WBEZ | CPS http://www.wbez.org/tags/cps Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Mayor Emanuel borrows to pay massive CPS pension obligation http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-07-02/mayor-emanuel-borrows-pay-massive-cps-pension-obligation-112308 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/payment got credit.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/212961209&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe><span style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; line-height: 22px;">One day after the Chicago Public Schools made its 634 million dollar teachers&rsquo; pension payment on time...the city asked if it could borrow 500 million dollars from the pension fund. The city&rsquo;s Chief Financial Officer says the five month loan is needed to avoid more cuts. Ralph Martire, Executive Director of the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, joins us with his take, and what he thinks this means going forward.&nbsp;</span></p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><strong style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: inherit; font-size: inherit; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: inherit; vertical-align: baseline;">Guest:&nbsp;</strong><a href="http://www.ctbaonline.org/about/ctba-staff">Ralph Martire</a> is the Executive Director of the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability</p></p> Thu, 02 Jul 2015 12:25:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-07-02/mayor-emanuel-borrows-pay-massive-cps-pension-obligation-112308 CPS, Emanuel warn of deep cuts, layoffs to school district http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-emanuel-warn-deep-cuts-layoffs-school-district-112301 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/rahmap.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is proposing &ldquo;a grand bargain&rdquo; to fix the financial woes of Chicago Public Schools.</p><p>The proposal cuts $200 million from schools, raises property taxes, asks teachers to pay more into their pensions, and pushes Springfield to increase overall school funding.</p><p>&ldquo;Everybody would have to give up something, and nobody would have to give up everything,&rdquo; Emanuel said.</p><p>The mayor&rsquo;s proposal came as state lawmakers were entertaining a bill from Illinois Senate President John Cullerton that would freeze property taxes and eliminate grants currently promised to CPS in exchange for picking up about $200 million of the cash-strapped school district&rsquo;s &ldquo;normal&rdquo; pension costs over the next two years.</p><p>The Chicago Teachers Union doesn&rsquo;t support Emanuel&rsquo;s plan and also scoffed at his longstanding push to consolidate the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund with the Teachers Retirement System, which includes all suburban and downstate teachers, and is equally underfunded. Currently, Chicago taxpayers pay into both CTPF and TRS, something Emanuel calls &ldquo;inequitable.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Cuts will hit classrooms, special education and start times</span></p><p>Emanuel and CPS officials said schools will start on time this fall, but not without deep cuts.&nbsp;</p><p>District officials are still in the process of developing the budget for next school year, but CPS Interim CEO Jesse Ruiz <a href="https://www.scribd.com/doc/270216697/CPS-reducing-expenses-by-200-Million" target="_blank">outlined</a> the following cuts they&rsquo;ve already determined they&rsquo;ll make:</p><ul><li>Eliminate 5,300 coaching stipends for elementary school sports. ($3.2 million);</li><li>Change magnet school transportation by having students report to local attendance area school to be picked up. ($2.3 million);</li><li>Shift start times for some high schools back 45 minutes. ($9.2 million);</li><li>Eliminate 200 vacant special education positions. ($14 million);</li><li>Cut startup funding for charters and alternative schools. ($15.8 million);</li><li>Reduce professional development in turnaround schools run by AUSL ($11.6 million).</li></ul><p>&ldquo;In my view, they&rsquo;re intolerable, they&rsquo;re unacceptable and they&rsquo;re totally unconscionable,&rdquo; Emanuel said of the cuts. &ldquo;They&rsquo;re a result of a political system that sprung a leak and now it&rsquo;s a geyser.&rdquo;</p><p>The cuts do not solve the district&rsquo;s pension problems. Late Tuesday, just before the deadline, the school district paid its full pension payment, a hefty sum of $634 million, for 2015. But that payment was only to close out last year&rsquo;s budget. The Emanuel administration has already asked the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund to push $500 million of the required 2016 payment to 2017.&nbsp;</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Where will the revenue come from?</span></p><p>Chicago Public Schools officials and Emanuel find themselves in the middle of a delicate dance with Springfield: They take every opportunity to blame Springfield for the financial mess the district is in, but at the same time look for lawmakers to bail them out.</p><p>If Springfield doesn&rsquo;t go along with Emanuel&rsquo;s idea to merge all teacher pensions into a single fund, he wants them to contribute the &ldquo;normal&rdquo; pension cost, which amounts to about $200 million annually.</p><p>This portion of his plan coincides with a <a href="http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/fulltext.asp?DocName=09900SB0316sam001&amp;GA=99&amp;SessionId=88&amp;DocTypeId=SB&amp;LegID=84277&amp;DocNum=0316&amp;GAID=13&amp;Session=" target="_blank">bill</a> that&rsquo;s currently floating around Springfield. Senate President John Cullerton sponsored an amendment that would kick in that annual &ldquo;normal cost,&rdquo; and also freezes property taxes for two years. Cullerton says it&rsquo;s his attempt to compromise with Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, who&rsquo;s advocated freezing property taxes. The bill would also require the state to create a task force to overhaul Illinois&rsquo; school funding formula.</p><p>Cullerton&rsquo;s bill made it through its first legislative hurdle with only Democratic support, but Cullerton said he&rsquo;d continue working with Republicans to get bipartisan support.</p><p>And then there&rsquo;s that thing Chicagoans have been waiting to hear details about: A property tax hike. Emanuel said without Springfield&rsquo;s help on teacher pension funding, he will restore the CPS pension levy to the pre-1995 tax rate of .26 percent. Emanuel estimates that would bring in around $175 million.</p><p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t easily go to taxpayers, but part of a solution is you&rsquo;re willing to give up things you don&rsquo;t support, in an effort to get other things you think are essential to a solution,&rdquo; Emanuel said.</p><p>Emanuel said he will also ask teachers to contribute the full 9 percent to cover their own pension costs. He said he will also put the city&rsquo;s block grants on the table, in exchange for the state to increase education funding by up to 25 percent.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">How we got here</span></p><p>These pension problems stem from 15 years of neglect and mismanagement at CPS and the city.</p><p>From 1995 to 2004, CPS did not make a single payment to the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund, and instead used revenues to pay for operations. From 2011 to 2013, the school district got a &ldquo;pension holiday&rdquo; that temporarily shrunk payments, but didn&rsquo;t make a dent in the unfunded liabilities.</p><p>Ralph Martire, executive director of the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, said the district should be &ldquo;front and center taking blame&rdquo; for &ldquo;using the pension system very much like a credit card, running up debt and deferring payment of it until now.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;The City of Chicago has known that more money was going to have to go into the pension systems in 2015,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;They had four and a half years to plan for it and they did nothing.&rdquo;</p><p>Emanuel disputes that he&rsquo;s been putting the pension problem off, telling reporters Wednesday that over the past few years, &ldquo;we negotiated with the laborers and municipal fund, we negotiated with police and fire and we negotiated with park district employees and reached pension agreements and passed a number of them...so I would slightly beg to differ the characterization that we were passive.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p><p>Martire didn&rsquo;t place all of the blame at the mayor&rsquo;s feet. He said state lawmakers are equally at fault for not contributing to Chicago teachers&rsquo; pensions, like they once promised and by generally underfunding public schools.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;When you have such significant underfunding from the state, the mayoral administrations and the administrations of the CPS are going to look to beg, borrow and steal,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;And just simply write an IOU into the system saying, &lsquo;We&rsquo;ll pay you back someday at compounded interest.&rsquo; And someday has arrived.&rdquo;</p><p><em>WBEZ&rsquo;s Tony Arnold contributed to this story from Springfield.</em></p><p><span style="font-size: 24px;">A timeline of CPS pension problems</span></p><p><strong>1981</strong> &ndash; Chicago Board of Education starts picking up 7 percent of the 9 percent employee pension contribution, in exchange for no salary raises.</p><p><strong>1995</strong> &ndash; Illinois General Assembly gives control of the city&rsquo;s public schools to Chicago&rsquo;s mayor and agrees to let CPS manage the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund. The dedicated pension levy is eliminated and for 10 years, CPS doesn&rsquo;t pay anything into the Fund, instead using revenue that should have been earmarked for pensions on other things, like operations, new school expansion and staff raises.</p><p><strong>2005</strong> &ndash; Chicago Teachers Pension Fund &ldquo;funded ratio&rdquo; drops to 79 percent.</p><p><strong>2006</strong> &ndash; Board starts making payments into CTPF again.</p><p><strong>2008</strong>&nbsp;&ndash; Stock market crashes, dropping the Fund&rsquo;s &ldquo;funded ratio&rdquo; even further.</p><p><strong>2010</strong> &ndash; CPS CEO Ron Huberman gets a pension holiday from Springfield. From 2011-2013, CPS is only required to pay $200 million year &ndash; instead of $600 million &ndash; pushing ballooning payments to 2014.</p><p><strong>2012</strong> &ndash; The &ldquo;funded ratio&rdquo; drops to 53.9 percent.</p><p><strong>2014</strong> - $612.7 million payment</p><p><strong>2015</strong> - $634 million payment</p><p><iframe class="scribd_iframe_embed" data-aspect-ratio="undefined" data-auto-height="false" frameborder="0" height="600" id="doc_76159" scrolling="no" src="https://www.scribd.com/embeds/270216697/content?start_page=1&amp;view_mode=scroll&amp;show_recommendations=true" width="100%"></iframe></p></p> Wed, 01 Jul 2015 13:53:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-emanuel-warn-deep-cuts-layoffs-school-district-112301 Contract talks break down between Chicago teachers and city http://www.wbez.org/news/contract-talks-break-down-between-chicago-teachers-and-city-112257 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/IMG_2459.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Contract talks between the Chicago Teachers Union and the Board of Education ended Thursday with no agreement in sight, union officials say.</p><p>CTU President Karen Lewis said the union&rsquo;s latest proposal was cost neutral&mdash;no annual raises, no cost-of-living increases&mdash;but did ask the Board to continue picking up 7 percent of the 9 percent employee pension contribution.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re very clear that they have a serious fiscal issue,&rdquo; Lewis told reporters. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re willing to work within that.&rdquo;</p><p>Lewis said the proposal would&rsquo;ve been a one-year deal that would have eliminated some paperwork and excessive standardized tests.</p><p>But the Board apparently didn&rsquo;t bite.</p><p>Mayor Rahm Emanuel issued a statement that he&rsquo;s encouraged &ldquo;both sides finally acknowledge that CPS is in a fiscal crisis and lacks the resources to provide additional compensation.&rdquo;</p><p>He urged CTU leadership to come back to the bargaining table.</p><p>According to the union&rsquo;s lawyer, Robert Bloch, there are no bargaining meetings scheduled.</p><p>CPS officials could not be immediately reached to comment on the latest proposals, but the district has so far not commented on the most recent round of negotiations.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>The current teachers&rsquo; contract is set to expire next Tuesday.</p></p> Thu, 25 Jun 2015 17:48:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/contract-talks-break-down-between-chicago-teachers-and-city-112257 Emanuel touts bogus graduation rate http://www.wbez.org/news/emanuel-touts-bogus-graduation-rate-112163 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/CurieHighSchool.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has been talking proudly about something that is really a bit of a miracle: Even during a time of tight budgets and leadership chaos, Chicago Public Schools graduation rates have climbed to a record 69.4 percent.</p><p>But new data obtained by WBEZ and the Better Government Association shows that number is wrong.</p><p>CPS records recently obtained under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act show at least 2,200 students from 25 Chicago high schools were counted as having transferred out of the district between 2011 and 2014. In reality, they were dropouts. The transfers aren&rsquo;t factored into CPS graduation rates, while dropouts are.</p><blockquote><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-acknowledges-errors-takes-steps-count-dropouts-correctly-112180"><strong>More on this story: CPS acknowledges errors, takes steps to count dropouts correctly</strong></a></p></blockquote><p>More than half of the 2,200 labeled as moving out of town or going to private schools actually went to alternative schools. Those students should stay in the graduation rate.&nbsp;</p><p>Another 610 of the so-called transfers were listed as getting a GED. State law and policy dictate that students who leave districts to go to GED programs are dropouts.<br /><br />An additional 1,300 had no explanation of what school they were supposedly transferring to or were vaguely listed as going to different states or countries.</p><p>Asked about all this by WBEZ and the BGA, district officials acknowledged problems with the system&rsquo;s accounting, but said they had no plan to go back and adjust the numbers. They insisted the numbers weren&rsquo;t purposely skewed to help Emanuel look better to potential voters.<br /><br />&ldquo;The mayor is absolutely interested in making sure we have accurate data,&rdquo; said John Barker, CPS&rsquo; chief accountability officer.</p><p>Emanuel released a statement late Tuesday that said in part: &ldquo;No one questions the facts: more CPS students are graduating than ever before, those students are more prepared for their futures and we&rsquo;re making huge strides in helping struggling kids graduate.&quot;</p><p>It is unclear when the practice started, but the CPS inspector general found problems at one school, Farragut Career Academy, dating back to 2009. School district officials said they did not know how widespread the problem was until contacted by reporters.<br /><br />Barker said now the district is doing a systemwide audit of what are called verified transfers. He also said school staff has been trained on how to enter information into the system, but as of Tuesday, CPS officials could provide no evidence of such trainings or audits.<br /><br />WBEZ and the BGA attempted to contact several of the principals of the schools whose data we looked at. We tried to reach them through phone calls, e-mails and stops by the schools, but each declined our request for interviews on the subject. CPS spokesman Bill McCaffrey also refused to make any principals available to talk about this story.<br /><br />It&#39;s not just about graduation rates, said Sheila Venson, executive director of Youth Connection Charter School, a network of more than 20 alternative schools in CPS.<br /><br />&ldquo;We have to get a better handle on (the dropout problem),&rdquo; Venson said. &ldquo;You can&rsquo;t get a better handle on it if you&rsquo;re hiding it. If you&rsquo;re not looking at it, you&rsquo;re not even looking at who these kids are.&rdquo;</p><p>Once a student is classified as a transfer, school staff have no reason to try to re-enroll him or her in school or to hand their information to a district re-enrollment center. But Venson points out that schools have no incentive to be honest about the numbers because they are under so much pressure to improve their performance on school rating systems that take into account the graduation rate.<br /><br />McCaffrey acknowledged that the district has a problem, but said officials don&#39;t plan to go back and adjust the rates because of the &ldquo;billion dollar deficit.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Obvious red flags and past problems</span></p><p>For decades, CPS has used a number system to identify where and when students are enrolled. The information is used to determine school funding, and also to track students from grade school to graduation.<br /><br />In examining high school records, WBEZ and the BGA found a number of red flags.</p><p>At Curie Metropolitan High School, the third largest high school in the city, more than 100 students every year since 2011 supposedly transferred out to be homeschooled. Homeschooled students are removed from the graduation rate. But annually, most high schools only listed a handful of students as being homeschooled.<br /><br />Curie Principal Phillip Perry did not respond to phone calls or emails. When reporters stopped by his school, they were not allowed past the front foyer and escorted out by a security guard and a woman who identified herself as a police officer, though she did not have her badge evident and was not in uniform.<br /><br />Students and teachers, however, scoffed at the idea that hundreds of high schoolers were being homeschooled on the Southwest Side of the city.<br /><br />Teacher Marina Kalic said that in her four years at the school she has never once heard of a student leaving to be homeschooled. She points out that most students at the school are low-income.<br /><br />&ldquo;Parents don&rsquo;t have the sources and the funds to homeschool their kids,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;They have to go to work. I&rsquo;ve never heard that.&rdquo;<br /><br />CPS&#39; John Barker said that having so many students labeled as homeschooled raises questions.<br /><br />&ldquo;Is that a concern to us? Yes,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;Are we interested in following up? Yes. What we are going to need to do is that we are going to intervene as far as take a look at these a lot more seriously.&rdquo;<br /><br />Despite having access to this information for years, district officials said they only just became aware of the misclassifications when CPS Inspector General Nicholas Schuler started looking into it last year at a particular school. In the <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fcps.edu%2FAbout_CPS%2FDepartments%2FDocuments%2FOIG_FY_2014_AnnualReport.pdf&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNGOKs9u4POI5co9tNLmACTi40_URg" target="_blank">annual report</a> released in January, in a section entitled &ldquo;High School Dropouts Masked as &ldquo;Transfers,&rdquo; Schuler found that an unnamed high school &ldquo;systemically and improperly&rdquo; recorded nearly 300 students over five year as transfers, although internal records show they went to GED programs. That school was later identified as Farragut.<br /><br />&ldquo;Illinois law and policy, however, make it clear that students who leave school to attend a GED program are dropouts and not transfers,&rdquo; Schuler wrote.<br /><br />Another 123 students at this school were labeled as verified transfers, many of them labeled as transferred to Mexico, but student records show the transfer was verified in less than 5 percent of the cases.&nbsp;<br /><br />Schuler then took CPS to task for not disciplining the five employees involved and promoting one of them.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">&lsquo;One of the most complicated, debated and discussed statistics&rsquo;</span><br /><br />The concept of a graduation rate seems pretty simple, but in reality, it is complicated. The state and federal government calculate their rates differently, though based on the same premise as CPS.<br /><br />Barker pointed out that it gets even more complicated in a system of choice like Chicago&rsquo;s. A <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/behind-cps-graduation-rates-system-musical-chairs-111786" target="_blank">WBEZ analysis of CPS data</a> shows that in the Class of 2013, about 16,000 of the districts more than 20,000 graduates started and finished in the same place. More than 4,000 switched schools and still graduated, while more than 12,000 dropped out, died, or were labeled &ldquo;out-of-district transfers.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;The graduation rate is one of the most complicated, debated and discussed statistics in all of K-12 education,&rdquo; Barker said. &ldquo;Go in for four years, get out with a diploma, doesn&rsquo;t take into account all of the complicated factors of student mobility in a district like ours.&rdquo;<br /><br />In Illinois, the issue became even more complex when state lawmakers changed the compulsory age from 16 to 17 in 2004.&nbsp; The idea was that schools would have to hang onto students for longer.<br /><br />Some time around then, the CPS system changed so that students were no longer labeled in the computer system as dropouts. Instead, they are supposed to be labeled as &ldquo;unable to locate&rdquo; or &ldquo;consent to withdraw.&rdquo;<br /><br />Venson said this creates all sorts of confusion: &ldquo;What&rsquo;s a dropout? Is it a chronic truant? Is it someone with 20 or more absences? 30 or 40 more absences? Is that a dropout? Is a dropout somebody who formally withdraws?&rdquo;<br /><br />When WBEZ and the BGA asked about the questionable practices around the graduation rate, McCaffrey and Barker continued to point to the future. They said this year, CPS is going to completely redo the way it calculates graduation rates. As of Tuesday, they had not yet provided any details about the new formula. But McCaffrey says district officials are confident that it will result in an even higher graduation rate than in the past.<br /><br />Barker said the district may also reformat the computer system to prevent clerks from entering in transfer codes unless they have documentation.</p><p>This is not the first time Emanuel&rsquo;s administration has come under fire for doctoring figures. <em>Chicago Magazine</em> found that <a href="http://www.chicagomag.com/Chicago-Magazine/May-2014/Chicago-crime-rates/" target="_blank">dozens of crimes were misclassified</a> or made to vanish altogether.</p><p>Larry Lesser, an associate professor of mathematical sciences at the University of Texas-El Paso, noted that statistics can easily be manipulated to say what people want. In cases where the underlying information is wrong, the agency needs to make sure that people understand how they should report things, mathematicians need to be on review committees and standards need to be enforced.<br /><br />&ldquo;Ultimately,&rdquo; he said, &ldquo; it becomes a question of politics.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Becky Vevea is an education reporter for WBEZ. You can follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZeducation" target="_blank">@WBEZeducation</a>. Sarah Karp is a reporter for the <a href="http://www.bettergov.org/" target="_blank">Better Government Association</a>. You can follow her at <a href="https://twitter.com/sskedreporter" target="_blank">@SSKedreporter</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 10 Jun 2015 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/emanuel-touts-bogus-graduation-rate-112163 Parents bond over closing of a Chicago public school http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/parents-bond-over-closing-chicago-public-school-112075 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/StoryCorps 150521 Jeanette Angela bh.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>In 2013, Chicago Public Schools closed fifty schools as part of a restructuring. When Angela Ross found out her kids&rsquo; elementary school was closing, she could hardly believe it. Then Jeanette Ramann and other parents from a nearby Bronzeville school came to help with the transition. Today, Ross and Ramann are friends and fellow education advocates.</p><p><em>StoryCorps&rsquo; mission is to provide Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to share, record and preserve their stories. These excerpts, edited by WBEZ, present some of our favorites from the current visit, as well as from previous trips.</em></p><p><em>This story was recorded as part of a collaboration between StoryCorps Chicago and <a href="http://schoolprojectfilm.com">The School Project</a> </em></p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 22 May 2015 09:08:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/parents-bond-over-closing-chicago-public-school-112075 CPS Board president says Chicago schools under investigation http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-board-president-says-chicago-schools-under-investigation-111884 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/BoardOfEd1_0_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Officials with the nation&#39;s third-largest school district say federal authorities are &quot;investigating a matter&quot; at Chicago Public Schools.</p><p>In a statement released Wednesday, Chicago Board of Education president David Vitale says federal authorities requested interviews with several employees. He says the board was made aware of the investigation on Tuesday and is cooperating fully.</p><p>He did not offer details on the investigation. A spokesman for Chicago Public Schools didn&#39;t return a request for comment Wednesday.</p><p>Mayor Rahm Emanuel told reporters Wednesday that he didn&#39;t have further details. He says there isn&#39;t information yet on who&#39;s the target of the probe.</p></p> Wed, 15 Apr 2015 17:36:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-board-president-says-chicago-schools-under-investigation-111884 Behind CPS graduation rates, a system of musical chairs http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/behind-cps-graduation-rates-system-musical-chairs-111786 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/grad rate thumb.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Hidden beneath Chicago&rsquo;s record-high graduation rate is a surprising fact: High schools still have a lot of trouble holding on to students.<br /><br />A WBEZ and Catalyst Chicago analysis of graduation numbers for every high school in the city shows how many freshmen stayed through graduation day, how many dropped out and how many finished at other schools&mdash;including alternative schools.</p><blockquote><p><strong>Map: <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/behind-cps-graduation-rates-system-musical-chairs-111786#map">Which schools hang onto the most freshmen?</a></strong></p></blockquote><p>Half of all CPS high schools saw at least half of the Class of 2013 transfer to other schools between freshman and senior years.</p><p>CPS officials say the school system encourages students and families to choose where they want to go to high school, and that includes transferring after freshman year.</p><p>It&rsquo;s also the first time the public has been able to compare freshman retention rates at charter schools versus district-run high schools, because in the past charters reported transfers, while other schools reported mobility. The common perception was that charters were weeding out students who weren&rsquo;t doing well, but the numbers were an apples-to-oranges comparison.&nbsp; In fact, data show wide variation across all school types.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Graduation rates vs. freshman retention</span><br /><br />The data raises an important question: How can schools lose so many students and still report high graduation rates?<br /><br />At their most basic, graduation rates look at the number of students who enroll as freshmen, and calculate the percentage who earn a diploma four years later.<br /><br />&nbsp;Chicago counts students over five years to include students who take a little longer to finish high school.</p><blockquote><p><strong>Related:&nbsp;<a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/same-diploma-different-school-111581">Chicago expands use of alternative schools</a></strong></p></blockquote><p>Chicago also counts students back at their home school. If a student&nbsp; transfers from School A to School B, but still graduates, School A gets credit. Researchers say it&rsquo;s best to track the same students over time.<a name="video"></a></p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="465" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/i0EibDr47gc" width="620"></iframe></p><p><em>Map created&nbsp;</em><em>by Simran Khosla</em></p><p>Kenwood Academy is a good example of how students move throughout the system. In 2009, 439 freshman walked through the doors of the school. Sixty-six left the city or moved out of state, leaving 393 still enrolled. Over five years, 54 dropped out and 317 graduated. CPS divides 317 by 393 for an official graduation rate of 85 percent.<br /><br />But beneath those numbers, WBEZ and Catalyst found additional movement. Not all 317 graduated at Kenwood; 276 from the original freshman class did, while 12 finished at other CPS schools and 29 earned their diploma at alternative schools. Kenwood also helped other schools&rsquo; graduation rates by enrolling and graduating 30 students who initially enrolled as freshmen at other schools.<br /><br />Kenwood Principal Gregory Jones said the movement at his school is not atypical in an urban district with so many choices.<br /><br />&ldquo;But mostly, Kenwood kids stay at Kenwood,&rdquo; Jones said.<br /><br />John Easton, a distinguished fellow at the Spencer Foundation, said CPS has been reporting graduation rates more honestly and fairly for decades, following the same students from freshman year, rather than senior year, like many others.<br /><br />&ldquo;This whole calculating graduation rates correctly, using these cohort longitudinal methods where you follow kids over time really started here in Chicago in the mid-80s by a man named Fred Hess,&rdquo; Easton said.<br /><br />Easton worked with Hess in the 1980s and spent the decades since at the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research and the National Center for Education Statistics. The numbers are no less complicated today than they were then, he said.</p><blockquote><p><strong>Related:&nbsp;<a href="http://www.wbez.org/sections/special-series/meet-companies-profit-when-cps-students-drop-out-111665">Meet the companies that profit when CPS students drop out</a></strong></p></blockquote><p>&ldquo;There are dozens of decisions and every single one of those decisions is going to have an implication for what the bottom line number is,&rdquo; he said.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">&lsquo;Dark days&rsquo; to top 20</span><br /><br />In 2007, Noble Street Charter School wasn&rsquo;t doing a very good job keeping its freshmen.<br /><br />&ldquo;We certainly weren&rsquo;t actively trying to remove students from our campus, but if a student wanted to transfer or they thought maybe it wasn&rsquo;t the right fit, we were kind of like, &lsquo;OK. Godspeed,&rsquo;&rdquo; said Principal Ellen Metz, who was the dean of students at the time.<br /><br />Metz said that was clearly the wrong approach. Of that first freshman class, just 72 of 132 made it to graduation day.&nbsp;<br /><br />As is true for freshmen at all CPS high schools, freshman who leave and graduate from another school are still counted in Noble&rsquo;s graduation rate. But even so, Metz argues, the best way to make sure students don&rsquo;t drop out is to keep them in the building.<br /><br />&ldquo;If a student ever suggests they want to transfer, we call that the T-word and it&rsquo;s considered almost like &lsquo;a swear&rsquo; here at our campus,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s something that you don&rsquo;t say.&rdquo;<br /><br />Since 2007, Noble&rsquo;s flagship campus has become somewhat obsessed with holding on to its students. The numbers for the Class of 2013 show Noble&rsquo;s flagship campus kept almost 80 percent of the original freshmen. That&rsquo;s better than all but 12 other Chicago public high schools.<br /><br />Freshman Avonjae Dickson used the &ldquo;t-word&rdquo; all the time last fall.<br /><br />&ldquo;I chose a lot of schools and since I was late turning in my papers, I eventually had to come here, but I wanted to go to Lincoln Park,&rdquo; Dickson said.<br /><br />Metz said Dickson is slowly coming around.<br /><br />&ldquo;She&rsquo;s sort of acknowledging, she&rsquo;s starting to see, maybe I do like this,&rsquo;&rdquo; Metz said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s a classic example why freshman year is so critical. We also could have, in the fall, when she was speaking that way, we could have said, &lsquo;You know, maybe you&rsquo;re right, maybe this isn&rsquo;t the right fit, if you don&rsquo;t like it.&rsquo;&rdquo;<br /><br />Other Noble schools struggle to keep freshmen, but only one campus, Rowe-Clark, lost more than half of the Class of 2013. Twenty of the city&rsquo;s neighborhood high schools struggle the most, holding on to fewer than 35 percent of the original freshmen. All are on the South and West sides.<br /><br />Among charters, Urban Prep&rsquo;s two campuses do the worst. Chief Academic Officer Lionel Allen said the data &ldquo;unfairly paints a very dismal picture of the work (they&rsquo;re) doing at Urban Prep.&rdquo;<br /><br />He said it&rsquo;s important to note that Urban Prep serves primarily African American males. Nationally, that subgroup has some of the lowest graduation rates. Allen said he is also concerned that there are discrepancies between the numbers they track internally and those being reported by CPS.<br /><br />Even so, he added, &ldquo;we absolutely need to do a better job.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;We would love to hold on to all of our freshmen,&rdquo; Allen said.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">A (second) choice</span></p><p>In a system of choice, where students don&rsquo;t have to go to the school nearest to their house, it might seem that there would be no mobility. For the most sought after high schools, that seems to be the case.</p><p>Of the top 10 schools holding on to the largest percentage of the Class of 2013, six are selective enrollment. ChiArts, Lakeview, Prosser and Spry are the others.</p><p>But for the rest of the system, a remarkable number of students are transferring between their freshman and senior years. About 16,000 of the more than 20,000 graduates in the Class of 2013 started and finished in the same place.</p><p>Easton of the Spencer Foundation said the fact that about 4,000 students are still graduating after transferring is actually encouraging.</p><p>&ldquo;Previous research had suggested that a transfer of high school students was sort of a danger sign,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;That meant they hadn&rsquo;t done very well and were trying to find another place so they were perhaps on a path to dropping out. So I find it very encouraging that many of these transfer students are graduating. Of course, the thing that you worry about is the quality of the program they&rsquo;re going into.&rdquo;</p><p>Of the roughly 4,000 students who transferred and still graduated, 1,200 actually finished at <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/same-diploma-different-school-111581">alternative schools</a>, while just 59 transferred into the city&rsquo;s sought after selective enrollment high schools.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Becky Vevea is an education reporter for WBEZ. Follow her&nbsp;<a href="http://twitter.com/WBEZeducation">@WBEZeducation</a>. Additional reporting by Chris Hagan, WBEZ web producer.</em></p><p dir="ltr"><em style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 22px;">Support for this story was provided by Front and Center, funded by The Joyce Foundation: Improving the quality of life in the Great Lakes region and across the country.&nbsp;</em></p><p><a name="map"></a><iframe frameborder="0" height="820" scrolling="no" src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/MAPS/graduationratemap/GraduationRateMap.html" style="float: right; clear: right;" width="620"></iframe></p></p> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/behind-cps-graduation-rates-system-musical-chairs-111786 Meet the companies that profit when CPS students drop out http://www.wbez.org/sections/special-series/meet-companies-profit-when-cps-students-drop-out-111665 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/IMG_1128_0.JPG" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr">One year ago, a small contingent of some of Chicago&rsquo;s most powerful education officials flew to Arizona for a conference of education investors, hosted by Chicago Board of Education member Deborah Quazzo&#39;s investment firm Global Silicon Valley Advisors.</p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-cac2dd7b-ef91-40c8-d60b-356db7fdb9a6">The keynote speaker: Earvin &lsquo;Magic&rsquo; Johnson.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-cac2dd7b-ef91-40c8-d60b-356db7fdb9a6">Fellow board member Mahalia Hines introduced the NBA-star-turned-businessman whose name is now branded across five of Chicago&rsquo;s newest for-profit alternative schools, called the Magic Johnson Bridgescape Academies. </span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-cac2dd7b-ef91-40c8-d60b-356db7fdb9a6">&ldquo;One thing I was really great at was math, so I know my money,&rdquo; Johnson told the crowd. &ldquo;I know a great deal, a good deal and a bad deal.&rdquo;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-cac2dd7b-ef91-40c8-d60b-356db7fdb9a6">Johnson&rsquo;s entire speech focused on making money in urban areas, returning bigger profits than expected in each case. He didn&rsquo;t mention the schools for dropouts in Chicago Public Schools until asked a question by someone in the audience.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-cac2dd7b-ef91-40c8-d60b-356db7fdb9a6">One month after Quazzo, Hines, another CPS board member Andrea Zopp, CPS chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett and Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s then-education deputy Beth Swanson attended the conference, the Chicago Board of Education </span><a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/new-alternative-schools-some-run-profit-companies-come-hefty-price-tag-110239">approved another $6 million in startup money</a> for for-profit alternative schools. It was the second round of a multi-year expansion. (Quazzo has also&nbsp;<a href="http://chicago.suntimes.com/news-chicago/7/71/223620/cps-profitable-investment-board-ed-member">come under fire in recent months after a Chicago Sun-Times investigation</a> found that companies she invests in have tripled the amount of money made through contracts held with CPS schools.)</p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-cac2dd7b-ef91-40c8-d60b-356db7fdb9a6"><span id="docs-internal-guid-cac2dd7b-ef91-40c8-d60b-356db7fdb9a6">A WBEZ and&nbsp;</span><a href="http://catalyst-chicago.org/2015/03/mixing-profits-and-performance-at-alternative-schools/">Catalyst Chicago</a> investigation found most of the new for-profit alternative schools are running half-day programs where students earn credits in a matter of weeks, through mostly online coursework. Yet, students are getting </span><a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/same-diploma-different-school-111581">regular high school diplomas</a>, with the name of the school they left. Many students <a href="http://www.wbez.org/sections/special-series/safety-net-dropouts-catches-others-111598">never officially dropped out</a> and some are not at all off-track.</p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-cac2dd7b-ef91-40c8-d60b-356db7fdb9a6">WBEZ and&nbsp;</span>Catalyst Chicago also found that many of the for-profit companies running alternative schools stand to make millions off the deals. Other findings:&nbsp;</p><ul><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-cac2dd7b-ef91-40c8-d60b-356db7fdb9a6">On average, some of the companies spend more than half of their budget on consultants, advertising, technology and fees to affiliated companies.</span></p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-cac2dd7b-ef91-40c8-d60b-356db7fdb9a6">Companies can maximize profit by running two or even three sessions a day, serving double the number of kids, yet only hiring the same or fewer staff as a normal school. (One of the for-profit companies, Camelot, is an exception. It operates an eight-hour school day with little online work.)</span></p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-cac2dd7b-ef91-40c8-d60b-356db7fdb9a6">Since the companies are privately owned, the public has no way of knowing who is making money from investing in them or whether they have any connections to district or city officials.</span></p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-cac2dd7b-ef91-40c8-d60b-356db7fdb9a6">In at least one case, CPS contracted with a company that was, at the time, under investigation in California.</span></p></li></ul><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-cac2dd7b-ef91-40c8-d60b-356db7fdb9a6">John &lsquo;Jack&rsquo; Donahue, a leading expert on privatization in the public sector and faculty chair of the Masters in Public Policy Program at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, said he isn&rsquo;t against companies making a profit, but he cautions against outsourcing when it&rsquo;s not clear what outcome you want. He was also troubled by CPS giving students diplomas from the school they left, not the alternative school.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-cac2dd7b-ef91-40c8-d60b-356db7fdb9a6">&ldquo;The problem is, when you have people with the incentive and the ability to fool us about what&rsquo;s happening,&rdquo; Donahue said, noting that because Illinois does not have a high school exit exam, it&rsquo;s hard to measure if the diploma is meaningful. &ldquo;When you can&rsquo;t specify, in clear terms, what you want...because the undertaking is complex, as education is&hellip;then it won&rsquo;t work.&rdquo;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-cac2dd7b-ef91-40c8-d60b-356db7fdb9a6">Because Chicago&rsquo;s graduation numbers are going up, there&rsquo;s no incentive for district officials to make clear that many more diplomas are coming from alternative schools. </span></p><p dir="ltr"><strong><span id="docs-internal-guid-cac2dd7b-ef91-40c8-d60b-356db7fdb9a6">A money-making model</span></strong></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-cac2dd7b-ef91-40c8-d60b-356db7fdb9a6">When Emanuel promised to double the number of seats in alternative schools in 2011, there were 60,000 dropouts under 21 in the city. The people running a small army of alternative schools rejoiced. They thought this meant they would have room and resources to serve the thousands of kids on their waiting lists.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-cac2dd7b-ef91-40c8-d60b-356db7fdb9a6">No one guessed it meant the mayor would look past existing alternative schools to out-of-town, for-profit companies to help fix the dropout crisis.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-cac2dd7b-ef91-40c8-d60b-356db7fdb9a6">Nationally, for-profit education companies see opportunity in alternative schools.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-cac2dd7b-ef91-40c8-d60b-356db7fdb9a6">There are four companies now operating in Chicago: Camelot Education, Pathways, EdisonLearning, and Ombudsman. These four companies alone run more than 100 schools in at least 30 states. When Camelot was acquired in 2011 by the private equity firm Riverside Company, managing partner Suzy Kriscunas noted in a press release: </span>&ldquo;Alternative and special education has significant growth.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-cac2dd7b-ef91-40c8-d60b-356db7fdb9a6">A WBEZ and </span>Catalyst Chicago investigation into Chicago&rsquo;s new for-profit alternative schools found that CPS has paid for-profit companies more than $70 million in just two years to start up new alternative schools. Most often, the companies are able to make money by cutting spending at the school level.</p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-cac2dd7b-ef91-40c8-d60b-356db7fdb9a6">CPS pays the new half-day alternative schools the same amount per child that it pays normal schools. The companies can save by hiring one teacher to teach two students each day. An analysis of budget documents shows many of the new schools spend less than half their budget on school staff. Usually, schools spend between 70 and 80 percent on staff salaries.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-cac2dd7b-ef91-40c8-d60b-356db7fdb9a6">Budgets show the for-profit schools spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on consultants, technology, and fees to their parent companies for back-office costs. In some cases, they are purchasing materials from themselves or other parent companies, too.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-cac2dd7b-ef91-40c8-d60b-356db7fdb9a6">Last school year, CPS paid Pathways in Illinois $5.1 million to operate two schools with about 500 students. The company then paid its affiliates $1.8 million for a variety of services and curriculum. The company is also run by the daughter of a couple who started a similar for-profit chain of alternative schools in California, called Options for Learning and Options for Youth. That company fell under an investigation by the State of California for improper spending. That same couple is on the board of directors for Pathways in Illinois, while their daughter is the executive director.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-cac2dd7b-ef91-40c8-d60b-356db7fdb9a6">Magic Johnson Bridgescape, operated by </span>EdisonLearning in partnership with the former NBA-star, budgets $400,000 for each school to buy educational materials. Much of that is used to buy eCourses, an EdisonLearning product. Spokesman Mike Serpe said the company also buys other online programs, such as Think Through Math, which is part of Chicago Board of Education member Quazzo&rsquo;s investment portfolio.</p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-cac2dd7b-ef91-40c8-d60b-356db7fdb9a6">No one from </span>EdisonLearning or Magic Johnson Enterprises would agree to an interview.</p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-cac2dd7b-ef91-40c8-d60b-356db7fdb9a6">But at a press conference in Chicago in February, Johnson said he was approached by </span>EdisonLearning because the company wanted to draw inner-city students into its schools. &ldquo;What they needed was a guy like myself to come in to more or less brand it,&rdquo; he said. When asked how much he makes per school, he told WBEZ and Catalyst: &ldquo;That is all you need to know.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-cac2dd7b-ef91-40c8-d60b-356db7fdb9a6">Budget documents obtained through multiple Freedom of Information Act requests indicate how much Johnson stands to make off the alternative schools. One proposal listed a half- million-dollar fee to &ldquo;Magic Johnson Enterprises,&rdquo; but the assumption was based on opening many more schools.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-cac2dd7b-ef91-40c8-d60b-356db7fdb9a6">Jack Elsey, Chicago Public Schools&#39; chief of innovation and incubation, said there&rsquo;s no way CPS could have delivered on Emanuel&rsquo;s promise to double the number of dropouts being served without outside help.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-cac2dd7b-ef91-40c8-d60b-356db7fdb9a6">&ldquo;The point is not the bottom line,&rdquo; Elsey said. &ldquo;The point is having an impact on students. So the benefit of getting the student in and graduated within a month or two months, means that&rsquo;s one more student who&rsquo;s graduated who wouldn&rsquo;t have graduated before.&rdquo;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><strong><span id="docs-internal-guid-cac2dd7b-ef91-40c8-d60b-356db7fdb9a6">&lsquo;Who cares if they make money?&rsquo;</span></strong></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-cac2dd7b-ef91-40c8-d60b-356db7fdb9a6">Illinois does not allow for-profit companies to run schools. State law requires public charter schools to be non-profits incorporated in Illinois. However, districts like CPS and non-profits can contract with for-profit companies to provide services.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-cac2dd7b-ef91-40c8-d60b-356db7fdb9a6">It&rsquo;s why district officials are careful to call the new alternative schools &ldquo;programs&rdquo; instead of schools. The for-profit companies technically hold contracts to provide what&rsquo;s called an &ldquo;Alternative Learning Opportunities Program.&quot;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-cac2dd7b-ef91-40c8-d60b-356db7fdb9a6">Bridgescape, Camelot and Ombudsman are run by for-profit, out-of-state companies. Pathways is a non-profit certified in Illinois, although its executives own for-profit companies that do business with the non-profit.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-cac2dd7b-ef91-40c8-d60b-356db7fdb9a6">Todd Bock runs Camelot Education, one of the for-profit companies to open alternative schools in Chicago in the last few years.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-cac2dd7b-ef91-40c8-d60b-356db7fdb9a6">&ldquo;People hear the word &#39;for-profit&#39; and they think these companies are making hundreds of thousands of dollars on these schools and that&rsquo;s really, really not the case,&rdquo; he said.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-cac2dd7b-ef91-40c8-d60b-356db7fdb9a6">The schools Bock&rsquo;s company runs are an outlier. Students at Camelot&rsquo;s EXCEL Academies have to go to school for almost nine hours and there is little work done on computers.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-cac2dd7b-ef91-40c8-d60b-356db7fdb9a6">He says Chicago should hold companies like his accountable for quality.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-cac2dd7b-ef91-40c8-d60b-356db7fdb9a6">&ldquo;We have an obligation to the taxpayers to do it better and more efficiently than what&rsquo;s been done in the past and if we can&rsquo;t do that, then we don&rsquo;t deserve to be there,&rdquo; Bock said.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-cac2dd7b-ef91-40c8-d60b-356db7fdb9a6">Gary Miron, professor of evaluation, measurement, and research at Western Michigan University,</span> studies for-profit and not-for-profit education companies. He said education companies see alternative schools as appealing because demand is so high and the companies have an excuse for poor performance, since dropouts are less likely to score well on standardized tests.</p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-cac2dd7b-ef91-40c8-d60b-356db7fdb9a6">CPS is funding the new schools as if they were charter schools, but then not having them grant their own diplomas. &nbsp;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-cac2dd7b-ef91-40c8-d60b-356db7fdb9a6">&ldquo;Some people say, &lsquo;Who cares if it&rsquo;s for-profit? If they can deliver a better product at a lower cost, who cares if they make a little money?&rsquo;&rdquo; Miron said. &ldquo;And then I&rsquo;d say, &lsquo;Yeah! Why not?&rsquo; But it&rsquo;s not happening. It&rsquo;s just not happening. When we look at the outcomes, they&rsquo;re not as good.&rdquo;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-cac2dd7b-ef91-40c8-d60b-356db7fdb9a6">CPS is trying to hold the new schools accountable for performance, though it isn&#39;t using the same measures it applies to the rest of the high schools in Chicago. Instead, it looks at improvement in reading and math, attendance and how many kids actually earn diplomas.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-cac2dd7b-ef91-40c8-d60b-356db7fdb9a6">Early numbers show of the five performance levels CPS gives schools, not ONE of the new for-profit schools made it into the top two.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-cac2dd7b-ef91-40c8-d60b-356db7fdb9a6">Not all of the new for-profit alternative schools have been open long enough to get a rating. But of those that have been, most landed at the bottom of the district&rsquo;s rankings. None earned a 1 or 1+ rating.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-cac2dd7b-ef91-40c8-d60b-356db7fdb9a6">Miron said low-performing schools should spend more, not less, directly on students. Plus, with alternative schools, the students enrolling are some of the most at-risk and vulnerable in the city.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-cac2dd7b-ef91-40c8-d60b-356db7fdb9a6">&ldquo;</span>If these are such a good idea, why aren&rsquo;t we doing it with some suburban schools serving middle-class families?&rdquo; he asks. &ldquo;Yet we see this experimentation with private companies with pretty drastically new ideas that end up being more beneficial for profit margin than actual performance.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-cac2dd7b-ef91-40c8-d60b-356db7fdb9a6">Harvard&rsquo;s Jack Donahue echoed Miron&rsquo;s concerns about quality.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-cac2dd7b-ef91-40c8-d60b-356db7fdb9a6">&ldquo;The real thing to worry about here is the weaknesses of the measures of value, rather than the fact that somebody might be making a buck,&rdquo; he said.</span></p><p><em><span id="docs-internal-guid-cac2dd7b-ef91-40c8-d60b-356db7fdb9a6">This story was co-reported with Sarah Karp of <a href="http://catalyst-chicago.org">Catalyst Chicago</a>. Becky Vevea is an education reporter for WBEZ. Follow her </span><a href="http://twitter.com/WBEZeducation">@WBEZeducation</a>.&nbsp;</em></p><p><em>A previous version of this article incorrectly identified the school at which John &#39;Jack&#39; Donahue works. It is Harvard University&#39;s John F. Kennedy School of Government.&nbsp;</em></p></p> Fri, 06 Mar 2015 08:50:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/sections/special-series/meet-companies-profit-when-cps-students-drop-out-111665 Morning Shift: CPS reverses decision about PARCC exam http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-03-03/morning-shift-cps-reverses-decision-about-parcc-exam-111647 <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/comedy_nose.jpg" style="height: 413px; width: 620px;" title="Flickr/comedy_nose" /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/194044942&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><span style="font-family: inherit; font-size: 24px; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; line-height: inherit;">CPS reverses decision about PARCC exam</span></p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">In defiance to the state board of education, Chicago Public Schools last month said they wouldn&rsquo;t administer the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, PARCC, exam to all students in the district. The test is part of the Common Core requirements. Now, in a reversal of that stand-off with ISBE, CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett announced Monday they would administer the test. Cassie Creswell, Organizer from More Than A Score, has been pushing for less tests in general, including PARCC. She joins us with reactions to this latest move by CPS. &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><strong style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-stretch: inherit; vertical-align: baseline;">Guest:&nbsp;</strong><em><a href="https://twitter.com/cassiecreswell">Cassie Creswell</a>&nbsp;is an organizer from <a href="https://twitter.com/mtas_chicago">More Than A Score.</a></em></p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/194044267&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><span style="font-family: inherit; font-size: 24px; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; line-height: inherit;">Judge says Indiana basketball team can play now</span></p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">Two Northwest Indiana boys high school basketball teams will get a chance to lace up their sneakers at least one more time this season. That&rsquo;s because a judge ruled that a suspension of both teams after a bench-clearing brawl last month was too severe and ordered it lifted. The head of the Indiana High School Athletic Association isn&rsquo;t happy with the outcome, but the attorneys for the players are. Joining us from our bureau in Crown Point is WBEZ&rsquo;s own Michael Puente with more.</p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><strong style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-stretch: inherit; vertical-align: baseline;">Guest:&nbsp;</strong><em><a href="https://twitter.com/MikePuenteNews">Michael Puente</a> is a WBEZ reporter.&nbsp;</em></p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">&nbsp;</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/194044262&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><span style="font-family: inherit; font-size: 24px; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; line-height: inherit;">Choice seats get shared with kids in need of a lift</span></p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">Yoni Greenstein is a matchmaker. Six years ago, he realized that certain companies that buy tickets to sporting events to entertain clients often go unused. And there are children - some with illnesses, some without the means - who could really use the kind of thrill you can only get from seeing your favorite team live. So Greenstein started making inquiries and hooking the two sides up. Now, what began as a small effort by one guy from the Orthodox Jewish community in Monsey, New York, has grown to three cities, including Chicago, with three more on the way soon. Sharing Seats&rsquo; Yoni Greenstein explains the program.</p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><strong style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-stretch: inherit; vertical-align: baseline;">Guest:&nbsp;</strong><em><a href="https://www.facebook.com/sharingseats">Yoni Greenstein</a> is the founder of Sharing Seats.&nbsp;</em></p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">&nbsp;</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/194044255&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><span style="font-family: inherit; font-size: 24px; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; line-height: inherit;">New head of juvenile justice has challenges ahead</span></p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">Cook County&rsquo;s juvenile jail has a new superintendent. The jail, officially known as the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center, holds around 300 kids every day. The juvenile jail has been under the leadership of federal monitor Earl Dunlap since 2007 - he was appointed by a federal judge after a lawsuit over conditions at the jail. But last month, Leonard Dixon was appointed to be the new superintendent. He joins us in studio on the Morning Shift to detail what&rsquo;s ahead.</p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><strong style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-stretch: inherit; vertical-align: baseline;">Guest:&nbsp;</strong><em>Leonard Dixon is the Superintendent of the <a href="http://www.cookcountyil.gov/appointments/juvenile-temporary-detention-center-advisory-board/">Cook County Juvenile Detention Center.</a></em></p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">&nbsp;</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/194044251&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><span style="font-family: inherit; font-size: 24px; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; line-height: inherit;">Music from In Tall Buildings</span></p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">Erik Hall, aka In Tall Buildings, has an eclectic resume. He studied jazz at the University of Michigan, worked with long-time experimental rockers His Name Is Alive, jammed with the Afro-groove outfit NOMO, and even worked with the band Wild Belle. He&rsquo;s been working on his sophomore release Driver for about four years, splitting his time between a home studio here in Chicago and a farm in Michigan. The album release show is Thursday at Schubas Tavern, but Hall brings his layered, intricate psych-folk sounds to the Morning Shift for a preview.</p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><strong style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-stretch: inherit; vertical-align: baseline;">Guest:<a href="https://twitter.com/intallbuildings">&nbsp;</a></strong><em><a href="https://twitter.com/intallbuildings">In Tall Buildings</a> is a Chicago-based band.</em></p></p> Tue, 03 Mar 2015 08:13:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-03-03/morning-shift-cps-reverses-decision-about-parcc-exam-111647 Inspector General finds questionable conduct in CPS http://www.wbez.org/news/inspector-general-finds-questionable-conduct-cps-111338 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/CPS IG LUNCH PHOTO.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-d231fa94-bb41-12b8-a409-b2b852f480ad">Parents who try to sneak their kids into Chicago&rsquo;s selective schools through address fraud have been put on notice.</p><p dir="ltr">A new report by Chicago Public Schools inspector general, Nicholas Schuler, details several cases of admissions fraud investigated by his office over the last year. And his recommendations range from kicking the students out to firing the CPS staff who abetted it.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I hope this sends a message that people need to follow the rules and the rules apply to everybody,&rdquo; Schuler said. &ldquo;And when fraud is discovered there is going to be responsibility for that and the result might be that their child might be disenrolled from the school.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.cps.edu/About_CPS/Departments/Documents/OIG_FY_2014_AnnualReport.pdf">This year&rsquo;s report</a>, which went live Monday morning, includes the usual array of residency violations, kickback schemes, fake purchases and tuition fraud. But it also documents the desperate acts of parents trying to get their kids into selective schools, administrators trying to fudge their dropout rates and vendors trying to get the inside track on city contracts.</p><p dir="ltr">On Sunday night, CPS released a statement to WBEZ, saying &quot;Chicago Public Schools is committed to working with the Office of the Inspector General to eliminate corruption, fraud and waste across the District. &nbsp;The annual OIG report is a testament of our cooperation and demonstrates we do not tolerate any wrongdoing, and CPS has either addressed or is addressing all the issues in the report.&quot;</p><p dir="ltr">Although the report cannot name names, WBEZ has been able to fill in some identities through media reports, public documents and confirmations by sources. The purview of the OIG is mainly restricted to CPS employees and so does not represent all violations that occur in the system.</p><p dir="ltr">In 2011, the district replaced race with socio-economics status (by address) as a factor for admission to selective enrollment high schools. This year&rsquo;s report is the first to investigate abuse of this factor by more than a dozen students at six selective enrollment high schools. Another six cases involved CPS employees who had falsified their addresses to appear less affluent and gain their children easier admission. Most of the children identified in the report have been kicked out of the schools, and most of the CPS employees have faced or will face dismissals.</p><p dir="ltr">Monday, CPS said it would consider audits of selective enrollment students in the future.</p><p dir="ltr">The report further detailed $657,000 in back tuition owed by suburban residents who were illegally sending their kids to CPS schools.</p><p dir="ltr">Another prominent case in this year&rsquo;s document involves former Gwendolyn Brooks Preparatory High School principal Dushon Brown. According to the report, on the eve of the 2010-11 school year, she asked a CPS administrator to allow a student who&rsquo;d neither applied for nor taken the selective enrollment exam, to enroll in her school. When the administrator refused, Brown, reportedly &ldquo;phoned a state legislator&rdquo; who phoned the administrator again asking for an exception. The attempts were not successful. The OIG recommended discipline for the principal in its 2012 report.</p><p dir="ltr">In its 2013 report, the OIG detailed a case in which Principal Brown and a Gwendolyn Brooks school operations manager found a bank account opened by the parent booster club of the building&rsquo;s previous occupant, a Catholic school. The report says a &ldquo;local bank inexplicably allowed&rdquo; Brown and the operations manager to take control of the $186,235 of funds and spend $116,974, but never included it in the &ldquo;school&rsquo;s internal accounts ledger.&rdquo; The OIG recommended discipline for the principal, which was still pending at the time of the last report. In today&rsquo;s report the OIG reports that Brown was terminated in 2014 and classified as a &ldquo;Do Not Hire.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">The report follows up on another 2012 case in which the OIG found a former chief area officer took nearly $17,000 in travel and gifts (including a $10,000 scholarship) from textbook publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. In exchange, according to the report, the CPS officer steered the publisher to nearly $300,000 in business &ldquo;through no-bid, sole source deals.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Last July the CPS Board entered into a settlement with the publisher requiring it to pay a $250,000 fine and to fund an independent monitor to oversee these issues. In addition, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt had to train its employees to comply with board ethics policies.</p><p dir="ltr">Another outstanding ethics issue tackled in this year&rsquo;s report involves a dispute between two of the nation&rsquo;s largest food service providers, who were competing for the 2013 school food contract, valued at nearly $100 million a year. Food giant Chartwells-Thompson Hospitality charged that CPS school food chief (and former Aramark manager) Leslie Fowler showed favoritism to her former employer in the contract bidding process. The district asked the OIG to rule on the issue at the time, and it concluded that Fowler&rsquo;s actions &ldquo;did not violate applicable ethics policies.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">In its new report, however, the OIG says Fowler &ldquo;engaged in questionable conduct throughout the award process.&rdquo; This included dining twice with the president of Aramark during the process and telling fellow bid committee members that her boss did not want Chartwells to win the contract. The report further says that Fowler told &ldquo;staff members that she did not need to review (Aramark&rsquo;s bid) because she had written proposals for&rdquo; the company herself and Aramark knew what she wanted. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">In the process of the Fowler investigation, &ldquo;the OIG also learned that the administrator prodded subordinates to participate in a party game that made people feel uncomfortable.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Attempts to reach Fowler for comment through CPS were unsuccessful.</p><p dir="ltr">In the wake of the case, the OIG has recommended that CPS review the investigation to see &ldquo;if any further action regarding the administrator is warranted.&rdquo; It also recommended that the district &ldquo;review its RFP [contract bidding] policy and ensure adequate training for those involved in the process.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Aramark also<a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/custodial-contract-causing-problems-start-school-year-110767"> received one of the nation&rsquo;s largest school custodial contracts </a>last year from CPS when the district privatized its cleaning crews. The Aramark takeover of the program has been met with &nbsp;district-wide complaints of dirty classrooms, theft, damaged materials and bad communication. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Another novel case in this year&rsquo;s report investigated a CPS high school that classified 296 students &nbsp;who dropped out (since 2009) as &ldquo;transfers,&rdquo; allegedly in order to improve its dropout numbers. The school said that the students were headed for GED programs, but Illinois law makes it clear that these students are to be counted as dropouts. Another 121 students at the school were classified as transfers, but the OIG says less than 5 percent of the cases was backed up with &ldquo;adequate written proof.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">In another case, the OIG says a high school principal was sending an average of 55 students a day to a kind of first period detention if they were more than 15 minutes tardy. The practice was done to discourage tardiness but the OIG said it occurred more than 10,000 times (recorded as &ldquo;school function&rdquo;) in the 2012-13 school year, resulting in hundreds of thousands of missed instruction minutes. Although principals have leeway to be creative with attendance programs the OIG recommended CPS implement more consistent practices.</p><p dir="ltr">Other cases, among the OIG&rsquo;s 280 this year, dealt with full time CPS teachers who were also employed as full time Chicago Police Department officers; a phony billing scheme at Michele Clark High School that resulted in $870,000 in fraud and principals who fraudulently enrolled their family members as students for a few key weeks to boost attendance numbers.</p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the Chewing The Fat podcast. Follow her at <a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng">@monicaeng</a> or write to her at meng@wbez.org</em></p></p> Mon, 05 Jan 2015 11:57:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/inspector-general-finds-questionable-conduct-cps-111338