more so. This year, there are nine sections and two other teachers teaching it.<br /><br />&ldquo;The main idea of the class, if I could sum it up, is that, you know how on the first day of school is the getting-to-know each other day and the rest of the days become just like school?&rdquo; Lessing said. &ldquo;In this class, every day is the getting to know you, and getting to know yourself, and getting to know your classmates.&rdquo;</p><p>Lessing says as school becomes more and more about academic achievement and test scores, students are missing important skills&mdash;often referred to in education circles as social-emotional skills&mdash;like how to listen, how to communicate, how to relate to people with different experiences than your own.</p><p>This class has become one piece of a bigger focus at Oak Park River Forest to integrate social-emotional learning into the curriculum. The school&rsquo;s Board of Education outlined it specifically in the formal goals for the 2014-2015 school year.<br /><br />The kids in Lessing&rsquo;s second period class on Tuesday are racially diverse and come from all different parts of the school&mdash;athletes, brains, music nerds&mdash;a bit like <em>The Breakfast Club</em>.<br /><br />Class starts with all the students standing in a big circle. For the rest of the period, they play a series of different name games. First, find the people you know and say hello. Then, stop, find a partner, stand back-to-back and change three things about your physical appearance.</p><p>Emma Burke puts her straight brown hair in a ponytail, takes off a shoe and removes her ID. Another young man pulls the bottom hem of his shirt up and through his collar so his stomach is exposed.&nbsp;</p><p>The pairs then turn around and try to notice what the other person had changed.<br /><br />&ldquo;You buttoned your flannel and your ID is backward,&rdquo; Burke guesses.<br /><br />Then, Lessing tells the students to find the people they don&rsquo;t know, introduce themselves and bow to each other. After that, with another different partner, play &ldquo;two truths and a lie&rdquo; and finally, recap by walking around, touching someone&rsquo;s shoe and repeating their name.<br /><br />At the end of class, Lessing asks each student to go around and say why they signed up for this class in the first place. The answers are all over the board.<br /><br />&ldquo;I took this class because my homies told me it was cool,&rdquo; says Sargron Sinclair.<br />&ldquo;My sister told me to,&rdquo; Burke says.<br />&ldquo;I wanted a non-traditional learning environment,&rdquo; says Elaine Houha.&nbsp;&nbsp;<br />&ldquo;My counselor put me here,&rdquo; a young man named Toby says.<br />&ldquo;I took this class because I want to learn something that I can actually apply to my life,&rdquo; adds a girl named Beverly.<br /><br />With a class full of seniors, Lessing warns the students it&rsquo;s not just an easy &lsquo;A&rsquo; or a blow-off class.<br /><br />&ldquo;I think it&rsquo;s easy in the sense that you get to know a lot of people,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;But I think it&rsquo;s hard in the sense that you have to show up and kind of face each other and be here. I value your presence more than anything else.&rdquo;<br /><br />And, he hopes, students will eventually see &ldquo;Feelings&rdquo; class as less of a class and more a part of who they&rsquo;re each becoming.</p><p><em>Becky Vevea is a producer and reporter for WBEZ. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/WBEZeducation" target="_blank">@WBEZeducation.</a></em></p></p> Tue, 19 Aug 2014 17:07:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/its-first-day-every-day-popular-feelings-class-110676 Refugee youth services threatened http://www.wbez.org/news/refugee-youth-services-threatened-110656 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Refugee kids (1).JPG" alt="" /><p><p>As families prepare for a new school year, some of the most vulnerable kids and parents may have to go it alone. Refugee assistance programs in Illinois are set to lose a federal grant that helps K-12 students transition to life in the U.S., and that supports critical resources for teachers and refugee parents.</p><p>&ldquo;This program will pretty much shut down as of August 14 of 2014,&rdquo; said Melineh Kano, Executive Director of RefugeeONE, a refugee resettlement agency in Chicago. The organizations youth program provides after-school tutoring and social gatherings for roughly 250 refugee children every weekday during the school year, as well as weekend, in-home tutoring for refugee children who often come to the U.S. with little to no English skill, and often below grade level.</p><p>Additionally, the program&rsquo;s case workers are critical to enrolling children in schools when families first arrive, as many refugee parents are unable to fill out the paperwork themselves, and rarely understand what type of documentation they are required to bring to register their children.</p><p>&ldquo;Many of the parents that we are serving haven&rsquo;t really had the opportunity to deal with any formal school systems,&rdquo; explained Kano. &ldquo;So they depend on us to help them and orient them.&rdquo;</p><p>But this year, Kano and those who work with other refugee assistance programs in Illinois, are fretting over whether they&rsquo;ll have money to continue supporting kids and their families through the school year. The federal Office of Refugee Resettlement largely funds refugee services, and has recently warned assistance organizations that money is getting tight &mdash; because it also is responsible for the care and shelter of unaccompanied children who are caught illegally migrating to the U.S. The number of children detained since June of 2013 has surged, prompting the ORR to divert money that was earmarked for refugees to deal with the situation.</p><p>Since <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/feds-set-divert-refugee-funds-deal-unaccompanied-minors-110594">WBEZ last reported on this</a>, ORR has announced that it will restore funding to some core services. However, discretionary grants that pay for K-12 support, senior services and preventative health programs remain in jeopardy. In Illinois, youth services received $711,729 last fiscal year.</p><p>Kano said ORR money makes up about 80 percent of the budget for RefugeeONE&rsquo;s youth program. If that money is not renewed, she said she&rsquo;ll be left with less than one full-time employee to handle K-12 services. She said that means newly-arrived refugee families wouldn&rsquo;t receive the basic education that her organization promotes.</p><p>&ldquo;Something as simple as you have to dress your kids properly for school and you have to feed them breakfast before they go to school,&rdquo; she said, &ldquo;because otherwise the teacher is going to notice that your child is not well taken care of, and they might call the Department of Child and Family Services for neglect.&rdquo;</p><p>Kano said extreme examples like that are rare, but they could happen more often without the support and intervention of RefugeeONE&rsquo;s case workers. More common are everyday household issues that refugee parents run into, often because they don&rsquo;t know how to support their kids in a new environment.<br /><br />&ldquo;I had a problem with my son,&rdquo; said Amal Khalid, a refugee who arrived from Sudan with her three children last year. &ldquo;My son (didn&rsquo;t) listen to me, and he (didn&rsquo;t) do his homework, and everything. Just he want to sit and watch TV and playing.&rdquo;</p><p>Khalid said a staff member at RefugeeONE helped by making a schedule for her 8-year old son.</p><p>&ldquo;She said you give him this routine for everything,&rdquo; she explained. &ldquo;When he (wakes) up, (goes) to school and he (comes) back, eat, and like one hour for writing, reading. I can&rsquo;t do that by myself.&rdquo;</p><p>Khalid said her son&rsquo;s back on track now.</p><p>RefugeeONE&rsquo;s youth program also provides a critical, one-stop shop for many teachers who need help reaching students&rsquo; families.</p><p>&ldquo;If something arises throughout the year, that&rsquo;s my first contact, again mostly because of the language barrier,&rdquo; said Benjamin Meier, a math teacher at Roosevelt High school. The school has kids from more than 40 language backgrounds, including Arabic, Nepali, Amharic, Tigrinya, Karen, Zomi, Swahili, Dzongkha, and more.</p><p>Meier said RefugeeONE not only helps him communicate with parents, but also teaches parents how to get involved in their children&rsquo;s education.</p><p>&ldquo;A lot of the parents traditionally just defer to whatever the school says,&rdquo; he explained. &ldquo;We prefer more of a give-and-take.&rdquo;</p><p>Meier said RefugeeONE&rsquo;s youth program has been effective because it brings in families&rsquo; case workers to craft holistic approaches to children&rsquo;s success.</p><p>Kano said RefugeeONE will dip into its general funds to keep services going through September. But if federal funds aren&rsquo;t released by then, the organization is planning to discontinue its youth support in October.</p><p><em>Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/oyousef">@oyousef</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud">@WBEZoutloud</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 14 Aug 2014 11:25:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/refugee-youth-services-threatened-110656 Searching for a place in college http://www.wbez.org/news/searching-place-college-110645 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/marcus.PNG" alt="" /><p><p>In high school, I knew that I wanted to go to college, but I didn&rsquo;t know how I was going to get there. My senior year, I got a full-ride scholarship to Colby-Sawyer College in New London, New Hampshire and it was a no brainer to take it.</p><p>I was excited to go, until I got there and felt like I couldn&rsquo;t relate to anyone.&nbsp;</p><p>My college is about 70 percent Caucasian and only 5 percent African-American, and so coming from a high school where it&rsquo;s 99 percent African-American, that alone was a big adjustment.</p><p>I&rsquo;m not the only one who feels this way, so I decided to talk to a couple of people experiencing the same thing. This is our story.&nbsp;</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/162888792&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>Students interviewed are Taneja Shaw and Aaron Atchison. You can also hear a conversation about adjusting to college from <a href="https://soundcloud.com/morningshiftwbez/college-offers-unique-and" target="_blank"><em>Morning Shift</em></a>.</p><p><em>Atchison wrote a story last year for WBEZ called &quot;<a href="http://www.chicagopublicradio.org/their-own-words-fear-freshman-year-108361">Fear of Freshman Year</a>&quot;. </em></p></p> Wed, 13 Aug 2014 13:30:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/searching-place-college-110645 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