WBEZ | 50-50 series http://www.wbez.org/tags/50-50-series Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en 50-50 Series: Students, Parents and Administrators Discuss Dropout Rate at Robeson High School http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/students-parents-and-administrators-discuss-dropout-rate-robeson-high-school <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/archives/images/cityroom/848_20091221b_large.png" alt="" /><p><p>In 2008, a team of WBEZ reporters embedded themselves into one of Chicago's toughest schools, Robeson High School on the South Side. Our series,&nbsp;<em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/fifty-fifty-odds-graduating"><em>50/50: The Odds of Graduating</em></a></em> followed the path of several students. We also met the administrators, parents and teachers who tried to help them. At the end of the series, we gathered that group together to talk more about what could be done to keep kids away from drugs, violence and pregnancy and into the classroom. We revisit the discussion.<br> <br> Review the <a href="http://www.chicagopublicradio.org/Content.aspx?audioID=34810">blog discussion with series reporters</a><br> <br> <strong>Panelists:<br> Gerald Morrow:</strong> Principal of Robeson High School<br> <strong>Paige Ponder:</strong> Chicago Public School Administrator in charge of the pilot program to tackle the dropout problem at Robeson<br> <strong>Julia McEvoy:</strong> Reporter on the <em>50/50</em> series<br> Robeson High School <strong>Parents and Teachers</strong></p></p> Mon, 21 Dec 2009 14:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/students-parents-and-administrators-discuss-dropout-rate-robeson-high-school 50-50 Series: Chicago teen reflects on why you don't snitch http://www.wbez.org/jkaufmann/2009/09/chicago-teen-reflects-on-why-you-dont-snitch-2/8107 <p><p>Today, CPD chief Jody Weis <a href="http://www.suntimes.com/news/24-7/1798220,CST-NWS-Fenger30.article" target="_blank">is calling on kids</a> to come forth and give up other kids involved in the brawl outside Fenger last week. But if you listen to one Robeson high school student, Dahvies Holmes, explain why kids don't snitch, you get the impression Weis won't be getting many calls from kids. Holmes spoke to Julia McEvoy at Robeson High as part of our <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/fifty-fifty-odds-graduating">5050 series</a>. <a href="/sites/default/files/archives/blogs/snitching-final.mp3">snitching-final</a></p></p> Wed, 30 Sep 2009 16:14:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/jkaufmann/2009/09/chicago-teen-reflects-on-why-you-dont-snitch-2/8107 Students, Parents and Administrators Discuss Dropout Rate at Robeson High School http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/students-parents-and-administrators-discuss-dropout-rate-robeson-high-school-0 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/archives/images/cityroom/848_20090612c_large.png" alt="" /><p><p>We're wrapping up the year-long series&nbsp;<em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/fifty-fifty-odds-graduating"><em>50/50: The Odds of Graduating</em></a></em> with a roundtable discussion from Robeson High School on Chicago's South Side.<br> <br> Review the <a href="http://www.chicagopublicradio.org/Content.aspx?audioID=34810">blog discussion with series reporters</a><br> <br> <strong>Panelists:<br> Gerald Morrow:</strong> Principal of Robeson High School<br> <strong>Paige Ponder:</strong> Chicago Public School Administrator in charge of the pilot program to tackle the dropout problem at Robeson<br> <strong>Julia McEvoy:</strong> Reporter on the <em>50/50</em> series<br> Robeson High School <strong>Parents and Teachers</strong><br> <br> <strong>Links and Resources:</strong><br> <a href="http://www.modelsforchange.net/index.html" target="_blank">Models for Change: Systems Reform in Juvenile Justice</a><br> <a href="http://www.thechicagourbanleague.org/chicagourbanleague/site/default.asp" target="_blank">Chicago Urban League</a></p></p> Fri, 12 Jun 2009 14:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/students-parents-and-administrators-discuss-dropout-rate-robeson-high-school-0 50-50 Series: Where They Are, Why They're Gone: Three 9th Grade Dropouts http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/where-they-are-why-theyre-gone-three-9th-grade-dropouts-0 <p><br> <p><strong>About 12,000 kids drop out of school in Chicago every year. At Robeson High School, a special project this year has tried to keep&nbsp;freshmen on course to graduate. Despite that, students have slipped away, they've stopped coming to school for a whole variety of reasons. Once they're gone, the chances that anyone will find them are slim. </strong><br> <strong>Series:</strong> <em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/fifty-fifty-odds-graduating"><em>50/50: The Odds of Graduating</em></a></em><br> <br> Dropping out of school is a process. It can be hard to know exactly when it begins and when it ends. A week of absences can turn into another and another.<br> <br> This is a story about three kids who have stopped coming to school. They're all freshmen I met over the past year in a&nbsp;single classroom&nbsp;at Robeson High School. One week in late May, I went to look for them.<br> <br> <em>ambi: dial tone</em><br> <br> The phone numbers Robeson has on file for students are often bad—families move, or their phones get disconnected, or sometimes… they don't want the school to be able to call.<br> <br> <em>ambi: We're sorry, your call cannot be completed as dialed… </em><br> <br> I'm looking for Tim. His home number is disconnected. There's a work number for his mom, but somebody there tells me she was fired a long time ago. The number of a family friend is busy—all the time.&nbsp;<br> <br> The address listed for Tim is 220 E. 75th Street.<br> <br> I don't see a 220…but there's a 200. It's a one-story building. Right about where Tim's house is supposed to be, there's a parking lot. I imagine all the letters that Robeson High School has sent to this parking lot. Certified letters warning Tim's parents to send him to school.<br> <br> My last lead on Tim is the family friend—his name is Mr. Gunn. I find his address online.<br> <br> The door to Mr. Gunn's building is unlocked, and the whole foyer smells like reefer. I finally find Mr. Gunn around the back of the building. I tell him I'm looking for Tim.<br> <br> GUNN: I'm not related to him at all. I'm 60 years old. I'm just trying to help them out by when they call, I go tell his father when he's not in school. Now they were living over here, on the next block, right there at the end of that alley, on the end. They're not there anymore. Now, the first gray house you get to on that side of the street—that's where they moved to.<br> <br> The house is two stories with a big stoop. With all the calls and stops, it's probably taken me three hours to get here. But I've finally found Tim.<br> <br> <em>Sound of house.</em><br> <br> A very wide smile comes across his face, and then he turns away.<br> LUTTON: Can you figure out why I came to look for you?<br> TIM: No.<br> LUTTON: Cause you haven't been at Robeson.<br> TIM: Aww.<br> <br> You might think there'd be a&nbsp;big reason&nbsp;why Tim hasn't been in school. Like maybe it's drugs. Gangs. Maybe Tim's gotta work to help his family—he's the 8th out of 10 kids.<br> <br> TIM: I had to take shots.<br> LUTTON: Shots? What do you mean?<br> TIM: I had to go to the hospital and take shots.<br> <br> It's not that he's sick. He isn't up to date on his vaccinations. That's why he hasn't been in school. His brother—who's also a freshman—is out for the&nbsp;same reason. They've both been gone since December, which is when Tim says the school gave him a paper telling him he couldn't come back without proof he'd gotten his shots.<br> <br> TIM: After they gave me the paper I tried to go back. they asked me did I get my shots. I said, 'No,' they said I couldn't come without my shots…they sent me back around. They told me I can't come without my shots. So I didn't try to go since.<br> <br> Tim says he hasn't gotten the shots because his mom and dad both work, and nobody can miss a day ‘cause that's a hundred dollars off their check. He says his older brothers and sisters can't take him to get the shots because they don't have IDs.<br> <br> TIM: If I'd had a choice to walk my own self to the hospital, I'da been back in school a long time ago. I was gonna go to Robeson on the last day and see if there's summer school. ‘Cause I wanna get back in school. I like going to school.<br> <br> Tim wasn't a bad student—he got Cs his last year of grammar school. He was never identified as a potential dropout by Robeson—and a lot of other kids were. But Tim was no angel either.<br> <br> One day in the fall I was hanging around with his math teacher, Mr. Kuriakose, while he was making phone calls home.<br> <br> KURIAKOSE: Hi. My name is Mr. Kuriakose. I teach at Robeson High School.<br> <br> Here's what Mr. Kuriakose told the family friend, Mr. Gunn.<br> <br> KURIAKOSE: It's about Timothy's attitude in class and his behavior. It's been steadily declining, as in he's cursing more often. He doesn't care who hears him curse. He's been more willing to start arguments with other students. And he talks about fighting other students all the time.<br> <br> It's Mr. Kuriakose's job to call home for issues like this. But CPS says teachers aren't social workers. They can't be expected to track kids down at home.<br> <br> Truancy officers were cut from schools in the early 1990s. Community and religious groups have picked up some of the slack, but they can't reach the thousands who go missing.<br> <br> Mr. Kuriakose told me last winter he hoped when the weather changed, when spring came—maybe Tim would return.<br> <br> LUTTON: Have any of your teachers called you?<br> TIM: No.<br> LUTTON: Has anyone come around and looked for you?<br> TIM: No… But you.<br> <br> I say to Tim, why don't I take you to school tomorrow? You can explain that you haven't gotten the shots but you want to come to school—and we'll see what happens.<br> <br> TIM: OK. You come tomorrow. I'll be ready 7:30.<br> <br> But when I get there, Tim is still sleeping. His mom comes out to talk to me on the stoop. She knows that I stopped by the day before. And she says right off that none of her kids is going to drop out of school. She tells me that the problem is the form that they gave Tim for his vaccinations—he lost it.<br> <br> LUTTON: You want Tim in school?<br> MOM: Yes I do.<br> LUTTON: Do you know when he'll get his shots?<br> MOM: Uh-uh. Well Saturday, I guess Saturday. Today's Thursday. I guess Saturday.<br> LUTTON: But he hasn't had the shots since December, right? That's when they sent the paper home?<br> MOM: Right. Since December when they sent the paper home.<br> LUTTON: Can you say…I mean, why has it been so hard to get those shots?<br> MOM: Like I say, he lost the paper. He lost the paper himself. Not me. He did. The nurse gave&nbsp;him the paper. She didn't give it to me. I don't go to school. I'm 44 years old.<br> <br> The form Tim lost is available at any clinic, but maybe Tim's mom doesn't know this. She says she'll bring Tim to the doctor as soon as he gets another paper. I offer to take Tim to Robeson right then to get the paper, but his mom lets him sleep.<br> <br> TIM'S MOM: I'll send him up there. I'll send him up there. I'll have my nephew to take him up there in his car. And get the papers so he&nbsp;can get back to school. ‘Cause I told him, 'Oh, you're going to summer school, Buddy. You're going to summer school.'&nbsp;<br> <br> I figure that finding Marcellis will be a lot easier than finding Tim—there's a working phone number. I find his address in the phone book. But when I get to Marcellis' house,&nbsp;nobody knows where he is—not exactly, anyway. This is his grandma.<br> <br> GRANDMOTHER: I really don't know where he is—I can say, I believe he's on 69th and Indiana or 69th and Calumet. But I did see him—it looked like him and I'm pretty sure it was him—going down Indiana toward 70th Street …we were blocked off by a trailer... He's got a lot of hair. I was just trying to check to see if it really was him. The shoes he had on was not the shoes that I saw him in.<br> <br> The family filed a missing persons report with the police in April. Marcellis is 15 years old, and this is the fourth or fifth time he's run away from home.<br> <br> <em>Sound of papers rustling.</em><br> <br> GRANDMOTHER: No this is that one? April 3, O9. OK. That's it. That's the newest one.<br> <br> Marcellis' grandmother says Marcellis just didn't want to follow the rules anymore. He stole things. He'd come home high. Marcellis' mother died when he was 4. He and his brothers came to live with their grandma three years ago. Marcellis' Aunt Krystle says she could see him being pulled by the neighborhood.<br> <br> AUNT KRYSTLE: The streets or the gangs are providing him with some sort of emotional connection. And I guess he feels like he's a part of something—you know it's hard when you don't have your parents. Although we're here. We're trying. It's a certain void that he's trying to fill.<br> <br> Marcellis' grandmother says one person at Robeson tried to help Marcellis, and that was Rodney Thomas—the head of a program to keep freshmen in school. But when I call Thomas later, he says he can't quite remember Marcellis. He has hundreds of kids to keep track of.<br> <br> Every day, Robeson's automated phone calling system dials up Marcellis' grandmother and tells her he's absent from school. She presses 1 to acknowledge the call. Family members have tried to find Marcellis, but when he sees them, he runs away. I get directions and set out to look for Marcellis myself.&nbsp;<br> <br> LUTTON: There's like a store there Arab store on the corner of 69th.. Indiana…&nbsp;<br> <br> Excuse me, I'm looking for a student that I used to know? His name is Marcellis. I don't know him.&nbsp;<br> <br> It's a spring night…and the block is full. A big group of men and boys are gambling on the sidewalk. One guy is holding a&nbsp;stack of bills. sound of gambling And there's Marcellis, leaning up against a car, the shortest one there. He's got a baby face.&nbsp;<br> <br> <em>ambi:&nbsp;“Shorty!” </em><br> <br> Marcellis' warm-up jacket is pulled up over his face, up to his nose—which is why he sounds all muffled.<br> <br> LUTTON: Put your thing down so I can talk to you.<br> MARCELLIS: I'm good.<br> LUTTON: You remember me, right?<br> MARCELLIS: Yeah.<br> LUTTON: This week I've been looking for kids who aren't in school anymore.<br> MARCELLIS: OK. How'd you find ME, though?<br> <br> Marcellis really doesn't want to talk about why he's not in school. And I'm not sure I can trust what he's saying anyway. He's acting funny. His eyes are completely bloodshot. He lies and tells me he was in school yesterday. But he's really fixated on how I've found him.<br> &nbsp;<br> MARCELLIS: I don't get that. I mean, like how ya'll find me, man?<br> LUTTON: Have any of your teachers come out looking for you?<br> MARCELLIS: No, nobody got to look for me.<br> <br> I tell him I'm looking for the kids in his classes who don't come to school anymore.<br> <br> MARCELLIS: (chuckling) So you going through everybody neighborhood looking for these students. Wow.<br> <br> I'm the one who's surprised when I find the third student, Keonna. She's at home on the sofa reading a book. I've watched Robeson teachers try&nbsp;hard to get students to read this year. And here I am with a kid who's not even&nbsp;coming to school anymore—and I find her with a book.<br> &nbsp;<br> The apartment where Keonna's family lives is clean and sunny. Her 8th grade graduation photo sits on a little end table. When I ask Keonna why she's not in school, this is what she tells me.<br> <br> KEONNA: Well, I choose not to go to school because I get into too many fights. I feel I can't get an education at Robeson. There's too much violence.<br> <br> Robeson's principal is usually outside after school, which is when the fights break out. He told me once he wishes it would rain every day at dismissal, so kids would go straight home. Keonna started having problems her first week at Robeson.<br> <br> KEONNA: The first fight I had I got jumped on by eight girls. The second fight…<br> <br> Two more fights followed that one—Keonna tells me that a former friend has become her tormenter.<br> <br> KEONNA: Then I decided I didn't want to go there no more. Because it seems like I always get into a fight with her, and I get suspended. And I think that I'm gonna be a demote and I'm not gonna go to the next grade, ‘cause of all this fighting.<br> <br> I'm trying to square what Keonna is telling me with what I'm seeing—the quiet, tidy apartment, the book. From the couch, she can see the Robeson kids coming home from school. Keonna almost cries when she tells me she fears being a “demote”—that's a demoted freshman. She says she was suspended for a total of 40 or 50 days for fighting this year. Keonna's dad says he's gone to the school to try to figure things out.<br> <br> DAD: I've been there so much seems like I'm taking classes there.<br> <br> He wishes the school could have come up with a way to keep the two girls apart.<br> <br> DAD:&nbsp;She wants to be in school right now. And I want her to be in school right now. The whole year is gone, she's gonna have to repeat this 9th grade over again, all because of this foolishness.<br> <br> Keonna hardly leaves the house. Her mom says she's been depressed since she stopped going to school. Keonna and her parents say they asked for a transfer to a different school, but they were told they've got to wait until the end of the semester. Keonna's report card—out today—will almost surely be all Fs.<br> <br> KEONNA: It's not that I'm choosing not to go to school no more—it's just I don't want to go to&nbsp;that school no more.<br> <br> Keonna says she hasn't dropped out of school. In fact,&nbsp;all the kids tell me this—that they haven't dropped out. They've just stopped going. These kids will stay on Robeson's rolls. But if they don't return to school, eventually…quietly, as quietly as they disappeared from class, their names will be dropped. Along with 12,000 other kids'.</p></p> Fri, 12 Jun 2009 14:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/where-they-are-why-theyre-gone-three-9th-grade-dropouts-0 Live Blog: 50/50 Roundtable http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/live-blog-5050-roundtable <p><p>Ask series reporters Julia McEvoy and Natalie Moore questions about the <a href="http://www.chicagopublicradio.org/Program_848.aspx"><em>50/50: The Odds of Graduating </em>series</a>.<br> <br> <br> <iframe src="http://www.coveritlive.com/index2.php/option=com_altcaster/task=viewaltcast/altcast_code=1b540ad838/height=500/width=440" width="440" frameborder="0" height="500" scrolling="no">&amp;lt;a data-cke-saved-href=&amp;quot;http://www.coveritlive.com/mobile.php?option=com_mobile&amp;amp;task=viewaltcast&amp;amp;altcast_code=1b540ad838&amp;quot; href=&amp;quot;http://www.coveritlive.com/mobile.php?option=com_mobile&amp;amp;task=viewaltcast&amp;amp;altcast_code=1b540ad838&amp;quot; &amp;gt;50/50: The Odds of Graduating Live Blog&amp;lt;/a&amp;gt;</iframe></p></p> Fri, 12 Jun 2009 14:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/live-blog-5050-roundtable 50/50 Series Slideshow: Where do we go from here? http://www.wbez.org/jkaufmann/2009/06/5050-slideshow-where-do-we-go-from-here/4079 <p><p>Our series <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/fifty-fifty-odds-graduating"><em>50/50: The Odds of Graduating</em></a> wraps up today. Join the <a href="http://www.chicagopublicradio.org/Content.aspx?audioID=34810">live chat here</a> with the reporters and editors.<object classid="clsid:d27cdb6e-ae6d-11cf-96b8-444553540000" codebase="http://download.macromedia.com/pub/shockwave/cabs/flash/swflash.cab#version=6,0,40,0" id="soundslider" width="500" height="400"><param name="data" value="http://www.wbez.org/slideshows/20090612_5050/soundslider.swf?size=1&amp;format=xml&amp;embed_width=500&amp;embed_height=400"><param name="allowScriptAccess" value="always"><param name="quality" value="high"><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"><param name="menu" value="false"><param name="bgcolor" value="#FFFFFF"><param name="src" value="http://www.wbez.org/slideshows/20090612_5050/soundslider.swf?size=1&amp;format=xml&amp;embed_width=500&amp;embed_height=400"><param name="allowfullscreen" value="true"><embed allowfullscreen="true" allowscriptaccess="always" bgcolor="#FFFFFF" data="http://www.wbez.org/slideshows/20090612_5050/soundslider.swf?size=1&amp;format=xml&amp;embed_width=500&amp;embed_height=400" id="soundslider" menu="false" quality="high" src="http://www.wbez.org/slideshows/20090612_5050/soundslider.swf?size=1&amp;format=xml&amp;embed_width=500&amp;embed_height=400" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="500" height="400"></object></p></p> Fri, 12 Jun 2009 09:28:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/jkaufmann/2009/06/5050-slideshow-where-do-we-go-from-here/4079 50-50 Series: Dropping Out of Robeson Not an Option for One Family http://www.wbez.org/story/news/education/dropping-out-robeson-not-option-one-family <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/archives/images/cityroom/cityroom_20090611_nmoore_96366_Drop_large.png" alt="" /><p><p><strong>WBEZ has spent a lot of time at Robeson trying to explain why some students drop out of this Chicago neighborhood high school. But there are students who do finish in four years – despite obstacles. And there are ones who are simply motivated by school. Freshman Sarah Vance is motivated. Both of her sisters have graduated from Robeson. Julia Erwin is the mother of these young women. For her no obstacle is too big for her children to finish high school.</strong><br> <br> <strong>Series:</strong> <em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/fifty-fifty-odds-graduating"><em>50/50: The Odds of Graduating</em></a></em><br> <strong>Live Blog Friday:</strong> Join series reporters Natalie Moore and Julia McEvoy for&nbsp;a <a href="http://www.chicagopublicradio.org/Content.aspx?audioID=34767">live blog about the series</a><br> <br> It's a busy afternoon at Sarah's apartment. Her sister Toni is getting dressed for her high school graduation later in the day. She's wearing four-inch heels and is having a bit of trouble walking in them.<br> <br> <em>ambi: factory </em><br> <br> Mom Julia Erwin knows that a high school diploma isn't always the norm in her neighborhood. She works at a factory on the Southwest Side.<br> <br> ERWIN: A lot of the kids that went to grammar school with them and started at Robeson dropped out. At least four guys around here around the same age of my kids, dropped out. Standing out on street corner selling drugs. I tried to get them a job down there where I'm at. If ya'll go get your ID, you're 18. They don't want to work.<br> <br> Erwin graduated from Robeson in 1988.<br> <br> Even when her oldest daughter got pregnant – twice – while at Robeson, Erwin made her finish because abortion and adoption were not an option.<br> <br> ERWIN: You not finta drop out. You're going to school everyday. I watch your kids – you're going to school.<br> <br> And her message to her three daughters and one son is a simple one:<br> <br> ERWIN: I talk to my kids so they know right from wrong, you know what I'm saying? What ya'll want out of life? Don't ya'll want a job, be independent.<br> <br> Erwin watches her daughter Toni twirl around in her shimmery gold Apple Bottom outfit. Dad Tony Vance stops by and takes out his camera to capture the moment.<br> <br> VANCE: I'm feeling the way a dad should feel on graduation day. No babies. And hopefully that's trickling down. It has from my understanding – it is.<br> <br> Vance glances at his daughter Sarah who has been getting report cards filled with As and Bs all year.<br> <br> She doesn't like it when I ask her father if he's worried about her becoming a teen mom. Sarah's parents aren't worried – they see her focus. Sarah sees first hand how hard it is for her older sister with two toddlers.<br> <br> But Sarah did have a boyfriend in the beginning of the year. I ask her if she still has one.<br> <br> VANCE: I'll answer that – no. Not supposed to.<br> TONI: She can have one.<br> SARAH: I know.<br> VANCE: Here we go again with this again…<br> REPORTER: You still got a boyfriend, Sarah?<br> SARAH: That's personal.<br> <br> But mother Julia knows one of Sarah's flaws – an attitude problem that occasionally surfaces – that will keep boys away.<br> <br> JULIA: Sarah too mean for that. Too evil. I think she's gonna run them all away.<br> <br> The family piles into a couple of cars and head for Robeson's graduation at a church in West Englewood.<br> <br> <em>ambi: house, fades into </em><em>graduation</em><br> <br> Graduation is packed. Savvy hustlers are selling flowers for families to give to their graduates. Aunties, uncles, nephews and cousins from both sides of Toni's family are there to see her walk the stage. They shout her nickname: Pookah.<br> <br> <em>ambi: graduation</em><br> <br> Fashion-forward Toni has been accepted to the International Academy of Design and Technology for an associate's in fashion design.<br> <br> But right now all focus is on today's accomplishment….<br> <br> Principal Gerald Morrow takes the stage.<br> <br> MORROW: Last year I made the statement that we would fill up this place and we did. This is the largest graduating class that we've had at Robeson High School in five to 10 years.<br> <br> And Morrow has another message.<br> <br> MORROW: And we have enough children walking around Englewood in which we have failed. When I say we – I mean every adult, uncle, auntie who has allowed these babies not to do what they supposed to do. And I'm the ringleader. I take my whooping first.<br> <br> Toni joins 170 other graduates in their gold and red cap and gowns. These seniors received $1.4 million in scholarships.<br> <br> After graduation, Toni gets her final report card – all As.<br> <br> As the family heads out and the crowd disperses with smiles and congratulations, the Erwin and Vance family fully expect to be here again in three years…for Sarah's graduation.</p></p> Thu, 11 Jun 2009 14:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/news/education/dropping-out-robeson-not-option-one-family 50-50 Series: A Common Complaint Among Dropouts http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/8220boring8221-common-complaint-among-dropouts <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/archives/images/cityroom/848_20090611a_large.png" alt="" /><p><p><strong>We've been following Mykelle Wheeler through ninth grade this year as part of our series, <em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/fifty-fifty-odds-graduating"><em>50/50: The Odds of Graduating</em></a></em>. Mykelle was identified as being a drop-out risk even before he got to Robeson. He's made it through the year, but Mykelle says he's BORED by school. That's a complaint that a lot of dropouts make. What they MEAN when they say that can be harder to figure out.</strong>Mykelle Wheeler says one of his favorite things about high school is how easy it is to skip. He does just enough work to get a passing grade—sometimes not even that much.<br> <br> Mykelle says he's been bored all year. Here's an except from a journal entry he wrote in English class:<br> <br> MYKELLE <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:city w:st="on">READING</st1:city></st1:place>: I can't wait until school get out. I'm gonna go home, clean up, change clothes and go outside. School is boring today. I wish I wouldn't have come. All there is to do today is listen to my iPod.<br> <br> Mykelle is not a model student. He's disruptive, and he's not the only one. There is a culture here—from lunchroom fights to frequently pulled fire alarms—and Mykelle's become a part of it. That makes learning tough.<br> <br> MYKELLE: G, Stop f------- playing, man! (Excuse my language). C'mon, G! Stop playing for real, man! He all steady throwing stuff up there! They gonna get me started up here.<br> <br> Mykelle says this English class isn't interesting—he hasn't found much that is. He's in this class for two periods a day, and he also has a double shot of algebra. There's no art, no music. He's on the standard freshman schedule at Robeson—meant for kids who arrive well below grade level, and that's just about everybody.<br> <br> MYKELLE: Like some stuff we do like English and stuff—like, it be stuff that we did in grammar school, stuff I already knew and we be doing it for a long time. I just be getting bored of it.<br> <br> <em>ambi: algebra class</em><br> <br> In the computer lab for math class, online algebra problems do not hold Mykelle's attention either.<br> <br> TEACHER: Mykelle! You're losing focus again!<br> <br> He clicks over to Facebook—where one of his status updates says “in school bored as hell.”<br> <br> But Mykelle is also struggling.<br> <br> MYKELLE: You add seven. Hm-mmm. I think I'm doing it wrong. I think I was supposed to add. I'm not sure. Mr. K…did you say multiply?<br> <br> Mykelle pretty much understands the algebra in the equation he's trying to solve. But he can't figure out how to multiply 7.5 times 2.<br> <br> This is Mykelle's math teacher, Soby Kuriakose.<br> <br> KURIAKOSE: He's got trouble with basic multiplication, a lot of kids do. Even without the decimal. Just times tables? They don't even have that.<span style="">&nbsp; </span>That's why I break things down into cents and money…they eventually get that.<br> <br> Kids who've failed a lot in their life can use boredom as a cover. That's according to Robert Balfanz; he studies dropouts for <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:placename w:st="on">Johns</st1:placename> <st1:placename w:st="on">Hopkins</st1:placename> <st1:placetype w:st="on">University</st1:placetype></st1:place>.<br> <br> BALFANZ: It's a lot easier to say, 'This is stupid. It's not important. I don't care about it. I'm bored.' That's a better place to be than, 'I tried really hard but I still failed.'<br> <br> When kids say they're bored, they can actually mean lots of different things.<br> <br> Balfanz says it can mean the teaching is lousy…It can mean the kids are lost...It can mean they're just bored the way everybody gets bored&nbsp;in high school at some point.<br> <br> I sort of wonder if it's Robeson, or whether Mykelle would be bored at any school.<br> <br> REPORTER: Let's find a school that's not boring.<br> MYKELLE: I don't know what school is not boring!<br> <br> We decide to try Whitney Young—one of the best schools in the state. It's a school Mykelle could never attend—at least not with his grammar school grades.<br> <br> Robeson's principal, Gerald Morrow, says the focus should be on Mykelle and his effort, not the school.<br> <br> MORROW: My question to him when he come back is going to be did you see anything at Whitney Young that YOU can emulate, that would help YOU?<br> <br> <em style="">ambi: entering Whitney Young</em><br> <br> Kids aren't searched when they enter Whitney Young, and this makes a big impression on Mykelle. They don't have to wear uniforms either—there are no gangs here. Ninety-eight percent of Whitney Young kids graduate.<br> <br> It's easy to figure out which class is Mykelle's favorite during our day trip:<br> <br> <em>ambi: Band plays, Mykelle is on the cymbals</em><br> <br> That's Mykelle on the cymbals.<br> <br> Freshmen get a couple electives here—art, foreign languages, and music are options. This is advanced orchestra.<br> <br> Mykelle has had a drum set since he was two. But there's no band for him at Robeson. Later, in a practice room, Mykelle tries out the school's drum set with two students.<br> <br> <em>ambi: drumming and conversation</em><br> <br> Mykelle and the other students exchange tips—which might seem completely unremarkable. But Mykelle doesn't usually interact this way with classmates. At Robeson, Mykelle never drops his street-tough persona.<br> <br> Outside the band room at Whitney Young, Mykelle tells me he should have worked harder in grammar school so he could have come to a high school like this one.<br> <br> But in algebra, things are not as exciting.</p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;"><span style="">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </span></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;"><em>ambi: algebra at Whitney Young: On your test I'm gonna say, “Solve by graphing, solve by substitution, solve by elimination, solve by whatever way you want to.</em><br> <br> The algebra being taught here is the same as it is at Robeson—though they're going over concepts Mykelle hasn't seen yet. The teaching seems pretty much the same. The huge difference is the students. They're focused. There are no disruptions.<br> <br> Mykelle puts his head on the desk.<br> <br> A girl in front of him asks why he's visiting Whitney Young.</p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;"><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;">MYKELLE: Just trying to find a school that ain't boring.<o:p></o:p></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;">GIRL: Ooohhh. <o:p></o:p></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;">MYKELLE: Which is not possible.<o:p></o:p></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;">GIRL: Uh! <span style="">&nbsp;</span><o:p></o:p></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;">MYKELLE: Well, this school is not that boring. THIS class is.<br> <br> After class, Mykelle debriefs with the teacher:<br> <br> MYKELLE: I didn't get it. <o:p></o:p></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;">TEACHER: You didn't get it? Was I moving too fast?<o:p></o:p></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;">MYKELLE: No, not really. I just, I just gotta work on that.<br> <br> <em style="">ambi: front porch</em><br> <br> A few days later, on his front porch, Mykelle talks about his visit to Whitney Young.<br> <br> MYKELLE: Yeah, I like that school. They got all the extracurricular activities that you could get into. At Robeson they don't really got that. They got basketball teams and stuff. But they ain't got no band or nothing like that.<br> <br> The visit doesn't change Mykelle's behavior back at Robeson.<br> <br> Mykelle cut class through the entire year, especially the last period of the day. That got him an F in English…which means that when he finally gets some electives, he may have to use them to make up his requirements.<br> <br> I ask Mykelle what sort of student he thinks he'd be if he went to Whitney Young.<br> <br> MYKELLE:&nbsp;A totally different student, probably. We would have to work way more harder than at Robeson to pass. So I would probably be a good student.<o:p></o:p></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;">REPORTER: What about Mr. Morrow? He says you could be that good student right now if you wanted to be. <o:p></o:p></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;">MYKELLE: He probably right, yeah.<span style="">&nbsp;</span>If I put my head to it, yeah. I could.<br> <br> Mykelle's mom wanted to see a change in Mykelle this year. She says she doesn't know what to do about his lack of effort.<br> <br> WHEELER: At this rate, if he keeps going that way I'm really, really not certain that he's even gonna want to finish school.<span style="">&nbsp; </span>If he's already talking about he's bored, he's this, he's not challenged. I'm scared to think of what's gonna happen in the next year. It's a scary thought.</p></p> Thu, 11 Jun 2009 14:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/8220boring8221-common-complaint-among-dropouts Join the Conversation: 50/50 Roundtable Live Blog http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/join-conversation-5050-roundtable-live-blog <p><p>Friday, we're wrapping up our <em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/5050"><em>50/50: The Odds of Graduating</em> </a></em>series with a roundtable with students and administrators.<br> <br> Sign up to join the conversation! Series reporters Julia McEvoy and Natalie Moore will be on the blog to answer your questions about Robeson High School, and the students they followed.<br> <br> <iframe src="http://www.coveritlive.com/index2.php/option=com_altcaster/task=viewaltcast/altcast_code=1b540ad838/height=500/width=440" width="440" frameborder="0" height="500" scrolling="no">&amp;lt;a data-cke-saved-href=&amp;quot;http://www.coveritlive.com/mobile.php?option=com_mobile&amp;amp;task=viewaltcast&amp;amp;altcast_code=1b540ad838&amp;quot; href=&amp;quot;http://www.coveritlive.com/mobile.php?option=com_mobile&amp;amp;task=viewaltcast&amp;amp;altcast_code=1b540ad838&amp;quot; &amp;gt;50/50: The Odds of Graduating Live Blog&amp;lt;/a&amp;gt;</iframe></p></p> Thu, 11 Jun 2009 14:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/join-conversation-5050-roundtable-live-blog 50-50 Series: Chicago Public Schools Student On the Streets Again http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/chicago-public-schools-student-streets-again <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/archives/images/cityroom/848_20090609a_large.png" alt="" /><p><p><strong>This is the last week of school for most Chicago students. But for some teens, school ended weeks or even months ago. They're the kids who've already dropped out. And they make up a devastating statistic in this city. WBEZ has spent a year reporting from Robeson High School in Chicago's Englewood neighborhood.&nbsp; H</strong><strong>omelessness, violence, teen pregnancy are&nbsp;some of the complicated reasons young people at Robeson give up on school. But sometimes, it's the school that gives up on the kid. That's what happened to one of the students we've been following, Demetrius Davis. As part of our series, <em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/fifty-fifty-odds-graduating"><em>Fifty-Fifty: The Odds of Graduating</em></a></em>, we find out that like most things at Robeson, the situation is not simple.</strong><br> <br> Demetrius began the school year determined to graduate. But all this year he struggled academically. He's had a lot working against him--a spotty history of attending school, partly because he's been in and out of juvenile detention. He's a dad already—with three kids.<br> <br> And his mom, a recovered drug addict, only recently began to advocate for him at school.<br> <br> Then at the start of the second semester at Robeson high this year, he got another blow. Robeson decided to kick him out.&nbsp;<br> <br> DAVIS: Actually it was like a surprise. They told me it ain't nothing but a five minute process. I could just go and get my mom.&nbsp;<br> <br> Here's what happened to Demetrius. In mid February he was returning to school from being out for three days. He went into Robeson's front office to let them know he was back. But instead of sending him to class, the school told him to get his mom.<br> <br> DAVIS: So I went to get my mom and we came back and that's when they was telling me I didn't have enough credits. And it would be best if I just go to an alternative school. And I guess I was no longer allowed at Robeson.<br> &nbsp;<br> Illinois law says students have to stay in school until they're 17. Ask Robeson and the District's Area Instructional Officer Jerryelyn Jones and they say the school can “counsel out” a 17-year-old student it believes would be better served in an alternative school.<br> &nbsp;<br> That's what Robeson was telling Demetrius and his mom, Mary Davis. That at the rate he was going, with so few credits, he would never graduate by age 21.<br> <br> At first, Mrs. Davis argued to keep him in school.<br> <br> MRS DAVIS: And I was like can you just give him another chance till the next semester and see where he at from there and if he can improve? And they were like no the only thing we can do is give him the names and addresses of some alternative schools he probably can go to.<br> <br> Mrs. Davis had started the year thinking Robeson could help her son. But in the conference that day she says it became clear the school didn't want him there anymore. And so she stopped fighting. There was something else she knew too. Something she told Demetrius at the time.<br> <br> MRS.DAVIS: I am like, it's not like they kicked you out, you brought this upon yourself. They was giving you chances after chances after chances and telling you to come to school and be on time, and you know you just choose to do your own thing. I said I just hope that when you go to another school you just take school more serious.<br> <br> It wasn't just Demetrius that day. That week, the school told at least 10 other students they weren't cutting it. Demetrius says he knows three of them.<br> <br> DAVIS: Three of my guys got kicked out with me.&nbsp; They all sophomores.&nbsp;<br> <br> Principal Gerald Morrow says at the beginning of the year between 35 and 50 student programs were pulled. These are 17 –year- olds who had so few credits or such poor attendance the school concluded they weren't trying.<br> &nbsp;<br> MORROW: It's just the reality of it. There's no way to jazz it up and say it pretty. It happens, about 10 do get counseled out. And it mainly comes down to you're not making the effort!<br> <br> Principal Morrow says all the students were warned that if they didn't improve they'd better plan on getting themselves on a list for an alternative school—because there is a very long waiting list. By late in the&nbsp;<br> semester Demetrius had 27 unexcused absences. Still, Demetrius says he never got that warning.<br> <br> DAVIS: If they would have told me something like Demetrius we're going to let you back in but you're very close on the edge if you even argue with somebody you're going to get kicked out. And then I would have knew alright, alright it's time to do work and you know, nerd up.<br> <br> REPORTER: If you had known what would you have done differently? I mean, specifically.<br> &nbsp;<br> DEMETRIUS: I would have been doing everything I had to do. Every sheet of paper that was in front of me.<br> <br> Demetrius got almost all F's first quarter and his interim report wasn't any better. All year he had a mentor at the school, Rodney Thomas. Thomas had seen the grades.<br> <br> REPORTER: Did you ever make sure that he did get tutoring?<br> <br> THOMAS: You know just like with every kid and Demetrius it started out well. But when a kid is disinterested then we can't force them to be there. And so it was just a constant questioning of did you go, did you go, did you go and then you would get ‘Yeah, Mr. Thomas I went,' but he didn't go. So it was back and forth with that.<br> <br> Looking back, Thomas says maybe it's his fault. Maybe he didn't make things clear to Demetrius.<br> <br> THOMAS: There are a lot of areas in Demetrius' life that we-- things could have been better. Personally, school-wide. Even me as a mentor. Not that I lied, but being brutally honest to Demetrius.<br> <br> Thomas spent a lot of time helping Demetrius manage his anger. Anger over seeing one brother shot and another in jail. Anger over his mom choosing drugs over her children. Thomas made a lot of progress. Demetrius had fewer outbursts and suspensions.<br> <br> THOMAS: But if I could rewind, knowing what I know now. I would be a little more aggressive around the academic portion as well.<br> <br> Thomas says no school should ever give up on a kid. And Morrow agrees. But then he says there are kids like Demetrius who only show up because they are in the juvenile court system. They must come to school or violate their probation.<br> <br> MORROW: It goes both ways. Do they want to be here? Are we just carrying them to be carrying them. I tell the parents all the time, I'm not a baby sitter, a lunch program. This is school they need to come, participate, go to class, do what they supposed to do.<br> <br> But in Demetrius' case there was another compelling factor that somehow the school never knew about. Something Demetrius himself doesn't want to acknowledge. He was reading at about a second grade level.<br> <br> MORROW: It's not that he's quote, unquote a slow learner. He's talented. What happened? Missed so many days of school. He's talented, what happened, didn't have a parental structure. He's talented, what was going on? Got involved in the street. Those are the things that came in and took him away from school. Now if we're talking about a kid who came every day but is not comprehending? That's a kid with special needs.<br> <br> REPORTER: Although, if you are in a sophomore class like world history with Ms Roberts and you're looking at a text book and she's saying read the book, and you can't read? I mean literally, he-- at Healy they tested him, she's saying second grade. There's no way he could have done that and maybe people were afraid to push him because every time they asked him (he'd lash out, right) then he'd get mad.<br> <br> MORROW: But the thing about it is when you sit him down and have him focus on school you can see how quick he picks things up. That means he doesn't have a learning disability, that means he did not go to school.<br> <br> REPORTER: Then what do you do with a kid like that here?<br> <br> MORROW: You give him resources as far as tutorial, SES, AIM high, but all again these are after school programs. Getting Demetrius to stay after school is a whole different dilemma.<br> <br> Paige Ponder is in charge of reducing the district's drop out rate. She says she understand principals' frustrations.<br> &nbsp;<br> PONDER: They're perspective is I need to focus the resources that I have and the energy I have on kids who can graduate. So kids who are coming to school who have no chance of graduating may often be also kids who are disruptive and distracting everybody and causing lots of problems. But the problem is we simply don't have the capacity as a city to serve these students. There is no where else for them to go, or not enough places for them to go.<br> <br> Ponder wants to fix this, of course. But it's expensive. New York City has invested heavily in re enrolling drop outs, Chicago has not. There are at least 50,000 Chicago students who need to be reenrolled in school. There are only about 5 thousand spots for them in alternative schools. Demetrius was lucky enough to get one of them.<br> <br> RANDOLPH: Demetrius Davis enrolled in Healy South on March 17… March 18 absent, March 19 present. March 20 absent. Mom called.<br> <br> Healy South is an alternative school at 81st and Cottage Grove. Demetrius got in with the help and encouragement of his mentor from Robeson, Rodney Thomas, and also his probation officer. Ms. Randolph runs the school.<br> <br> RANDOLPH: We've been calling the parents every day to let them know he was not here. A couple days we spoke to the grandmother and the probation officer. So we don't know where to go. Once Demetrius is here we can set up an academic plan or a behavior plan.<br> <br> <em>Ambi: sound of Demetrius and family… </em><br> <br> On one of the last days of the school year, Demetrius Davis is keeping an eye on his 16-month-old son, Meechie Jr. He's with his Meechie Jr.'s mom, Rayshawn and her sister, Rakia in the girls' family's apartment. The teens are playing cards. All three have dropped out. All three insist they will go back.<br> <br> RAYSHAWN: Yeah, I'm going to go back when September hit. To Robeson? No to an alternative school. Do you know which one you want to go to? Banner.<br> <br> RAKIA: So, as for me, I'm going to be graduating next September.<br> <br> DEMETRIUS: Actually I'm out of school but I went to school yesterday and they said I missed too many days I'm supposed to bring my parent back up in there. I'm supposed to be doing that tomorrow. Tomorrow.<br> <br> <em>Ambi: Sound of him teaching Meechie.</em><br> <br> Demetrius says what's important to him right now is being a good dad to his son. Especially since his own dad was never there for him. He says he is serious about providing for 16-month-old Meechie. But with no skills and little education, that doesn't seem too realistic at this point.<br> <br> His mentor, Rodney Thomas hasn't given up on Demetrius. He stays in touch--says he's seen other guys like Demetrius eventually turn themselves around.<br> <br> But for now, instead of being in school, Demetrius stays home with Meechie Jr.…teaching him his ABCs.<br> <br> <em>ambi: sound: Yeah! Big boy! Applause.</em></p></p> Tue, 09 Jun 2009 14:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/chicago-public-schools-student-streets-again