WBEZ | education http://www.wbez.org/tags/education Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en What the heck happened to Chicago's truancy officers? http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/what-heck-happened-chicagos-truancy-officers-110282 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/truancy thumb.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/152861576&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_artwork=true&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>Over the past few years, Curious City has answered many questions about Chicago streets: <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/street-sweeping-essential-service-or-revenue-scam-109221">why they get cleaned</a>, why <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/why-some-chicago-streets-got-numbers-others-were-stuck-names-102380">some get names but others receive numbers</a>, and why portions of the Kennedy Expressway <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/how-do-reversible-lanes-kennedy-expressway-work-101384">sometimes switch directions</a>.</p><p>But what caught Saundra Oglesby&rsquo;s attention is what&rsquo;s <em>missing</em> from city streets, or rather <em>who</em> has been missing. We met Saundra just once, but her question needs little clarification:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><em>Why aren&#39;t truancy officers riding around like they used to?</em></p><p>Saundra &mdash; a resident of Chicago&rsquo;s Lawndale neighborhood &mdash; is referring to the men and women once employed by Chicago Public Schools to track down students who did not turn up for class.</p><p>&ldquo;When we was growing up, they would pick us up, take us to the school, call our parents and say, &lsquo;Hey, this kid is not in school, why aren&rsquo;t you in school?&rsquo;&rdquo; Oglesby recalled.</p><p>Hers is a fair question and, we learned, a timely one.</p><p>The city&rsquo;s truancy officers were cut decades ago, but the problem they were tasked with solving &mdash; chronic, unexcused absence from school &mdash; persists and it&rsquo;s hurt kids, communities and the school district itself.</p><p>In May of this year, <em><a href="http://www.catalyst-chicago.org/sites/catalyst-chicago.org/files/blog-assets/files/cps_verified_chronic_truancy_and_absenteeism_data.pdf">Catalyst Chicago </a></em>magazine revealed that a little more than one quarter of CPS students were <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/what-heck-happened-all-cps-truant-officers-110282#def"><em>chronically truant</em> </a>last year. The district verified that report. (At CPS, a student qualifies as chronically truant if she misses 5 percent of the school year &mdash; or about nine days &mdash; without an accepted excuse. Prior to the 2011-2012 school year, the threshold was 18 missed days, or 10 percent of the school year.)</p><p>The truancy situation&rsquo;s considered bad enough that Illinois lawmakers want recommendations of how to get more Chicago kids to show up at school.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Truancy officers don&rsquo;t make the cut</span></p><p>For nearly fifty years truancy officers in Chicago knocked on doors, called students&rsquo; friends and relatives, and stalked neighborhood haunts to find wayward kids. They would also figure out what was happening in children&rsquo;s lives &mdash; at home, in the streets or at school &mdash; that would keep them from class.</p><p>But the job title &mdash; at least at the district level &mdash; disappeared after 1992.</p><p>Aarti Dhupelia, CPS&rsquo; Chief Officer for College and Career Success, says at that time CPS faced a <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1991-04-30/news/9102080222_1_school-year-ted-kimbrough-schools-supt">$315 million</a> shortfall, and the administration at the time <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1992-10-01/news/9203290322_1_truant-officers-bargain-in-good-faith-union-officials">zeroed in on truancy officers</a>. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;We actually had as many as 150 truancy officers district wide,&rdquo; Dhupelia explained. &ldquo;Due to unclear evidence of their effectiveness as well as budget constraints, those positions were eliminated.&rdquo;</p><p>The district estimated a savings of about $15 million that year, and that it wouldn&rsquo;t miss the truancy officers. Dhupelia says officers could find kids and bring them to school &ldquo;but they could not answer the larger question of why did children leave school in the first place.&rdquo;</p><p>In fact, even with truancy officers in place in the early 1990s, Chicago had the highest high school <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1992-09-24/news/9203270085_1_chicago-schools-local-school-councils-test-scores">dropout rate</a> in the country. In the years after the officers were cut, the district&rsquo;s dropout rate improved, but the district&rsquo;s truancy rates remained <a href="http://illinoisreportcard.com/District.aspx?source=StudentCharacteristics&amp;source2=ChronicTruants&amp;Districtid=15016299025">above the state average</a>.</p><p>That&rsquo;s despite various efforts over the years, including dedicated truancy outreach and re-engagement centers.</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/what-heck-happened-all-cps-truant-officers-110282#addlinfo"><em style="font-size: 16px; text-align: center;">(More on CPS&rsquo; anti-truancy efforts)</em></a></p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Truancy and fallout</span></p><p>The consequences of missed days of school add up, a realization all too familiar to <em>Chicago Tribune</em> reporter <a href="http://bio.tribune.com/davidjackson">David Jackson</a>.</p><p>In 2012 Jackson was tipped off to what appeared to be a growing attendance problem. A juvenile court judge told him she was shocked by the number of young kids who were out of school and in her courtroom.</p><p>&ldquo;She noted that those were the kids obviously involved in delinquency and crimes on the streets,&rdquo; Jackson remembered. &ldquo;What they were doing when they weren&rsquo;t in school was either not safe for them or for the community.&rdquo;</p><p>So Jackson and reporter Gary Marx asked for access to a highly-protected CPS attendance database, which tracks &mdash; kid-by-kid &mdash; how often a student misses class. The newspaper team fought a losing legal battle over access to the data. (Jackson said the information is not made public for several good reasons, including privacy.)</p><blockquote><p><span style="font-size:18px;">Truant: A student who is absent for no valid cause. Valid excuses include illness, death in the family, family emergency, special religious holiday and case-by-case special circumstances.</span></p><p><span style="font-size:18px;">Truancy: Being absent without cause for one or more days</span></p><div><p><span style="font-size:18px;">Chronic truancy: Being absent, without an excuse, for five percent of the previous 180 school days (a full school year) &mdash; or, about nine days for CPS students.</span></p></div></blockquote><p>Jackson decided to go at it again in 2012 when CPS was embroiled in several of the biggest stories in Chicago (and the nation): at one time the district faced a punishing teacher&rsquo;s strike, school closings and consolidations and escalating violence. After the Tribune team stripped down the original requests, they received the numbers from the 2010-2011 school year. Jackson concluded that the district was facing a <a href="http://media.apps.chicagotribune.com/truancy/index.html">truancy crisis</a>.</p><p>&ldquo;We found in the database &mdash; and this is an extremely conservative number &mdash; that at least one in eight elementary students in Chicago missed four weeks of school [during the year we studied],&rdquo; Jackson recounted.</p><p>Translation: If students retain that pattern of missing school between kindergarten and eighth grade, they could miss a year of school before they begin high school.</p><p>And, as Yale University criminologist <a href="http://www.law.yale.edu/faculty/TMeares.htm">Tracey Meares</a> explained, education is vital to survival. Meares has spent time studying networks of gun violence in the city of Chicago. She believes the most effective way to save lives &mdash; and prevent a young person from falling prey to gang and gun violence &mdash; is to teach them to read.</p><p>&ldquo;Making sure that children can read by 3rd grade is probably one of the most important things that any city can do with respect to violent crime in the long term,&rdquo; Meares said. &ldquo;Our research shows that people, young men, who drop out from high school, are much more likely to be gang-involved than those who are not.&rdquo;</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="442" mozallowfullscreen="mozallowfullscreen" msallowfullscreen="msallowfullscreen" oallowfullscreen="oallowfullscreen" src="http://cf.datawrapper.de/iR3Sz/4/" webkitallowfullscreen="webkitallowfullscreen" width="600"></iframe></p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">They&rsquo;re going to learn from someone</span></p><p>John Paul Jones, the president of <a href="http://www.sustainableenglewood.org/">Sustainable Englewood Initiatives</a>, said the truancy issue has left the South Side neighborhood with a lot of children learning from others on the street.</p><p>&ldquo;The ex-offenders, the alcoholics, other persons who are just not productive in the community life and those are the ones they&rsquo;re around. And so, it puts them in the way of violence,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;It puts them in the way of doing things that puts them and the community at risk.&rdquo;</p><p>One long-term effect of chronic truancy, Jones explained, is that young people in the community aren&rsquo;t rewarded for getting ahead in school.</p><p>&ldquo;Those who do wrong get celebrated when they come back from prison. They come back, there&rsquo;s a cluster of guys who welcome them back,&rdquo; said Jones. But he feels that kind of welcome&rsquo;s not extended to returning college students.</p><p>&ldquo;You come back and you may have somebody who not as thrilled about you coming back,&rdquo; he said.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Another victim: CPS</span></p><p>So kids are directly hurt by chronic truancy and, according to Jones, a whole community can be, too. But as we dug into this question about the absence of truancy officers in Chicago, we found that there&rsquo;s likely another victim: CPS.</p><p>Public school districts are reimbursed by the state and federal governments based on how many kids show up. This complicated formula can be likened to a mortgage calculator.</p><p>A 2010 internal CPS report, <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-12-24/news/ct-met-truancy-report-20121224_1_anti-truancy-plan-truancy-and-absenteeism-attendance-data">obtained by the Tribune</a>, suggested CPS could have garnered an additional $11.5 million in state funds if district attendance that year had been just 1 percent higher. Or, in numbers more people can digest, CPS estimated it lost $111 each time a student missed a day.</p><p>Jackson and his reporting team found that more often than not, truancy officers practically paid for themselves.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Will Chicago ever welcome back truancy officers?</span></p><p>Jackson and his Tribune colleagues looked at how other school districts around the state and country tackle truancy. Jackson said in many districts, dedicated truancy officers could handle a key function of finding who was missing on any given day of school, and then prioritizing which ones to reach out to. The kids, Jackson, said, were often findable.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s not that they disappear into a Bermuda Triangle,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>But do observations like this an argument make an argument in favor of truancy officers?</p><p>CPS doesn&rsquo;t take it that way.</p><p>&ldquo;I think that tackling attendance truancy and attendance is really an &lsquo;it takes a village&rsquo; issue,&rdquo; said CPS&rsquo; Dhupelia. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s not something that the district can tackle alone. It&rsquo;s something that families need to tackle, that the district needs to tackle, it&rsquo;s something that community partners, elected officials need to help tackle.&rdquo;</p><p>It so happens Chicago&rsquo;s truancy problems are being tackled by elected officials and other stakeholders. The legislature created a <a href="http://www.isbe.state.il.us/TCPSTF/default.htm">Chicago Public Schools Truancy Task Force</a> to recommend how to improve CPS&rsquo; attendance record.</p><p>To find out what the task force thinks of truancy officers, Curious City, spoke to one of its members: Jeffrey Aranowski, who&rsquo;s with the Illinois State Board of Education.</p><p>&ldquo;If you look across the state, most all counties have truant officers employed either by districts or regional offices of education, they&rsquo;re very active. CPS seems to be a little bit of an outlier there,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;But again, whether or not that&rsquo;s something that&rsquo;s appropriate or even will be recommended by the task force is yet to be seen.&rdquo;</p><p>The task force&rsquo;s homework is due soon; as of this writing, it&rsquo;s set for the end of July. By then state lawmakers hope to have final recommendations on how to address truancy in CPS schools.</p><p>Perhaps by then, Chicago will know whether the state would like to see truancy officers return to its streets.<a name="addlinfo"></a></p><p><em>Special thanks to David Jackson of the </em>Chicago Tribune<em> and Melissa Sanchez of </em>Catalyst Chicago<em> magazine.</em></p><p><em>Katie O&rsquo;Brien is a WBEZ producer and reporter. Foll<a href="https://twitter.com/katieobez">ow her @katieobez</a>.</em></p><hr /><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Additional information: CPS&#39; current anti-truancy efforts</span></p><p>Chicago Public Schools is currently expanding what it calls SOAR (Student Outreach and Re-engagement) centers. There are currently centers in three city neighborhoods: Roseland, Little Village and Garfield Park. The centers are to support all students who have dropped out or are at risk of dropping out. Across the engagement centers are 15 re-engagement specialists who focus on recruiting and guiding students back into school. CPS says that since the February 2013 launch, SOAR Centers have served 1,615 students.</p><p>CPS&rsquo; Aarti Dhupelia says that over the past several months, CPS has developed a comprehensive attendance and truancy strategy that focuses on the root causes of truancy. That strategy, she says, is two-fold.<a name="def"></a></p><ul><li><strong>Building universal systems in schools that prevent absenteeism: </strong>Coach schools on how to build a positive culture around attendance and helping them monitor attendance regularly. Dhupelia says the district is building data tools to enable documentation and tracking.</li><li><strong>Targeted interventions:</strong> Identifying the root cause of a student&rsquo;s absence and connecting them to resources to address it so that the child can return to a school environment.</li></ul><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Additional information: Definitions</span></p><p>Attendance rate = percentage of days present out of total days enrolled</p><p>Absence rate = percentage of days absent out of total days enrolled; includes excuses, unexcused and suspensions</p><p>Truant: A student who is absent for no valid cause. Valid excuses include illness, death in the family, family emergency, special religious holiday and case-by-case special circumstances.</p><p>Truancy: Being absent without cause for one or more days</p><p>Chronic truancy: Being absent, without an excuse, for five percent of the previous 180 school days (a full school year) &mdash; or, about nine days for CPS students.</p><p>Chronically absent: Missing at least 18 school days, whether excused or unexcused.</p></p> Wed, 04 Jun 2014 17:10:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/what-heck-happened-chicagos-truancy-officers-110282 Global Activism: Skokie teacher inspires students towards activism http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-skokie-teacher-inspires-students-towards-activism-110250 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/GA-Ghanian kindergarten Photographer Shelley-Nizynski Reese.JPG" alt="" /><p><p><span id="docs-internal-guid-d3ade7e0-4848-270e-4c35-6681b77e1479" style="font-size:15px;font-family:Cambria;color:#000000;background-color:transparent;font-weight:normal;font-style:normal;font-variant:normal;text-decoration:none;vertical-align:baseline;">Jennifer Ciok is a Middle School teacher in Skokie, IL. She encourages activism and community in her students. Working with students through her group <a href="http://www.aidingchildrentogether.blogspot.com">Aiding Children Together</a> (ACT), they come up with ideas to help children in Ghana with food, medicine, and education. Ciok says her &ldquo;wonderful and passionate students share a love of helping others and truly making a difference in the world around them.&rdquo; She&rsquo;ll update us on her kids and the help they&rsquo;re giving Global Activist Shelley Nizymski&rsquo;s group A Better Life for Kids&rsquo;&rsquo;, with an upcoming walk-a-thon.</span></p><p style="text-align: center;"><strong><em>5th Annual Change for Change Walkathon</em>:</strong></p><p style="text-align: center;"><em>June 3rd, 2014, 8:00 am</em></p><p style="text-align: center;"><em>Starting from McCracken Middle School, 8000 E Prairie Rd, Skokie, IL<iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/151883561&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%"></iframe></em><strong>Jennifer Ciok&rsquo;s work has had a life-changing effect on her:</strong></p><p><em>&ldquo;Working with students through Aiding Children Together has been such a positive part of my career at McCracken Middle School. I have seen such wonderful and passionate students share a love of helping others and truly making a difference in the world around them. Throughout the year, the group grows as more and more students realize the importance of the impact being made. They can see how they are helping the children in Ghana with food, medicine, and education through the stories and pictures that Shelley Nizynski, founder of A Better Life for Kids, shares with them. They visit Rustic Falls Nature Camp in Burlington, Wisconsin, founded by the Lentz family, to help clean and beautify the grounds to make it a place where children can enjoy nature and get away from the problems they are facing.</em></p><p><em>When we wrote to Congresswoman Schakowsky in 2010 regarding the violation of children&rsquo;s rights around the world, I had no idea that it would grow into such a positive piece of the school community. Starting next year, service learning will be a part of every grade. I tell my students each year to find their passion and act on it, and I truly hope that they will become a generation who will go out and make the world a better place.&rdquo;</em></p><p><em><strong><u>McCracken Students talk about their activism:</u></strong></em></p><p><em><em>--It has been such a tremendous experience...By the fifth meeting or so, I realized that I wasn&rsquo;t</em><em> doing it because my friends were there, I genuinely felt as though I could contribute to something bigger. You are the figurehead of ACT, but you lead in a way that we, as students, feel as though we are making the changes in the world, not just helping to make them happen. I have been so empowered to &ldquo;do good&rdquo; and stick to a club that helps to do so.</em></em></p><p><em><em>--The club ACT has changed my life in so many ways, and I would not be able to say that without</em> <em>the help of one of my teachers, Mrs. Jennifer Ciok. She taught me the ways of helping others</em> <em>and putting others before yourself. I changed my views on life and now think of how thankful I</em> <em>should be for having a house over my head, food to eat, education, and extra things that are not necessarily needed in order to survive.</em></em></p><p><em><em>--I had the opportunity to be a part of ACT, and it was one of the most rewarding, empowering, and special things I ever did. The happiness and joy that I received every time I saw a picture of a child going to school and having a smile on their face was priceless!! These experiences and the lessons that it has taught me are the reasons why I love helping others. I&#39;m so thankful for everything that I have, the love that my family and friends express towards me, the opportunity to have a education, and a roof over my head! One of my biggest dreams is to have the opportunity to travel to Ghana and be able to be the one holding the babies, spreading love, witnessing kids go to school and just being there for the kids! Thank you especially to Ms. Nizynski and Ms. Ciok for inspiring me and many others to reach beyond your world and truly make a difference in someone&#39;s life!!!</em></em></p></p> Thu, 29 May 2014 08:26:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-skokie-teacher-inspires-students-towards-activism-110250 Chicago principals say they operate under 'gag order' http://www.wbez.org/news/education/chicago-principals-say-they-operate-under-gag-order-110167 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/IMAG1622web.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago is pushing major changes to its schools&mdash;re-staffings, reorganized budgets, new charters. Through it all, Chicagoans have rarely heard from the people running the schools&mdash;the principals. Recently, some principals have broken what many say is a code of silence imposed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s image-conscious schools administration. WBEZ&rsquo;s Linda Lutton reports.</p></p> Tue, 13 May 2014 03:20:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/education/chicago-principals-say-they-operate-under-gag-order-110167 Morning Shift: An American art form in Paris http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-05-05/morning-shift-american-art-form-paris-110133 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Jazz photo for 5-5 Flickr pedrosimoes7.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>We mark Teacher Appreciate Week with NEA head Dennis Van Roekel. We take a look at the race for Congress in the 10th Congressional District which includes an attempt at a comeback. And, we celebrate jazz in Paris.&nbsp;</p><div class="storify"><iframe src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-an-american-art-form-in-paris/embed?header=false&border=false" width="100%" height=750 frameborder=no allowtransparency=true></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-an-american-art-form-in-paris.js?header=false&border=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-an-american-art-form-in-paris" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: An American art form in Paris" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Mon, 05 May 2014 10:13:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-05-05/morning-shift-american-art-form-paris-110133 Chicago to add new Barack Obama College Prep High School http://www.wbez.org/news/education/chicago-add-new-barack-obama-college-prep-high-school-110073 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/IMAG2549.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago is getting another selective enrollment high school.</p><p>Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced Thursday the city will build the Barack Obama College Preparatory High School on the Near North Side. It will enroll 1,200 students and is slated to be ready for the first 300 freshmen in the fall of 2017. The first students who will be eligible to enroll in the school are currently fifth graders.</p><p>Emanuel made clear in announcing the school he&rsquo;s responding to heavy demand for the city&rsquo;s top high schools&mdash;where many students need near perfect scores to be admitted. Emanuel said he recognizes the angst many parents face once their kids hit upper elementary school.</p><p>&ldquo;&rsquo;Where am I gonna send my child?&rsquo; It is the biggest anxious question that exists across the city of Chicago,&rdquo; Emanuel said at a press conference at Skinner North Elementary, a classical school that will see part of the park behind it gobbled up for the new high school.</p><p>&ldquo;Twenty-four hundred kids every year <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/chicagos-best-high-schools-who-gets-who-doesnt-97110" target="_blank">get turned away</a> who are prepared for our high schools; and we are not prepared for them. Well, we&rsquo;re gonna be prepared for them,&rdquo; Emanuel said.</p><p>Obama College Prep will be built on park district land near the corner of North Halsted and West Division streets, where the towers of Cabrini Green once stood. School officials said 70 percent of students will be admitted based on grades and test scores.</p><p>This will be the city&rsquo;s eleventh selective enrollment school and one of four elite public high schools clustered in a roughly one-and-a-half mile radius. Walter Payton College Prep, ranked one of the best schools in Illinois, is less than a mile away.</p><p><span style="font-size:18px;"><strong>Location is &quot;a slap&quot;</strong></span></p><p>The location of the new school drew immediate criticism.</p><p>Teacher Ray Salazar said he was &ldquo;shocked&rdquo; to hear the city was locating another selective school on the North Side. Salazar said it showed &ldquo;city politics again are influencing decisions that benefit white, affluent families.&rdquo; He said any new selective school should be located on the Southwest Side.</p><p>&ldquo;We do not have a selective enrollment high school in a predominantly Latino neighborhood, and it is unfair that our high-achieving students have to travel over an hour to get to the nearest high-achieving school,&quot; said Salazar, who teaches writing at Hancock High, near 56th Street and Pulaski Road.</p><p>Salazar also said the system has become so competitive, disadvantaged students have trouble getting in at all. All selective schools have lower percentages of poor students than the district as a whole. At Payton, just 31 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, compared to 85 percent citywide.</p><p>West Side activist Dwayne Truss called an Obama High near Halsted and Division &ldquo;a slap to both black families and children.&rdquo; Truss said the money planned for the school should be used &ldquo;to provide adequate funding for all of Chicago&rsquo;s neighborhood schools rather than cater to wealthy middle-class families the school is targeting.&rdquo;</p><p>Others wondered why Obama&rsquo;s name was going on a North Side school when the president lived and worked on the South Side. &ldquo;He knows about it and he&rsquo;s excited about it,&rdquo; said Emanuel. It would be the first CPS school to be named after a living person.<br /><br />Emanuel said the location for the new school was chosen because the land was available, it&rsquo;s on various transportation routes, and&mdash;perhaps most importantly&mdash;it&rsquo;s in a TIF district with $60 million available.</p><p>Thirty percent of the seats at Obama High will be set aside for students nearby.</p><p>That&rsquo;s a provision 27th Ward Ald. Walter Burnett said he pushed for &ldquo;because we should not spend money in a neighborhood and people from the neighborhood cannot go to the school,&rdquo; said Burnett. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s asinine. This is the TIF money that&rsquo;s supposed to go back in the neighborhood that comes from the people in the neighborhood. I did the same thing with Westinghouse. When Westinghouse was built, they used my TIF money, (and) I told them they have to have a neighborhood component.&rdquo;</p><p><a href="http://newwestinghouse.org/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=56511&amp;type=d&amp;termREC_ID=&amp;pREC_ID=81978&amp;hideMenu=1">Westinghouse College Prep </a>has selective admissions and a less competitive &ldquo;career&rdquo; track, but admission to that program still requires minimum test scores and an extensive student essay. No students are automatically admitted to the school by virtue of their address.</p><p>Emanuel has come under fire for miraculously coming up with money for big-ticket capital projects at vaunted North Side schools with well-connected parents&mdash; current additions are underway at <a href="http://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/20131111/lincoln-park/overcrowded-lincoln-elementary-get-three-story-19-classroom-annex" target="_blank">Lincoln</a>, Coonley and <a href="http://www.suntimes.com/news/education/22644102-418/payton-college-prep-to-get-17-million-annex-room-for-up-to-400-more-kids.html" target="_blank">Payton</a>&mdash;while students on the Southwest and Northwest Sides <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/no-simple-answers-chicagos-severely-overcrowded-schools-107651">hold class in trailers and stairwells due to overcrowding</a>.</p><p>A new Near North Side high school was <a href="http://www.cps.edu/About_CPS/Policies_and_guidelines/Documents/CPSEducationalFacilitiesMasterPlan.pdf">not called for in the Facilities Master Plan</a> the district adopted less than a year ago; that plan actually predicts a drop in the population of 15-to-19-year-olds living in the area. And the district admits it has an <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/future-uncertain-chicagos-neighborhood-high-schools-108834" target="_blank">oversupply of high school seats</a>.</p><p>Asked how another North Side selective school fits into what many view as a two-tiered educational system, Emanuel said he rejects that view. But analyses show that <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/race-out-loud/greater-segregation-regions-black-latino-students-100452">racial segregation in the system is increasing</a>, with the middle class disproportionately concentrated in CPS&#39;s magnet and gifted schools, and many charter and neighborhood schools enrolling disproportionate numbers of low-income and minority kids.</p><p>Emanuel said strong schools exist in minority communities and pointed to his efforts to strengthen neighborhood high schools with new International Baccalaureate and STEM programs.</p><p>Lakeview parent Patricia O&rsquo;Keefe, who has three grammar-school-aged children in three different selective schools, praised the decision to expand the number of selective high school seats.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s heartbreaking to see kids turned down who are completely qualified. So from my lens, it is a fantastic thing,&rdquo; O&rsquo;Keefe said.</p><p>And O&rsquo;Keefe believes it may help parents buy into the system rather than fleeing to the suburbs or private schools.</p><p>&ldquo;If you get more confidence in the city about high school, I think you reach a tipping point where everything will start to get better.... Something like this will not only help the selective enrollment, but it helps the whole momentum of high schools in general.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Linda Lutton is a WBEZ education reporter. Follow her on twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZeducation">@WBEZeducation</a>.</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 25 Apr 2014 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/education/chicago-add-new-barack-obama-college-prep-high-school-110073 Charter supporters rally against bills in Illinois legislature http://www.wbez.org/news/charter-supporters-rally-against-bills-illinois-legislature-109990 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/IMG_3555.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Hundreds of Chicago charter school parents, students and alums rallied in Springfield Tuesday to oppose legislation they say will hurt charter schools.</p><p>The group started its day with a rally outside U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago, with more than 20 tour buses lined up to take them to the capitol. Supporters wore yellow scarves and carried printed signs that read &ldquo;I choose charter.&rdquo;</p><p>Illinois Network of Charter Schools President Andrew Broy addressed parents and others before they departed to join up with supporters from other Illinois communities.</p><p>&ldquo;This is a statewide movement,&rdquo; Broy told the group. &ldquo;We face threats in Springfield that we&rsquo;ve never faced before. There are no fewer than twelve different bills in Springfield designed to limit your right to choose the best school for your student. And we&rsquo;re not going to let that happen.&rdquo;</p><p>Charter advocates planned to pack the capitol rotunda. They said they want state lawmakers to see the faces of charter parents and students, students they say would be hurt if those dozen pending bills are passed into law.</p><p>Some of the key bills being considered:</p><p>-SB2627/HB3754 would get rid of a charter school appeals commission that can approve charter schools even if&nbsp; the local school board denies them.</p><p>-SB3303 would prohibit charters from opening in the same zip code as a&nbsp; closed traditional school.</p><p>-HB4655/SB3004 would force charters to follow&nbsp; the same discipline policies that traditional schools follow.</p><p>-SB3030/HB6005 would forbid charter schools from marketing, prohibit charters from subcontracting with Educational Management Organizations and Charter Management Organizations to operate schools and create a compensation cap for school CEOs.</p><p>A number of the bills were introduced by suburban lawmakers. Their interest in charters was piqued last year when a for-profit company, K12, Inc., proposed opening virtual charter schools in more than a dozen suburban school districts. All the districts&nbsp; rejected the plan. As state law is currently written, the Illinois State Charter Commission could overrule those local districts.</p><p>That happened last year when the charter provider that operates Chicago Math and Science Academy tried to open up two new schools in the city. The school district denied the provider&rsquo;s request to expand, but when the organization appealed, the commission gave the go ahead.<br /><br />Charter advocates say a neutral committee needs to examine the merits of charter proposals, because school boards often have a disincentive&mdash;even if district schools are weak&mdash;to approve charters.<br /><br />Many students and parents at the morning Chicago rally said they were there to support individual schools.&nbsp;</p><p>Nahum Alcantar said he supports charter schools because he thinks his charter school has given him a better education than a public school could have. Alcantar, a senior at Chicago Math and Science Academy, went to Kilmer Elementary, a CPS neighborhood school, before enrolling at the charter.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;ve been to a charter school and I&rsquo;ve been to a public school and based on my experience &hellip; charter schools can ... provide the same amount of education that public schools can,&rdquo; Alcantar said. &ldquo;From the schools that I went (to) and compared to the charter school that I go (to)&nbsp; now I&rsquo;ve gotten a really better education.&rdquo;</p><p>Many also said they believe their charter schools are underfunded relative to traditional Chicago Public Schools.&nbsp; But the school district says charters and other schools get exactly equal funding.<br /><br />Although it has been a complaint from charter opponents, many rallying parents said they see no connection between charter schools opening and traditional schools closing</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re not making that school worse, we&rsquo;re not making it a bad school. If they can&rsquo;t get the grades or what they need then they should close,&rdquo; said charter parent Amber Mandley. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s not our (fault) it&rsquo;s happening, just because we want to keep our schools running doesn&rsquo;t mean we&rsquo;re trying to close CPS schools.&rdquo;</p><p>Ebony Edwards-Carr, who like Mandley has children at the Chicago International Charter School in Bucktown, said the day &ldquo;is about uniting&rdquo; parents, charter school or otherwise.<br />&nbsp;<br />The Chicago Teachers Union supports many of the bills on the table.</p><p>Its membership is threatened by charter school expansion; as charters expand and traditional schools close, Chicago Teachers Union&rsquo;s membership is dwindling. Charter teachers are not allowed to be represented by the CTU.<br /><br />Stacy Davis Gates, CTU&rsquo;s political director, said suburban districts are looking at Chicago as&nbsp; a &ldquo;cautionary tale&rdquo; where &ldquo;neighborhood schools have been chased out by charters.&rdquo; Gates said the state needs to &ldquo;close some of these loopholes&rdquo;&nbsp; in state charter law.</p><p>She said the bills being considered will bring more transparency and accountability to charter schools.&nbsp;</p><p><em>Patrick Smith is a WBEZ producer and reporter. Follow him <a href="https://twitter.com/pksmid">@pksmid</a>. Linda Lutton is WBEZ&rsquo;s education reporter, follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZeducation">@WBEZeducation</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 08 Apr 2014 15:27:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/charter-supporters-rally-against-bills-illinois-legislature-109990 CPS questions students—without parent consent—in ongoing investigation of their teachers http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-questions-students%E2%80%94without-parent-consent%E2%80%94-ongoing-investigation-their-teachers-109897 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/IMG_3486web.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Parents at a Chicago elementary school are irate after their children were questioned at school Thursday by CPS officials investigating their teachers.</p><p>The district is looking into potential &quot;teacher misconduct&quot; around recent boycotts of the Illinois Standards Achievement Test.</p><p>Parents at Drummond Montessori in Chicago&rsquo;s Bucktown neighborhood say they found out through parent e-mails, texts and Facebook messages that Chicago Public Schools Law Department officials were &ldquo;interrogating&rdquo; their children at school. Parents say they had no knowledge the interviews were going to take place, and did not give any prior consent.</p><p>CPS spokesman Joel Hood acknowledged that investigators from the district&rsquo;s law department questioned students &ldquo;about how their teachers had conducted themselves during ISAT testing.&rdquo;</p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/education/teachers-2nd-school-boycott-isat-109797" target="_blank">Drummond is one</a> of <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/test-protest-chicago-teachers-say-theyll-refuse-give-isat-109772" target="_blank">two schools</a> where teachers declared publicly that some of them would refuse to administer the ISAT, part of a broader protest against high-stakes standardized testing in schools.&nbsp;</p><p>Activists say more than 125 Drummond students opted out of the exam. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;We went there specifically to talk to kids who had chosen to opt out of the ISAT,&rdquo; says Hood, who said investigators asked kids &ldquo;whether the teacher had actively encouraged them not to take the test,&rdquo; among other questions.</p><p>Mary Zerkel was one of a number of parents who called the school as soon as she heard about the investigation and requested her 11-year-old not be questioned.<br /><br />&ldquo;It is so unconscionable. It&rsquo;s just ethically&mdash;it is so wrong,&rdquo; says Zerkel. &ldquo;You&rsquo;re asking a child to implicate their teacher. They&rsquo;re going to be in a closed-door room with the CPS Law Department where they&rsquo;re going to be intimidated; how can they even think they&rsquo;re getting good information out of the children?&ldquo;</p><p>Hood says the district didn&rsquo;t question kids who refused to be questioned or who asked for a parent&mdash;though he could not say whether children were told they actually had that option. Hood says no discipline can come to students from the investigation. He said he did not know why parents weren&rsquo;t notified.</p><p>The chair of Drummond&rsquo;s local school council, Jonathan Goldman, said he was at the school in the morning and spoke with one of the two investigators he saw there. He said the investigator told him that &ldquo;CPS had authority to do this, acting under the doctrine of in loco parentis, which means that the Board can stand in for the parents,&rdquo; said Goldman. &ldquo;Their moral grounds for doing this is certainly very questionable.&rdquo;</p><p>Drummond teacher Juan Gonzalez, one of the teachers who refused to administer the ISAT when it was given earlier this month, says the district has a right to investigate him. But he says CPS should leave students out of it.</p><p>&ldquo;One of my students at the end of the day was very worried that she was going to be responsible for getting me fired,&rdquo; said Gonzalez.&nbsp;</p><p>Drummond teachers have said they are afraid of losing their jobs, but felt obligated to take a stand.</p><p>&ldquo;I stand strong&nbsp; in my decision. I feel I&rsquo;m on the side of right,&rdquo; Gonzalez says. &ldquo;This boycott of the ISAT is not about the ISAT alone,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;It&#39;s about the incredible amount of testing that we give our kids.&rdquo; Gonzalez says the ISAT protest has opened discussion on the issue.</p></p> Thu, 20 Mar 2014 19:34:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-questions-students%E2%80%94without-parent-consent%E2%80%94-ongoing-investigation-their-teachers-109897 Morning Shift: Learning from the past and looking for the future of Black History Month http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-02-26/morning-shift-learning-past-and-looking-future-black <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/by tartetatin1.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>We get a glimpse of the man behind African American History Month. And, we celebrate the music of Johnny Cash with music from Chicago actor Kent M. Lewis.</p><div class="storify"><iframe src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-learning-from-the-past-and-looking-f/embed?header=false" width="100%" height=750 frameborder=no allowtransparency=true></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-learning-from-the-past-and-looking-f.js?header=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-learning-from-the-past-and-looking-f" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: Learning from the past and looking for the future of Black History Month" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Wed, 26 Feb 2014 09:05:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-02-26/morning-shift-learning-past-and-looking-future-black Can you persuade kids to ditch soda for water? http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/can-you-persuade-kids-ditch-soda-water-109677 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Water Tasting Photo.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>February is &ldquo;<a href="http://www.rethinkyourdrinknow.com/ryd/Home">Rethink Your Drink</a>&rdquo; month in Illinois, by proclamation of Gov. Pat Quinn. And the drinks that consumers are being asked to rethink are the high-cal beverages that many Illinoisans and other Americans polish off by the liter.</p><p>The campaign to raise awareness about the health effects of sugary beverages coincides with a<a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-02-03/excess-sugar-may-double-heart-disease-risk-researchers-say.html"> new study</a> linking excess sugar consumption to increased risk of heart disease.</p><p>Schools, churches, and state agencies are holding programs as part of the campaign aimed at improving Illinois residents&rsquo; soft drink habits.</p><p>One novel approach was launched last week at Brooks Middle School in the west Chicago suburb of Oak Park, which focused on quenching thirst with water rather than pop.</p><p>Sandy Noel, a retired teacher and co-chairwoman of the Governor&rsquo;s Council on Health and Fitness, told students, &ldquo;When you&rsquo;re dehydrated, your brain kind of goes from a grape to a raisin. It actually shrinks a little bit and you feel a little wilted.&rdquo;</p><p>The 7th and 8th graders then lined up for a taste-off pitting two flavors of infused water, one strawberry-lemon and the other cucumber-lime.</p><p>As the kids filed through the tasting lines, their votes seemed to lean toward the strawberry-infused water. But the tasting process also left them with some new opinions on beverages in general.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;I know our body doesn&rsquo;t really need sugar all the time,&rdquo; said Tate Ferguson, &ldquo;and so if you want something that tastes good and is better for your body, you should drink this.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;I like the cucumber-lime water,&rdquo; said Max Walton. &ldquo;I think I would definitely drink it during sports because it gets you more hydrated than soda.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><p>Like their male classmates, many of the girls said they were open to swapping their usual drinks for water in the future.</p><p>&ldquo;Usually before I do martial arts, I am really tired, so I just have an energy drink,&rdquo; said Zoharia Drizin. &ldquo;So if I start drinking this instead, I think I will be energized in a healthier way.&rdquo;</p><p>Her classmate Claire Cooke agreed. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;I would totally choose this over soda because it&rsquo;s much better for you,&rdquo; Cooke said. &ldquo;Soda makes you more thirsty, but water keeps you energized for a long period of time. I&rsquo;m in a lot of musical theater and when I&rsquo;m dancing I need lots of water.&rdquo;</p><p>For Abby Nichol, the contest was a little closer.</p><p>&ldquo;I love soda,&rdquo; she said, &ldquo;but this is very, very close to it. So it&rsquo;s actually a very tough choice. Personally, I like this a little bit more than soda.&rdquo;</p><p>In the case of one student, the presentation -- which included displays of the amounts of sugar in soda and sports drinks -- made her rethink her lunchtime drink.</p><p>&ldquo;I usually have a Gatorade in my lunch,&rdquo; said Cait Egan, a 7th grader. &ldquo;But now I am starting to double guess that, because I saw how much sugar is in a Gatorade. And I think this water tastes better to me.&rdquo;</p><p>Still not all of the students agreed. Alec Fragos was especially outspoken in his opposition.</p><p>&ldquo;It was like drinking out of a faucet,&rdquo; Fragos said. &ldquo;It didn&rsquo;t have any taste. I wouldnt choose it over soda because I don&rsquo;t feel it would help me feel more hydrated &hellip; It&rsquo;s got no pop in the mouth. It&rsquo;s kind of flat.&rdquo;</p><p>Rethink Your Drink organizers say Fragos and other holdouts will have more opportunities for conversion in the future. The Oak Park Middle Schools plan to repeat the tasting monthly with new flavor combinations each time. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the&nbsp;</em><em><strong><a href="http://www.wbez.org/content/chewing-fat-podcast-louisa-chu-and-monica-eng">Chewing the Fat</a></strong></em><em>&nbsp;podcast. Follow her at&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng">@monicaeng</a> or write to her at&nbsp;</em><em><a href="mailto:meng@wbez.org">meng@wbez.org</a></em></p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 10 Feb 2014 12:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/can-you-persuade-kids-ditch-soda-water-109677 Hearing attracts charter supporters, some who do not know what they are supporting http://www.wbez.org/news/hearing-attracts-charter-supporters-some-who-do-not-know-what-they-are-supporting-109392 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/charter hearing_131217_LL.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr">Hundreds of charter school supporters packed a Chicago Public Schools headquarters room for a hearing Monday night that was scheduled to last four and a half hours.</p><p dir="ltr">The district is considering applications for&nbsp;<a href="http://www.catalyst-chicago.org/notebook/2013/12/13/64669/charter-schools-propose-big-expansion">21 new charter schools</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Supporters at the hearing included current charter school students and families, and community residents like Jose Garcia, who told a lone hearing officer, &ldquo;I am fed up with the public school system, that they&rsquo;re not improving.&rdquo; Garcia was there to support a proposal by the charter network Concept Schools, which runs three schools in Chicago and is proposing two more, in Chatham and Chicago Lawn.</p><p dir="ltr">Concept runs schools serving 12,000 students in seven states in the Midwest.</p><p dir="ltr">But some of the group&rsquo;s supporters, wearing light blue &ldquo;Concept Schools&rdquo; T-shirts, did not seem to know what they were there for.</p><blockquote><p dir="ltr">LUTTON: Excuse me, are you all from a certain community group or anything?</p><p dir="ltr">WOMAN: It&rsquo;s just ah, the Chattam Company&mdash;what is it, ah&hellip; steam? Steam? [<em>pointing</em>]&nbsp;She should know, right here. She got the piece of paper, right here.</p></blockquote><p dir="ltr">Their confusion made the scene at times reminiscent of the <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/paid-protesters-new-force-school-closings-debate-95792">2012 rent-a-protester scandal</a>, where <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-02-13/news/ct-met-emanuel-consulting-firm-20120213_1_education-agenda-consulting-firm-mayor-rahm-emanuel">a political consulting firm with close ties to Mayor Rahm Emanuel funded pastors to support the mayor&rsquo;s schools agenda</a>.The pastors <a href="http://www.suntimes.com/news/education/10140605-418/two-say-they-got-paid-to-protest.html">paid protesters</a> to support school closings.</p><p dir="ltr">Supporters Monday night said they came on three buses from the Inner City Youth and Adult Foundation at 45th and Michigan. The charter schools they advocated for were several miles away, in Chatham and West Lawn.</p><p dir="ltr">Michael Vassar works at the Inner City Youth and Adult Foundation. He says his own children are grown, but he says his family has ties to Chatham, and they plan to pull younger nieces and nephews out of their current CPS schools to attend the proposed Science Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) -focused school Concept is proposing--if it&rsquo;s approved.</p><p dir="ltr">Vassar described the Inner City Youth and Adult Foundation as &ldquo;a grassroots organization that works in Bronzeville. We deal with teenagers and at-risk men and women for homes and jobs&hellip;. We come out and do grassroots work in the community, and the Concept Schools is one of the agencies we&rsquo;re working with now.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">A handful of opponents also turned out for the hearings. They included a CPS assistant principal, who didn&rsquo;t want to give his name.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;If a charter school opens, then the funding that would be coming to the schools in the neighborhood will be going to charter schools instead of to the public schools,&rdquo; he said.</p><p dir="ltr">Jack Elsey, the CPS official who oversees the new schools process, says community input at Monday&rsquo;s hearing and others will go into the district&rsquo;s calculus of which charters should open. Originally, the district asked for proposals to help relieve overcrowding on the southwest and northwest sides, but not all the applications stick to those guidelines.</p><p dir="ltr">The board of education is expected to vote on new charter schools in January. Any school applications &nbsp;the district turns down could be appealed to the state&rsquo;s charter authorization commission for approval. The commission approved two Concept Schools last year that the city had rejected.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Linda Lutton is an education reporter at WBEZ. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZeducation">@WBEZeducation</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 17 Dec 2013 10:55:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/hearing-attracts-charter-supporters-some-who-do-not-know-what-they-are-supporting-109392